One of the games I was most excited about leading up to the N64’s launch was Doom 64. After all, I was a huge Doom fanatic and this one was exclusive to a Nintendo console. This all fell to disappoint because — and I’m not kidding here — they changed the way Doomguy looked. Listen, I wasn’t a smart kid.
I did play it eventually, and I have absolutely no recollection of what I thought of it. I didn’t buy it, so that might tell you something.
That is, of course, until I was much older. I got it the same day as my Mickey Mouse CRT and played the hell out of it. I remember I got mad because I fell in a pit and couldn’t get out. I was like, “this kind of bad level design was never in the original Doom!” It actually is, but I’m not a very smart adult either.
In any case, Night Dive Studio has released a modern port of the game, and it’s about damned time. Now I can view it as the old gods intended: Pixel-y without that N64 smudge filter.
N64 SMUDGE FILTER
Do we really care about a Doom storyline? You’re in space and demons attack; rip and tear. It’s really not different from the original storyline.
What is different is the graphics. Despite being on the N64, it’s still built in the same ray-casting engine, but a lot was done to upgrade it. The sprites are all bigger and redone, there are additional lighting effects, and the whole thing looks higher definition. It’s not exactly pretty, but it looks distinct from the other Doom titles. It’s a bit darker, but it makes use of a broader colour palette. You can put all the Doom titles side by side and have an easy time picking out Doom 64.
You can also pick it out because it doesn’t really have any music. The soundtrack to the PC titles ranged from mind-blowingly awesome to barely worth registering. You get neither extremes here. There are some atmospheric sounds, and that’s about it. Some people have told me it makes Doom 64 feel more like a horror game, but… Listen, I’m never going to look at Doom as horror. I’m too effective with the shotgun to be scared.
EFFECTIVE WITH THE SHOTGUN
The Gameplay is largely the same. You blast demons, you collect keys, you hump walls in search of secrets. Most of the weapons are the same, most of the demons are the same, there are a few surprises thrown in, but nothing game-changing.
Despite that, Doom 64 has its own flavour. It doesn’t stray far from the main formula, but it’s a little bit more intimate. There aren’t as many demons as Doom 2 would throw at you, and the levels are a bit tighter than in either PC title. It’s not trying to be the most action-packed Doom, and neither is it trying to be overly atmospheric. It reaches a middle-ground that it makes its own, and it’s rather satisfying.
Basically, if you’ve played the previous Doom titles, you can feel free to crank up that difficulty. Except when it comes to the end boss. I didn’t get the keys, so it stepped on my face quite a few times before I finally managed to take it down.
I really don’t know what else to say about it. It’s Doom. It came out around the time of Turok and Goldeneye 007 and made very little effort to advance the genre in any way. It’s Doom. You hunt keys and shoot at demons with better and better weapons. There’s nothing as crappy as the Icon of Sin, but that end boss might give you trouble.
There’s one new weapon, some demons were added, some were removed. Everything got a facelift, but it’s Doom. I feel like I don’t have to explain the gameplay any further than that because if you’ve never played Doom, you damned well should.
What do you want from me? The lighting looks different, I already covered that. The guns have new designs and I don’t like how the super shotgun doesn’t show you chambering new cartridges. The Mancubus look too clean and less grotesque now. There’s no Spider Mastermind or Archvile, and that’s kind of a drag. They changed how Doomguy looks. Slightly. I don’t have anything else to say.
STEPPING ON MY FACE
Honestly, it’s a sweet spot that I very much like. I definitely enjoyed it more than Final Doom. I probably had more fun with it than even Doom 2’s hectic run-and-gun filled with dirty tricks. Doom 64 is its own thing; its own flavour of Doom, and it’s good. The fact that it wasn’t made by the same people but manages to reach a similar quality is exceptional.
The upgraded port is well worth it. Night Dive does good things with old engines, and it really shines here. Being able to turn off the N64 buffering is enough to make it my preferred version. They also throw some “The Lost Levels,” a short campaign of six levels, to sweeten the pot. Just make sure you don’t miss out. Even modern Doom titles like Doom: Eternal have started paying homage to it, because you just can’t keep a good thing down.
This review was conducted on a PC using a digital version of the game. It was purchased from Steam by the author.