My Journey Into Hell: A DOOM Retrospective, Part 2

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Posted by Igort (23 posts) -

In the previous part I talked about my desire to go back and play through the older Doom games in my anticipation for Doom Eternal. Thanks to the efforts of the folks working on GZDoom, I was able to play phenomenal, slightly modernized versions of Doom and Doom II: Hell On Earth. I figured I should keep the ball rolling and make my way into Doom 64, a game I owned and discovered I had slightly more reverence for than I initially anticipated.

As with the previous Doom games, I started by wondering what the best way to play Doom 64 in 2019 was. I started out playing Doom 64 EX, a recreation of the game using the original Doom’s engine as a source. I found that version perfectly fine, but something about it just didn't click for me. Some further research led me to discover Doom 64 Retribution which actually ran in GZDoom. The idea of being able to play a significant chunk of the Doom games all in one place really appealed to me, and I found the game ran a little better than EX did. I had to jump through a couple extra hoops to get the original soundtrack running on that version but I’m a huge fan of the soundtrack so I felt it was worth it.

Doom 64 immediately stands out from the previous Doom games in look and atmosphere, which makes sense considering it’s created by a different studio, though thankfully it still feels like Doom. Purists may scoff at the idea of playing the game on mouse and keyboard, though I can hardly imagine what some of those later levels must have felt like on an N64 controller.

At times Doom 64 almost feels like a straight-up horror experience, the enemies look nastier and meaner, and the MIDI-Metal soundtrack is replaced by a lumbering, ominous ambient soundtrack.

Doom 64’s story, to my surprise, added a dimension I wasn’t quite expecting. The basic premise: years after Doomguy slaughtered his way through the demonic invasion of Mars, a strange force is now resurrecting the demons of Hell. Naturally, Doomguy is the only person who can stand against this demonic army, so he ventures back to take the fight to them once more. This simple yet strong story, combined with the nastier looking monsters and oppressive score, really painted the game with a strong sense of dread.

I will admit that the games slightly muted color scheme often resulted in me getting lost or being unable to find switches and keycards, a situation I found delightfully ironic considering my thoughts on the original game in the previous post. Overall I enjoyed Doom 64 though I did find the oppressive tone got a little stale as I drew closer to the end, though a strong (and insane) final boss encounter saved it for me in the closing moments.

From there I dove straight into Doom 3. I played through the Steam release of the original version of the game, not realizing that the BFG Edition had slightly improved graphics (I had incorrectly assumed that was simply a re-release with the DLC bundled in).

Right from the word go it becomes apparent that Doom 3 is the “odd one out” of the Doom franchise. A stronger focus on horror coupled with the mostly ambient soundtrack maybe don’t feel quite so out of place after Doom 64. However it’s the more involved storyline (with actual characters!), linear level design, and the almost-feels-actually-blasphemous idea of reloading in a Doom game that set it out from the pack.

Ultimately I think I enjoyed my time with Doom 3, even if there were moments where I felt frustrated. The few boss encounters the game has were mostly uninteresting. There are one or two moments where the game demands some tight platforming jumps that felt awful with the games mechanics. The over reliance on surprising you with enemies out of nowhere definitely overstayed its welcome.

Of course no Doom 3 discussion would feel right without discussion of the flashlight. At times the mechanic of switching between weapons and flashlight really worked for me, really helped the game ratchet up the tension. Other times it felt like a bothersome nuisance that just got in the way of the fun. Even when the game lead you into a hallway completely blanketed in darkness the flashlight would only illuminate a small chunk of the players view. It was no surprise when I discovered the devs changed the mechanic in the BFG Edition, as having the flashlight constantly on doesn’t seem like something that would throw the games design off-balance.

With all the major Doom games checked off my list, where do I go now? Initially I planned on sinking my teeth into Doom 2016, I game I’ve played before and know that I enjoy, hoping my new perspective would enrich the experience. Then it struck me that having access to GZDoom and using it to only play vanilla Doom would be a complete waste. So after some searching I found a handful of highly revered Doom WADS, like Valiant, Going Down, and Comatose.

I’ll share my experiences with the wonderful world of Doom mods in the next part (and maybe I'll check out the Doom 3 DLC while I'm at it). Do you guys have any thoughts on Doom 64 or Doom 3? What are some of your favourite Doom WADS or general Doom mods, which ones should I be checking out. Let me know!

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#1 Posted by DoubleCakes (38 posts) -

I think, level for level, Doom 64 has the best campaign out of all the official Doom games. It arcs up real good, the level designs have way more hits than misses, and the atmosphere is the best the series has! Retribution is probably the best way to experience it.

Also playing wads like Valiant and Going Down is an important part of the "Doom experience" if you ask me. That's what Doom's become for me anyway.

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#2 Edited by csl316 (15037 posts) -

Original Doom 64 is really tough to go back to on an N64 these days. But like that Perfect Dark XBLA remaster, playing Doom 64 with a modern frame rate and resolution on PC highlights the strengths of that game. I tried it a month ago for the first time with GZDoom and had a grand old time.

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#3 Posted by Igort (23 posts) -

@doublecakes said:

Also playing wads like Valiant and Going Down is an important part of the "Doom experience" if you ask me. That's what Doom's become for me anyway.

Going Down is kicking the crap out of me, and I'm not even playing on the hardest difficulty. It's a phenomenal experience. I can't wait to get to Valiant, which I've heard so many positive things about.

@csl316 said:

Original Doom 64 is really tough to go back to on an N64 these days.

God, I can't even imagine. To my surprise I still have my original Doom 64 cartridge, so I've been real tempted to try and hook my old N64 up and play through it again that way.

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#4 Posted by DoubleCakes (38 posts) -

I've played through Going Down twice and neither time did I play it vanilla. I think the first time I played it I used Weapons of Saturn which is just slightly more powerful compared to vanilla. It's really hard either way, but it's so good. I can't imagine how grueling it is with vanilla weapons.

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