Doom 64 Cover Art
Video Game Reviews

Nate’s RetroPlays Reviews Doom 64

Doom 64 is a first person shooter (FPS) that was released exclusively for the Nintendo 64. The title was developed and published by Midway Games. It was released in 1997 for both North America and PAL regions.

The game is a direct sequel to the original Doom series, picking up shortly after those games left off. Story wasn’t a huge part of the original games, the games are more about action and exploration. That said, there is a simple story that leads Doom 1 and 2, and continues on in Doom 64. The short version of it is as follows:

Following the conclusion of the original Doom series, the sole Marine who survived the horrors of Hell returned to Earth, reclaiming it from the invasion that almost eradicated the human race. Demons still lingered within the abandoned halls and complexes of Phobos and Deimos. As a last-ditch effort, the military decided to bombard the moons with extreme radiation in hopes of killing off any remaining demons. It was initially successful, however, something survived the exposure. The radiation blocked the military’s sensors, and allowed something to slip past them undetected. This mysterious entity, possessing the ability to resurrect any demon it came across, recreated the entire demonic horde and made it stronger than ever before. A Marine strike force was ordered to contain the advancing armies of Hell, but was mercilessly slaughtered within moments. The player’s character is the sole survivor of this group. (SOURCE, Wikipedia)

It is interesting to note that this game could easily be considered Doom 3 or 4, based on the chronology of this release with the other previous titles (which were Doom, Doom 2 and Final Doom). That said, we do eventually see id Software release an official title named Doom 3 years after this one.

The game is based off of the “id Tech 1” engine, often referred to as the “Doom Engine”. It is an engine that was built for speed on very limited hardware, but still allows a fairly detailed 3D experience. The world is rendered in 3D, but the projection of the world is based off of a 2 dimensional map. The walls and floor heights are drawn based off of the flat maps. The most recognizable aspect of the game engine is that all enemies and other objects in the game are made up of 2 dimensional sprites. This allowed computers and consoles with limited 3D capabilities to still have a detailed 3D experience. This technique does introduce some limitations in how the view is controlled. There is no looking up or down in the game, only turning left and right. To overcome this issue, there is an auto-aim featured for anything in front of the player on the vertical plane. Basically, if there is an enemy on a ledge above you, as long as you light up on the horizontal plane properly, you will shoot up at them. Some people may look at this as a deficiency, but it also lends to the simplicity of the game.

Visually, Doom 64 is very reminiscent of the previous titles in the franchise. Where it sets apart is that it leverages the Nintendo 64’s expanded hardware capabilities in various ways. The world map textures and enemy sprites are higher resolution, which sets it apart from the originals in a good way. The enemy sprites were originally rendered on high end 3D modeling hardware. The game also features better use of lighting techniques for a more atmospheric experience. It is easily the best looking Doom game that uses the original “Doom Engine” as it’s core. 

Controls are well done, using a combination of buttons and analog stick for movement. The lack of needing to look up and down is a benefit in this case. Games like GoldenEye relied upon the player using an awkward set of key commands to look and move, often times slowing down the action. If you have played Doom on another port, nothing here will be that strange.

Gameplay is on par with Doom 1, 2 and Final. The maps range from short quick maps, to longer drawn out mazes that require key finding and back tracking to complete. In general, most maps have you locate keys (red, yellow and/or blue) to open doors to progress to the exit room. During your search for these keys you will encounter dozens of enemies as well as find a fair bit of ammo and other new weapons to fight them off.

Score screen from Doom 64

Over the course of each level, you will also have the opportunity to locate secrets. At the end of each level, you will be rated on your performance, which includes how many of the enemies you killed, how many secrets you found and how fast you moved through the map.

The enemies from the original Doom games are back, including:

There is also a couple of new enemies:

All of the enemies are reminiscent of their original forms, but were created via high end 3D modeling and then converted to sprites. The sprites received a bit of smoothing with some anti-aliasing techniques too. Overall it is a nice visual upgrade, though the ‘retrogamer’ in me really enjoys the original pixel art style too.

Original Cyberdemon
Cyberdemon in Doom 64

As for weapons, all of the standard weapons from Doom 1 and 2 are back which includes: Chainsaw, Fist, Pistol, Shotgun, Super Shotgun, Chaingun, Rocket Launcher, Plasma Gun and the BFG9000. There is also a new, exclusive weapon – the “Unmaker”. This new weapon is a laser weapon that had originally been meant for release in the original Doom game. It is gained by finding demon artifacts, and has 3 levels of power.

The only problem that the game has (and probably hurt it significantly when it was new) is a lack of multiplayer options. When it was released, Nintendo 64 was known as a multiplayer power house with titles like Goldeneye and Mario Kart 64. Doom 64, being a FPS style game, would have benefited greatly from some multiplayer modes, such as deathmatch and co-op. The developers at the time had cited performance issues as the reason for not including it.

Overall, Doom 64 is a really good entry in the Doom franchise. It has often been overlooked due to the fact that it was a Nintendo 64 exclusive. If you are a fan of the original Doom 1 and 2 and have never played this one, you should for sure play it. And fortunately for everyone, with the release of Doom Eternal, Bethesda has ported this classic game to Windows, PS4, Xbox One and the Switch. It should be available on March 20, 2020!

#GeekDad who is super into #videogames, most specifically #retrogaming. Learning #GameDev, developing @100HeartsGame! You can also find me on Twitter @retrogamingdev!

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