DOOM 64 / DEVELOPER: NIGHTDIVE STUDIOS / PUBLISHER: BETHESDA / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: 20TH MARCH
To coincide with launch of Doom Eternal, Doom 64 is finally getting an official re-release on modern consoles and PCs, almost 23 years after its original release. It is a common misconception that Doom 64 is simply a port of the original Doom to Nintendo’s N64 console, but it is in fact an entirely different game by an entirely different developer and publisher.
Conceptualised as a sequel to Doom 2 by Midway (of Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam fame), Doom 64 would use a heavily modified version of the original Doom engine to create a significantly more gritty and atmospheric environment than its predecessors. Innovative lighting effects and far more emphasis on the Satanic/hellish elements found in the previous games give Doom 64 something of a horror movie vibe, which would become more of a staple of the franchise in later instalments. The transition from heavy metal chip tunes to a more foreboding, ambient soundtrack only emphasises this further. It is, perhaps, easier to see how the series made the evolution to the more overtly cinematic Doom 3 when wandering through the dark and ominous corridors of Doom 64.
Bethesda have delegated the porting to Nightdive studios (who have previous experience of tarting up retro games for modern consoles), and they have done an admirable job. Visuals are vibrant and smooth with things running at a consistently high frame rate with no noticeable dips. The heavily-criticised excessive darkness of the original is no longer an issue due to how much clearer and more detailed everything appears when running through modern hardware, and everything is so much more comfortable to control with dual thumbsticks (as well as the fact players no longer have to wrestle with the N64’s monstrosity of a controller!).
It’s fair to say that, given the confusion around the game and how long it has been left without a re-release, Doom 64 is something of a hidden gem and probably the most playable of all the early iterations of Doom. This port is clearly the definitive way to experience Doom 64 and (given that it is currently only being made available as a bundle with Doom Eternal) is even more reason to go out and treat yourself to Bethesda’s latest blockbuster.