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Doom 64 Review

Publisher - Midway Home Entertainment
Developer - Midway Home Entertainment
Platform - N64
Type - 3D Shooter
Score - 8/10

Doom is, of course, the original first-person shooter. While it started on the PC, it has migrated to every other platform and spawned legions of imitators. Now it has come to the Nintendo 64. The two obvious questions are how does it compare to the other Dooms, and how does it compare to Turok: Dinosaur Hunter?

Doom has been completely redesigned for the Nintendo. Those of you who played the original on the PC, then played the same game again on the Playstation or other platforms, will be happy to hear that Doom 64 features entirely new levels. The graphics have also been completely redone to take advantage of the capabilities of the Nintendo 64. The gameplay, though, is exactly the same, as it should be. This game truly feels like Doom. While Turok puts you in wide open spaces, and other games have emphasized paranoia or humor, Doom 64 matches the feel of the original. There are hordes of demons, and it's your job to kill them. To do it, you'll have to crawl around dark twisty passages, armed with a basic set of weapons for demon hunting, including the double-barreled shotgun, the chain gun, and the BFG9000 (Oh yes!). To get through each level, find the keys to get through doors and solve puzzles involving switches that trigger doors on timers.

If there's any change in attitude in Doom 64, the game has become more grim. While there's still the joy of mowing down a room of imps, many levels make you just want to kill everything and get out. This is in keeping with the game's story. It turns out that something was left alive at the end of Doom II, and it has resurrected the rest of the demons. Things are a little more evil now, and you may not want to go back and clean up, but you must. Like the previous Dooms, the storyline is almost completely irrelevant to gameplay. Killing everything in sight is the dominant goal of the game, with infrequent screens of text informing you of your progress.

One other change is in the level design. For the first time, Doom's levels are truly 3D, with one part of the level directly above another part. This naturally leads to significantly more complex levels. Some levels will have you running in circles up and down stairs, as you go up onto walkways that cross areas where you've already been, just so you can drop back down and proceed under still further walkways. Switches can also trigger much more substantial changes than just opening doors or activating elevators. Sometimes the area around you will be completely transformed. These changes make the levels more immersive and involved, and are a definite step forward.

This is unquestionably the best looking Doom. While nearly all of the bad guys have been brought back, their artwork has been completely redone with considerably more detail. There are some significant changes in the appearance of some of the creatures, but they all still look vicious. The Nintendo hardware has been put to good use, so when Lost Souls get in your face they may look ugly, but they sure don't look pixelated. The wall textures are also excellent. It seems like there's a new set on every level. Demonic looking switches and the usual bodies and heads impaled on spikes enhance the feel of the game. The monsters are all 2D bitmaps, so they can't really compete with the 3D beasts from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Like previous versions of Doom, a minimal number of frames has been used for the animations, and you can see it in the jerky motions some things have. On the other hand, the use of 2D bitmaps means that there can be many more things on the screen at once without slowdowns. Facing 30 creatures at once is one of the trademarks of Doom, and that might not be possible with 3D artwork.

For those who care about such things, the level of gore is about the same as previous incarnations of Doom. There are healthy quantities of blood, but when things die, they don't spew blood all over the place first. They just collapse into piles of body parts. Doom 64 is definitely a step down from Turok in the gore department, but unfortunately there's no way to turn off the blood, meaning that Doom is still a bad choice for people likely to be made queasy by graphic violence.

The game doesn't have music as such, but the background sounds are very ominous, and add to the grimness. While I don't think the game responds directly to the player's actions, there are enough dramatic noises that opening doors or rounding corners can sometimes be given a whole new emphasis. Nearly continuous screams or moans in the background on some levels definitely contribute to the desire to just kill everything and finish the level as fast as possible. The sounds in the game are good too. The plasma cannon has a healthy buzz even when you're not shooting it, and usually the first clue you have about demons is the sounds they make.

The Doom controls are adapted to the Nintendo controller well. The analog joystick makes the use of the run button unnecessary, and the Z trigger gets good use as the trigger for the weapons. Players used to separate buttons for strafing left and right will find the default controls annoying, as the left and right shoulder buttons are set up for strafing. Fortunately there are several other preprogrammed defaults, so one of the others might work better, and for the truly desperate, you can completely configure your own controls.

There are two things I wish the game did that it doesn't. First, I'd like to be able to look up and down. With the more complex level designs, I keep wishing I could look down to see what's happening below me. After Super Mario 64, Shadows of the Empire, and Turok, this is a very unnatural limitation. On the other hand, it keeps the controls simpler. Some people find the ability to look up and down more confusing than freeing. Second, one of the great things about Doom on the PC is that it is networkable. I've spent many hours killing my friends in networked first person shooters. The Playstation version allows you to play with two Playstations linked together. While this is inconvenient, it's worth it. Doom 64 is strictly one player. I guess I'll have to wait for Hexen 64, which is reported to be four player split screen.

Midway set out to create a version of Doom which lives up to the Nintendo 64. They have unquestionably succeeded. The graphics are on par with the standards for Nintendo games, while the gameplay matches the original. While there must have been temptation to change, to redesign the weapons or bring in completely new demons or adjust the feel of the controls, Midway knew what to leave alone. Doom 64 does give new levels that will fill the desire for new levels that Doom fanatics feel. While they weren't designed by Id Software (the developers of the original Doom), they capture the feel of the best Id had to offer. What more could a Doom fan want?