Doom 64 Nintendo Switch Review

Doom 64's remaster is essentially the same experience players got back in 1997. After nearly 24 years, does it still hold its own against contemporary shooters?

By LG18, Posted 03 Nov 2020

Following the release of Doom Eternal, Bethesda and Id decided to simultaneously port what is undoubtedly the most elusive Doom title to date. Doom 64 was, until now, a Nintendo 64 exclusive title, meaning that for years barely anyone played it. It has been the elusive black sheep of the Doom family for a long time, but following the release of Doom Eternal, Night Dive have utilized the new wave of success attributed to the Doom brand to finally bring the game into the forefront. The new release is considered a remake, not to be mistaken for a remaster. As such, while there’s a resolution boost, some welcome new brightness settings and some new levels that serve to canonize the game with Doom Eternal, you won’t find any changes to the game’s mechanics.This is essentially the same experience players got back in 1997, so does the game hold up under the inevitable comparison to ID’s latest flagship title? Or is it a stark illumination as to how aged the original formula has become?

Doom 64 plays almost exactly like the original games in the series. The player will progress through the blood-stained halls and arenas of the UAC facility (humanity’s governmental base of operations on Mars and ground-zero for the demon invasion), and in the second part of the game, venture into the depths of Hell itself. In keeping with the series’ often hailed disregard for narrative, there isn’t much of a story here. As the sole survivor of humanity’s calamitous meddling with the occult, each level presents you with one objective - get to the exit and kill everything in your path. Visually, the game is certainly better looking than its predecessors Doom one and two, owing to a newer engine that showcases some surprisingly creative lighting techniques and nice sprite work, along with a now animated sky and generally more detailed colorful map design. While the game isn’t going to win any awards for graphical prowess in today’s industry, its style certainly fits in with the contemporary trend of blocky, yet aesthetically appealing graphics. The game’s maps are pretty simple in the beginning, but there are some brilliantly designed locations once you reach Hell which feature more creative scenery. Environments strike a great balance between close quarters and long-range combat. There’s enough variation for each level not to seem too similar to the last, and level-to-level changes can be drastically differing in style.

Dark Corridor, Doom 64, Review, Nintendo Switch

When you’re not gunning down enemies, the game relies heavily on flipping switches to unlock moving platforms or new areas along with some relatively simple puzzles. These work well for the most part, even if they can be a little more invasive and abstract than they were in previous entries. A nice balance is struck here between combat and puzzle solving, and as a result, Doom 64 feels to have optimally refined what makes a fun level within this sort of game engine. Joining the overall stellar package of levels are six ‘lost levels’ canonical to Doom Eternal. The levels are just as fun as those contained within the base game, and it’s nice to see an effort to link these old games with the new ones in the series to create a deeper, more solidified lore. In typical Doom fashion you’ll need to take the time to find the Red, Yellow, or Blue keys to unlock the corresponding door leading to the next section - provided you’ve wiped out everything in the vicinity first. It’s a simple premise but it works well and always has done, with Doom 64’s approach seldom differing to its predecessors – especially in its most important area, the combat.

You’ll start the game with the basic pistol but will quickly amass an arsenal akin to a walking tank. Both the Combat and Super Shotgun, the Rocket Launcher, Plasma Rifle, Mini Gun and Chainsaw all make a welcome return, alongside a new weapon called the Unmayker. This is a devastating laser weapon that shares ammo with the Plasma Rifle and is accessed at secret locations, and It can even be upgraded to be more powerful through the finding of demon keys hidden about the game’s levels. The weapon packs a serious punch featuring great precision and is borderline unstoppable when upgraded, matched only in power to the BFG - the most powerful weapon in the game which is capable of simultaneously disintegrating multiple demons at once. The classic Doom weapon roaster is here in all its glory and it’s as fun and bombastic as it always has been, but is, of course, irrelevant without an adequately enraged demon army to use it on.

Unmaykr, Gothic, Doom 64, Review, Nintendo Switch

All the original two Doom game’s enemies return apart from the Spider Mastermind and the Archvile, and true to form, the weapon line-up is brilliantly balanced against the variety of enemy types. The Combat Shotgun can make quick work of the proportionately matched shotgun-wielding zombie-men and also does a good job of taking down a similarly weak enemy of the lineup, the fireball flinging Imps. The Super Shotgun is unequivocally the best work-horse weapon of the game, dealing out substantial damage to even the toughest enemy types and being a great choice for crowd control thanks to its wide bullet spread. Another solid option when there are a lot of demons to deal with at once is the Chain Gun - a weapon capable of continuous rapid-fire over short or long-range, with the handy ability to stun larger enemies in place and pin them down. This works well for enemies like the ominously floating Cacodemons, which can’t launch their fireballs at you while under fire from the weapon. A similar but more powerful rapid-fire weapon is the Plasma rifle; its trailing blue balls of energy make quick work of any enemy in the game, with the labored spread of its projectiles making leading shots a breeze. The tough and frequently encountered hell-knights are quickly brought down by the Plasma rifle, as are their more powerful brethren the Baron of Hell along with other stronger enemy types such as the Arachnatrons. There are some enemies you’ll want to keep a greater distance from, though, such as the Mancubis and Cyber Daemons. Both have powerful missile weaponry that are borderline impossible to dodge at close range, making the range and damage output of the Rocket launcher ideal. Having a high risk-reward mechanic (having the potentiality to kill you instantly if you’re too close to the explosion) the Rocket launcher is great for dealing very high amounts of damage at a distance. For enemies like the Pinky Demon which attempt your murder with the entirely different strategy of charging at you and ripping you to shreds, the chainsaw is an excellent choice, enabling you to save ammo and take zero damage as you rip through them. Refreshingly, every enemy is completely unique and there’s a lot of fun to be had deducing the right tactic to use in a given situation.

Each enemy is coupled with one or two weapons ideal for bringing them down, and equivalently, using the wrong weapon is also possible. Despite its greater damage output, using the super shotgun in place of the combat shotgun at all times would be a mistake, resulting in the wasting of ammo on weaker enemies and too slow a reload time for enemy’s more dexterous with their maneuverability. Moreover, using the Plasma Rifle in place of the Chain gun for weaker enemies would be an equal waste of ammo, and using the Chain gun in confined spaces generally doesn’t give you the damage output you need at the speed you need it. The trichotomy of a unique weapon roaster, varied enemy type and an inter-woven and dynamic approach to strategy, gels together brilliantly. It’s testimony to the timeless design of these older first-person shooters and highlights the lacking in many modern shooters to provide a fluid, skill-based experience, beyond simply offering variations of the same machine guns over and over or the same bland enemy types.

Demon, Plasma ball, Doom 64, Review, Nintendo Switch

Doom 64 does make some glaring changes to the balance of the original games which don’t come across so well, however. The Lost Souls - which are by far the fastest enemy in Doom - are faster and more ferocious than ever. Depicted as floating flaming skulls, these enemies will lock onto you and relentlessly deplete your health with melee attacks before you’ve had a chance to react. Their speed and damage output seem significantly increased from previous entries, and while you might have only encountered a few in the other games, they’re one of Doom 64’s most common enemies. The ability of Lost Souls to decimate your health feels unfairly difficult at times and can tarnish the otherwise perfect balance of the combat. The issue also exposes other elements of the game which haven’t aged very well. The sheer speed of the enemy and their ability to attack from multiple angles make them almost impossible to dodge, which is especially apparent on the Switch and was equally so back on the N64. Tracking their rectangular movement patterns with a controller can be frustrating and too slow no matter what sensitivity setting you’re playing at. The irreverence of the Lost Souls also perpetuates the problem of the laughably slow weapon switching. By the time you’ve sat through the lowering and raising animations of each weapon as you cycle through them, an enemy as fast as them has likely already killed you. There’s no way to instantly select which weapon you want with a controller, meaning that if you’re after the Super Shotgun and currently have the BFG equipped, the player has to slowly cycle through the entire arsenal. It’s laborious, and amidst such high-octane fights as a Doom game, it hampers the player’s speed of delivery - at times making irrelevant their familiarity with the games otherwise sound strategic gameplay. It would’ve gone a long way for the game to have a rudimentary version of Doom 2016 and Eternal’s weapon wheel, which enables players to pick which weapon they want on the fly and with ease.

Less impactful but equally archaic is the map system, which requires pausing the game to view (even though you can still take damage) and cannot be viewed it in its entirety without the player physically moving the character. For a game that relies so heavily on small puzzles which require memorization of the map and backtracking, a mini-map or at least one that could actually be viewed at full scale would’ve prevented the frustration that comes with getting lost. Doom is ultimately about a continuous fight against the relentless force of Hell, and any large length of time that you’re not shooting something just feels tedious. This is no more apparent when running around the map for fifteen minutes trying to remember where you were supposed to go. It would’ve also been nice to see checkpoints be implemented. The new Doom games do a great job breaking a level up into smaller, satisfying challenges capped by a checkpoint, which makes playing on the hardest difficulties much more fulfilling. The old way of playing through a level from start to finish certainly has its place and is fun in its own right, but given some of the more problematic elements of the game; the degree of non-skill-based difficulty in this iteration can sour the experience of the higher difficulty levels. You can always use quick saves, but this somehow feels more like cheating your way through.

BFG, large hall, Doom 64, Review, Nintendo Switch

All of the above criticisms are mostly issues of a bygone era, with solutions provided by the modernity of today's game engine advancements. As such, it may seem unfair to criticize an old game for behaving like an old game, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest Bethesda, Id and Nightdive could’ve made some quality of life tweaks which would’ve majorly enhanced the games playability and ultimate enjoyability for new players. Those who are fans of the original Doom games will no doubt have a blast with the game, even if the shortcomings can be aggravating at times. There are flaws, but there’s no doubt this is a fun game that captures the essence of what made those early FPS games so addictively fun. Just don’t expect it to hold your hand in the way modern shooters do.


Linden Garcia
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Doom 64


Platform(s): Switch
Publisher(s): id Software, Bethesda Softworks, Midway Games
Developer(s): id Software, Nightdive Studios, Midway Games
Genres: First Person Shooter
Themes: Action, Fantasy, Science-Fiction
Release Date: 2020-03-20

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