At the latest Nintendo Direct, it was announced that Doom 64 would be coming to the Switch later this fall. After I confirmed that it was indeed not a joke, the next step was answering the question:
It was scarcely a month ago that DOOM’s 1 through 3 were launched on the platform. Alas, the story of that release was Bethesda’s bungling of the sign-in to play the games. Perhaps they are trying to make up for that utter failure, or they are trying to have a single console that can play every main DOOM game.
Or maybe they are just trying to squeeze as much money as they can from the 25th anniversary of the original’s release.
The Scrap Pile Of History
DOOM 64 is not exactly a game people are overly nostalgic for. When the N64 first launched, this and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter were the premiere first-person shooters; however, that all came to a hellfire burning end once GoldenEye was released a few short months later, rendering all other shooters on the system obsolete.
When DOOM 64 released, it was a new experience designed specifically for the high-powered N64. The original DOOM had been ported to any system that it could attempt to run it, seeing releases on the 32X, SNES, PlayStation, and Saturn, as well as others.
The results were mixed, depending on who you ask, so it seems reasonable that the decision to remake the game for the N64 hardware specifically, rather than try yet another port was made.
A New DOOM
The outcome is an original DOOM title that exists in a vacuum. Most of DOOM’s success comes from the modding scene inherent with the PC versions. Being a console game, this version serves more as a time capsule for the series, before Columbine forced the series into a brief retreat.
By the time I purchased an N64, the appeal of DOOM 64 had long been extinguished, so I never had a chance to play the game until years via emulation. Although I still have yet to properly play the game on an N64, I imagine emulation offers an enhanced experience via upgraded graphics and the expanded choice of controllers. With that being said, DOOM 64 still feels like a relic that doesn’t need to be unearthed from its hellish crypt.
Where the game shines, although you won’t know it because it’s so damn dark, is in the graphics department. Whereas most games were going for all polygon graphics at the time, DOOM 64 takes the Mario Kart 64 approach of using 2D sprites in 3D environments. The results hold up well enough, and it continues to be one of the better-aged games for the system.
The enemy characters deliver their best looking outing of the 20th century in this game. When I recall how the PC characters looked in my memory, it’s more akin to how they look in this game, so when I play the PC version, I am sadly disappointed.
With the character sprites getting most of the graphical praise, the environments could have fared better. While there are some nice touches, such as haunting neon hallways, too often players are just shooting enemies in a big grey room. It’s fine for the time, but in a game where players literally go to Hell, I expect to see more grotesque shit than just an occasional hanging corpse or two.
While playing the game recently, I got motion sick after about a half-hour of playing. This is odd as I only played DOOM II and masturbated in my younger days, and I don’t recall this effect. I’m not sure if the animation of the 64 counterpart makes me more susceptible to this, or if I’m just aging out of this shit.
Either way, I could only play it in small chunks to avoid feeling like shit.
What might have compounded these headaches and sense of illness is the map design. Having played the originals on the PC as much, if not more, than any 90s kid, I was used to the labyrinthine style of stages.
Coupled with the bleak colors, though, the game becomes an unholy mess to plod through. Switches that need to be activated to proceed, are small and easy to miss. Added to this are a number of puzzles and stage obstacles that were not included in the originals, that feel out of place and stop the action of mowing down hell beasts.
Again, having played this via emulation, it might not be fair to speak on the control, but it feels about as tight as your Mom the day after the Navy sets sail for Madagascar.
While the game does allow players the option of applying their own layout, it still has a floaty feeling that sucks in a game, where turning rapidly to dispatch an Imp can factor in losing more life than necessary.
A Solid OK
Even with this gripes, I can’t deny the fun it is to mow down enemies with an assortment of ass-kicking weapons. I’ve always been partial to the chain gun, but fan-favorites, like the BFG, are present and ready to splatter demon blood across the corridors of Hades.
In fact, I had my most enjoyment with the game when I started playing like I did as a child, turning on cheat codes and blowing up the enemies with ridiculously powered weapons while their fireballs bounced off my invincible flesh.
I have accepted that I’ve grown out of first-person shooters. I fondly remember the times I had playing Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, GoldenEye, Unreal Tournament, and Medal Of Honor, but by the dawn of Halo, I just didn’t give a damn anymore.
It wasn’t that I had grown out of games, rather my tastes had just changed. I can’t deny the appeal these games hold for those who enjoy them, but my time with them is over.
If this is a genre you still love, then, by all means, check it out upon its upcoming release, emulate it, or dig up an old N64 cartridge. As for me, I’m content to leave DOOM in the 90s where my memories of it cannot be sullied.