I’ve never been the biggest fan of the “brutal” mods, but I’ve never had the chance to play Doom 64. With the recent release of Brutal Doom 64, it seemed like as good a time as any to jump in. For those not in the know, Doom 64 is actually a sequel to Doom II rather than a port, touting completely new levels, graphics, sound, and even a new weapon.
The new weapon is the Unmaker, a sort of demonic crossbow railgun thing that plays the screams of tortured souls when you have it equipped. Ammo for it is scarce, but it’s not a big deal, because it fills a very specific niche. When its projectiles impact its target, they do splash damage, so like the rocket launcher using it in close quarters combat is a precarious proposition. Unlike the rocket launcher, its projectiles move very quickly so what you’ll be using it for is chipping away at the bigger monsters' HP pools from a distance when the opportunity presents itself, which is fairly rare.
The old Doom weapons have been altered as well. They all have a new look, sound, and a few minor tweaks here and there. The old 9mm Berretta pistol has been swapped out for the big bad .50 AE Desert Eagle. The actual damage hasn’t changed, but the bigger, meaner sound mixed with the cranked up gore of the brutal mod means headshotting imps has never been so fun. The super shotgun and chaingun are also much more satisfying now. The entire screen shakes and enemies explode into a fine red paste when you let loose a blast from your double-barreled boomstick. This also may be my favorite iteration of the chaingun in any Doom mod, as the cranked up sound and fire rate let you spray bullets around and turn entire rooms of enemies into faux 3d intestine sprites, laughing all the way.
The updated enemies all look more or less the same as their regular Doom and Doom II counterparts, but the visual overhaul keeps things fresh and interesting to look at. There have also been some new enemies added into the roster like the fire elementals that have now become standard fare in the Doom modding community, as well as a floating demon that spews out lost souls steadily and a big group of them explode out of its corpse as well.
The mod's creator, Seargent_Mark_IV, even added in and fleshed out some content that was only glimpsed in screenshots of Doom 64 but removed before release. The level design here is nothing short of brilliant, and it made me wish I had taken the time to jump into Doom 64 much earlier. Levels are complex multi-layered affairs with well-thought-out and, at times, extremely difficult enemy encounters.
They also take advantage of the power the N64 had at the time to do a lot of things Doom couldn’t do, including having a dedicated jump button, which allows the levels to have a lot more verticality. You can also crouch, and there are even a couple of puzzles that require you to do so. These new additions are welcome and add some variety to the level designs, but they did leave me scratching my head the first couple of times they were used. Needing to jump and crouch in a Doom game does require a bit of a shift in logic that you should be able to make eventually.
Brutal Doom 64 also has the Ketchup gore mod baked into it, which gives me a perfect opportunity to talk about that. The first thing I did when I booted up Brutal Doom 64 was crank the gore option up to “comical,” and that turned out to be a very apt description. Most rooms were quite literally completely red by the time I had finished them, and the amount of blood and body chunks flying around was hilarious, but it also added weight to the new and improved weapons on display. In addition, Ketchup adds in some new squishy sound effects that are absolutely grotesque. Monsters explode with a satisfying splat and you can hear their organs and blood squishing around under your feet as you run around. It’s equal parts disturbing and humorous, which is exactly what Doom should be, and it only serves to enhance the experience. The gore isn't the only visual flair that's been added to Doom 64 here either. Some gorgeus new skyboxes have been added and the lighting has been completely reworked.
Overall, if you, like me, have never had a chance to jump into Doom 64, this is the perfect opportunity. Brutal Doom 64 keeps everything that makes Brutal Doom fun and gets rid of all the stuff I felt didn’t enhance the experience, like reloading. An absolute must-play mod, and I can tentatively say the optimal way to experience Doom 64’s superb level design. Like Brutal Doom, it comes with its own source port and installer, so if you want to take part in the mayhem, all you have to do is download it here and run the installer. Happy hunting marine.