Review – Doom 64 (Xbox One)

Not a lot of people are aware of the fact that Doom 64, originally released in 1997 for Nintendo’s 64-bit console, wasn’t simply a port of the classic game to modern hardware, but actually a brand new iteration of the franchise. Despite featuring the classic gameplay scheme from 1993 (that means, no need to aim up or down), it also took advantage of that console’s power to feature bigger and more detailed levels that were unimaginable in 1993. In my humble opinion, this underrated gem is the best classic Doom game of all time, even though it was plagued with some really annoying issues for the time. You have no idea how happy I am that the game has finally been re-released for modern consoles.

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I can finally look at the game without needing to tinker my TV’s brightness settings to near-blinding levels!

The best part about this remaster is that Nightdive Studios was responsible for its development. For those who don’t know, Nightdive are the ones behind the excellent Turok and Turok 2 remasters, two titles that made their original versions look and feel completely unplayable in comparison. Those guys sure know how to tinker classic shooters and make them compete head-to-head with any other title out there. What they have managed to achieve with Doom 64 is no exception, as this remaster is better than the original in every single conceivable way.

For those who haven’t played Doom 64 back in the day, the main complaint regarding the original release was the fact that it was extremely dark, making the sole act of looking at what was in front of you a challenge. Playing it on a CRT TV was already a nuisance back then and trying to play it on a modern LCD or LED is pretty much impossible without setting the screen’s brightness settings to blinding levels. Nightdive fixed that problem by improving Doom 64‘s overall lighting and increasing the intensity of its color palette. Textures have received a slight buff, looking sharper than ever before. Characters and items are still stretched and blurry sprites onscreen, though. I guess that is part of the charm when playing a retro Doom game.

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The visual improvements alone are already worth the admission ticket, but there’s more than that in here. The framerate, as to be expected, now runs at a lightning fast 30 frames per second. This is the fastest this game has ever ran, especially if you toggle the autorun on and start dashing around like a complete lunatic. Finally, there’s also a brand new level included in here. The developers did a great job designing it that although it is meant to emulate the look and feel from a classic Doom game, it is more complex than other levels featured in here. It has a more modern mindset and is also full of nods to the recently released Doom Eternal.

Besides those enhancements, this is still Doom 64. The gameplay is still the same, with the exception of the increased framerate. Explore maze-like levels, look for secret areas, collect keys, kill literally thousands of enemies, and look for the exit. The soundtrack is also the same as before, which means that this is probably the only Doom game ever released that doesn’t feature a metal-influenced soundtrack. Due to the technical limitations of the Nintendo 64’s cartridge, Doom 64 actually featured a MIDI-based sountrack composed by Aubrey Hodges, a dark ambient musician who also wrote the soundtrack for Quake II and the PS1 version of Doom. It’s nowhere near as fast-paced and it’s a lot moodier than any other Doom soundtrack, which although pretty good in its own right, doesn’t exactly fit with the franchise’s high octane mindset.

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Say what you want, but Hell sure does have some decently mowed lawns.

I am so glad that, not only is Doom 64 now available on modern consoles, but it now looks and plays as better as ever before. Nightdive knocked it out of the park once again with yet another remaster that is so well-crafted that makes the original game look unplayable in comparison. We can now finally own all Doom games in one console thanks to this brand new re-release. What a time to be alive.

 

Graphics: 8.0

The sole fact that you can actually see what’s in front of you this time around is enough to warrant a purchase. The remastered visuals look crisp and clean, and the framerate is solid. The enemies still look weird and stretched in this vastly polygonal world, though.

Gameplay: 9.0

As fast-paced and responsive as an old-school Doom game should be. You’ll just need to remember about the lack of a vertical axis to aim at.

Sound: 7.0

Unlike other games in the franchise, Doom 64‘s soundtrack is moody and slow-paced. The soundtrack is actually pretty good for what it is, but it doesn’t provide the same adrenaline-fueled sensation that other Doom soundtracks do.

Fun Factor: 9.5

Doom 64 was really underappreciated back in the day. It featured the best level design from all old-school Doom titles by far. Being able to play this hidden gem on a modern console, with Nightdive’s signature remastering skills, is a godsend.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Doom 64 (remastered version) is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch. The original version is also available on the Nintendo 64.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Doom 64 was provided by the publisher.

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