It was observed 23 years ago that a doom can really flop. At that time, Doom 64 was released exclusively for the Nintendo 64 and initially received a broad shrug. No wonder: Many buyers saw the screenshots and believed that it would only be another implementation of Doom 1, which is now from toasters to digital cameras was ported for pretty much everything. For others, the game with its old-fashioned 2D opponents and retro gameplay was simply too outdated. After all, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter had just impressively demonstrated what Nintendo's 3D console was capable of.
It was only many years later that Doom 64 was able to gather a small but loyal fan base behind it, also thanks to Doom 64 EX, a popular one Fan port for the PC. The shooter was still denied to the masses. Til today.
Parallel to the excellent Doom Eternal, Bethesda is finally bringing back Doom 64 as a slightly improved new edition. This means that the N64 classic is officially playable for the first time on the PC and modern consoles. But is retro shooting still fun at all? We simply tested Doom 64 again.
What is in the new edition?
The remaster of Doom 64 comes from Nightdive Studios, a team that has already done good porting work with Forsaken Remastered, Blood: Fresh Supply or Turok. Doom 64 is running like all of the above titles on the Kex Engine and whizzes through everyday life with a stable 60 FPS. Graphically there are no noteworthy innovations, so you can expect the same mushy textures and pixelated 2D sprites as in the original. Thanks to high resolutions, the image looks pleasantly sharp and clean, and you can also adjust the look a little with a FOV slider, anti-aliasing, VSync and two brightness controls. Free key assignment is on board as well as the possibility to save at any time, including Quicksave and Quickload. There are only limited slots for saved files, but at least the classic level selection by code is also possible. All in all, Doom 64 plays with it cleanly and smoothly, the porting was successful.
In terms of content, all levels from the original are on board, Bethesda also recently betrayedthat a new chapter is also waiting at the end of the game, which is to build new levels of story snippets to bridge the new Doom offshoots.
Doom in its purest form
The original Doom 64 was then developed by Midway under the supervision of id Software. The shooter delivers a direct sequel Doom 2 from 1994 and brings back the Doom Marine, which has to shoot again through a demon-contaminated station on Mars.
This plays exactly like Doom 1 and 2: You can neither look up or down, the crosshairs are completely missing and jumping is no more in it than diving, crouching or climbing ladders. Instead, you simply dash through more than 30 levels in the Affenzahn, bring every Megne Imps, Pinkys and Hell Knights around the corner, collect key cards, discover Secrets and work your way to the exit. That's Doom, as it says in the book. Typical weapons such as chainsaw, plasma cannon, BFG and the massive double shotgun are again part of the game, as well there's a new energy buzz with the Unmaker, which you can catch in the twelfth level (and which is celebrating its return in Doom Eternal). Sure, the action is old-fashioned, but that's exactly why it makes you happy – where else do you have rocket launchers with 100 rounds?
Source: PC games
Where's the goal?
The battles against the stupid opponents are not the real challenge in Doom 64 anyway. Just like in the first two parts of the series, it's much more about exploring the labyrinthine surroundings and not getting lost in the process. The levels are relatively small, but neatly nested and peppered with switches, elevators, teleporters, doors and so on. Even with a good sense of direction you quickly got lost. If you then press a button, a passage opens somewhere, a platform descends or a key card appears somewhere on a pedestal – where exactly you can basically only guess. It may seem out of date these days, but in the 90s, this level design was common for many shooters – Doom 64 is hard to blame.
Source: PC games
Graphically, Doom 64 is clearly reminiscent of the first two series parts, but for the Nintendo 64 the engine has been significantly bored out. Doom 64 offered a much better lighting model than its predecessors, which bathed the surroundings in colored light, all 2D opponents were replaced by more detailed variants and a texture filter smoothed the pixelated wall textures. The look and feel of the original were still noticeable at all times, which is why Doom 64 is considered by many fans to be the "true" Doom 3 in the shooter series. Finally, id Softwares created its own Doom 3 from 2004 a complete reboot of the brand and set completely different priorities with tons of jump scares and pitch dark levels. Only with Doom (2016) did you move back to the core of the brand. And you can feel it in Doom 64 at any time.
Doom 64 initially appears for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, the switch implementation follows later. Preorder from Doom Eternal receive Doom 64 for free. From March 20, 2020, the new edition of the retro shooter will also be available individually. The price has not yet been determined, on the Steam product page the game is already listed individually.
Rating and conclusion
I can finally close this gap.
If you have a heart for retro shooters and do not expect a full remake, you can treat yourself to Doom 64 without hesitation: the new edition of the N64 classic is pleasantly straightforward and plays flawlessly – no more and no less. Graphically, only the bare minimum was done, but I think that's okay – Doom 64 was lagging behind the competition 23 years ago, but that's why it has aged solidly. And the feel of the game fits as ever, pure Doom! This also means that you sometimes get lost in the thread or search for a key card to flop the whole level again. That is also the charm of the old Doom games – and Doom 64 captures it wonderfully. Is Doom 64 a must for shooter fans? No! But if you love the series and have wanted to do this part for a long time, like me, you now have a great opportunity.
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