Doom 64 Remaster
March 21, 2020

I pre-ordered Doom Eternal yesterday. One of the incentive perks was a copy of Doom 64, which has never been made available on PC until now. Nightdive Studios is involved, unsurprisingly, and Bethesda and Id's names have been slapped onto the front of it. The original developer, Midway, is obviously not mentioned. I imagine a lot of legal jiggery-pokery had to go on behind the scenes to get this thing resurrected, and we are all the better for it. Here I am, having pre-loaded Doom Eternal, and the first thing I do is hop into Doom 64. Naturally.

If you're not familiar with this game, it was released in 1997 for the Nintendo 64. It was a bit of a strange entry in the Doom series. It was not a clumsy port of the original Doom, as was seen on the 32X, SNES and Atari Jaguar. Instead, it was a brand new game built from the ground up, which took advantage of the Nintendo 64's advanced features. It had things like soft lighting, moving floors, moving walls, sequenced events and more interactivity in general. Rooms could shift and change in ways that they simply couldn't in the original Doom. The advancements to the engine reminded me a bit of what Raven software did with Hexen.

In terms of its place in the storyline, it supposedly takes place after Doom II and Final Doom. The weapons were the same as those offered in Doom II, with the addition of a cool laser weapon called the “Unmaker.” The weapons generally acted the same as they did in Doom II, but looked snazzier. The monsters were the same rogue's gallery as Doom and Doom 2, but with a few changes. There was a new type of imp called a "Nightmare Imp" who had purple skin and was partially invisible. The Arachnotron had two plasma rifles instead of just one, making him especially dangerous. The Pain Elemental, similarly, could fire two Lost Souls in a single shot. Some of the enemies from Doom 2 did not appear, but many of the ones who did were more powerful, which kept a good variety while making Doom 64 quite challenging.

Nightfire's image

But... After diving into this new remaster and playing it with a mouse and keyboard, I'm astonished at how easy it feels. You still can't look up or down, so they haven't unlocked the engine quite in the same way that ports like ZDoom have, but the mouse and keyboard movement feel very fluid and easy to control. I distinctly remember this game being crushingly difficult back in 1997, but I wonder how much of that was due to the clunky Nintendo 64 controller. I used to get myself stuck on corners, barrels and other things, but no longer. Regardless, even if it feels easier, I am still having tons of fun with it. There is also support for modern controllers if you want a bit more of an authentic experience without having to deal with the design flaws of the N64 controller.

I wouldn't say that Doom 64 was quite as good as the original Doom or Doom II; its level designs were a bit hit and miss, but it was still a very good game in its own right. It had more of a focus on horror, traps and jump scares than its predecessors. Its levels were darker, more cramped, and occasionally a pain in the ass to navigate. However, some of its levels, like the Altar of Pain, were masterpieces of design. The creepy experimental ambient music was also an interesting choice, but ended up fitting the game better than any rote heavy metal soundtrack would.

Any fan of the Doom series should play this game at least once. If you didn't pre-order Doom Eternal, you can buy it for $5 USD, which is well worth the price. As for Doom Eternal, I do intend to play it, but I’m tempted to play through Doom 64 first. It’s like hanging out with an old friend again after many (almost 23) years.

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