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Doom is a series that will never die, thanks largely to mods. Even in 2017, fans of the series are still actively developing mods for the classic Doom games. Doom 64 was a console exclusive and relied solely on fans to port it to PC in whichever way they could. Doom 64: Absolution was a mod for Doom II and was basically a recreation of Doom 64. It was actually a total conversion mod. Doom 64: Absolution has since been superseded by Doom 64 EX, another more faithful port of the game using the data from the actual cartridge. But, of course, that’s not all. If you’ve been playing Doom games as of late there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Brutal Doom, one of the most ambitious mods for the classic Doom games, and in my opinion, one of the best. Brutal Doom 64 is a mod for Doom 2, released in 2016 and is currently up to version 2.0. Developed by Sergeant Mark, the same guy who developed the original mod, Brutal Doom 64 attempts to enhance the gameplay of Doom 64 and is basically a total conversion of Doom II. It can be played using the GZDoom and Zandronum source ports. It attempts to bring the classic Doom gameplay into modern times with intensified action, extreme gore, re-balanced gameplay, and new features. There’s even a Deathmatch mode where you can battle bots in various maps, but it will require you to use Zandronum.
I’m not going to go over the basic elements of Doom 64 since that was covered in our Doom 64 & Doom 64 EX Review which you may want to read first. For this review I played Brutal Doom 64 using the GZDoom source port along with a few add-ons that don’t affect the gameplay. Brutal Doom is a mod in which I often prefer to play with visible crosshairs and my go-to crosshair mod is always mxHairs 2.1. One of my favorite HUD add-ons for the original Brutal Doom is the Ultimate DoomVisor HUD and someone was able to replicate it for Brutal Doom 64. Like I said before, these mods do not affect gameplay and Brutal Doom 64 is just as fun with or without them.
The story in Brutal Doom 64 is basically unchanged from the original. You play as a Space Marine and need to blow away the armies of Hell. I did notice the ending text is changed a little but it doesn’t really matter. You first blast your way through military installations before entering Hell itself. You have the option to play through the “intro” which is a specially designed map, set before the first map of the original game. You start out in a warzone between the Space Marines and demons. Bullets are whizzing past your head, projectiles are flying every which way, and explosions and carnage just fill the screen. This intro sequence basically tells the backstory of the game and how, you, the sole Space Marine survived the demon onslaught. You have the option to skip the intro but I advise against it on your first run through the game. It’s not really challenging, you can easily run past all of the enemies to the exit, and it can be beaten in under thirty seconds. It’s just a fun little addition.
All of the Doom 64 maps are here however, some changes were made to several to either accommodate the gameplay changes or for other reasons I’m not aware of. A majority of the keys and items are in the same spots although some keys you can acquire more easily and these are usually the keys that require you to wait for something before you can grab them. For example, in the second map, The Terraformer, you don’t need to wait for the blue key to teleport all over the room before you can get it. The only major layout change I noticed was in map 15, Final Outpost. The final area of this map is drastically different with a cool “gateway” to Hell added in and even a Cyberdemon to battle. You still need to acquire the Demon Keys in the secret levels although this time they don’t really make the final boss map any easier. Or maybe I just didn’t know how to use the Demon Keys this time around. The Demon Keys do still upgrade the Unmaker but it seems that you’re forced to battle your way through the waves of demons and there’s no way to stop them from spawning before fighting the Mother Demon, herself. Because of this, the battle is still extremely difficult.
When you start a new game, before choosing the difficulty, of which now there are seven rather than four, you can choose from one of two classes – Classical and Tactical. Classical consists of the classic Doom gameplay. The Tactical class means you’ll move slower but your weapons do more damage. It also means many of the weapons must be reloaded. You’ll have to deal with recoil when firing the chaingun or plasma rifle and even take notice of your trajectory when firing the rocket launcher. But the first thing you’ll probably notice between the two classes is the speed difference. If you turn the “always run” option on, you’ll be speeding by demons like Sonic the Hedgehog if you chose the Classical class. When choosing the Tactical class, you’ll feel like you’re walking. Movement speed is actually a big deal here. Being able to quickly circle strafe and dodge attacks is one of the core elements of the original gameplay but when choosing the Tactical class, I found that hanging back more often and picking off enemies from a distance is a better approach for certain situations. I did enable jumping and mouselook so I could aim using the mouse, which does mean aiming vertically, and these options can be toggled on/off.
All of the original Doom 64 weapons return but feel much more impactful. The new sound effects are incredible and are accompanied by a neat echo effect that really emphasizes their brute force. Rockets will hiss as they fire and then blow your speakers when they make impact. Adding to the satisfying feel and sounds of the weapons is watching enemies explode into bloody gibs. The Super Shotgun can be fired like normal or from either barrel individually. The chaingun now sounds as awesome as it looks and the chainsaw now uses up ammo, or I guess fuel. New to the arsenal is an assault rifle and laser weapon. The assault rifle looks cool and functions exactly was you would imagine. The laser weapon is devastating although its design doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the arsenal. It does look good even if it is a little cartoonish. Unfortunately, you can’t aim down the sights for any weapons and you can only manually reload a few weapons, and that only applies to the Tactical class. Just like in the original Brutal Doom, you can kick enemies that get too close but if I ever get that close to an enemy I usually end up getting killed so it’s rare that I would kick anything. Fatalities do not make a return and from what I’ve heard, this decision is in favor of Doom 64 being more serious, darker in tone, and not as over-the-top as the original game. However, that seems silly to me. Just let us rip and tear. It’s fucking Doom.
All of the same enemies from the original return and there’s even some new ones thrown in. The Hellhound is a two-headed dog that spits out balls of fire. From what I understand this is an enemy that was actually cut from the original game. Heavy Weapon Dude is here, although his appearance is very different from Doom II. There’s even zombie Space Marine type enemies that have a fifty percent chance to replace the standard zombie men. Revenants are back in full force in Brutal Doom 64 and they actually look pretty cool. They’re skeletons covered in blood, or maybe it’s rotten flesh, with two rocket launchers on their shoulders. The Spider Mastermind is also back in action. These additional enemies are a truly welcome addition and it’s great to see some of the classic Doom enemies make a return.
While some people may focus on the new weapons, amplified action, and new gore effects, the real meat of Brutal Doom 64 is the re-balanced gameplay. The gameplay is very fast-paced here, more so than the original. Enemies move faster, they do more damage, but so do you. Because of these gameplay changes, Brutal Doom 64 is more than just a gore mod. Spectators may see Brutal Doom 64 as just a visual spectacle and, just like the original Brutal Doom, this will breed those “edgelords” who hate it because everyone likes it. But the fact remains this mod is more than just a bunch of cosmetic changes. The maps are filled with more enemies than before, but you also have a more powerful arsenal at your fingertips. Enemies can do more damage but their patterns are relatively the same, they just move a bit faster. The gameplay is still all about knowing what weapons to use and when, dodging enemy attacks, and key hunting. But because of the increases to speed, damage, and monster counts, how you approach each encounter may be different than how you approached them in the original game.
Just like with games, themselves, mods are also prone to problems. Most of my problems with Brutal Doom 64 have to do with the enemies. The Spectres and Nightmare Imps have this added motion blur effect which makes them almost impossible to aim at accurately. I get that their supposed to be partially invisible but they can easily swarm you now because trying to shoot them is just a pain in the ass. Two of the new enemies add in, the Revenant and Hellhound, are both projectile-based enemies. Maps in Doom games are designed a certain way, and even for encounters with specific enemies, and unfortunately, most of the maps were not modified to accommodate these two new enemy types. The Revenants and Hellhounds will replace other enemies at certain spawn points, which is usually unexpected, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is that the area you’re in may not be suited for dodging an onslaught of projectiles. You may be trying to dodge a crazy amount of rockets or fireballs and die from a cheap shot to the back. The Revenant’s rockets, in particular, home in on you and can be a real pain in the ass to avoid. The only other minor issue I have is with the gore. I don’t mind splattering demon blood all over the ground, walls, and ceilings, but when the blood is covering switches and buttons, that becomes a problem. In two instances I got stuck for a significant amount of time because blood was covering the switch and I didn’t realize it was there.
Thanks to the capabilities of the GZDoom and Zandronum source ports, Brutal Doom 64 is quite the looker. Everything is still sprite-based but there’s all kinds of little effects that really add to the atmosphere and are just pleasant to look at in general. The new fire effects and this cool hazy smoke effect really add to the creepy and Hellish atmosphere the game is going for. Blood will be dripping from walls, flies will hover over dead corpses, Satanic symbols appear on the ground under anything that spawns in, and the new lighting effects are really cool. Like I mentioned earlier, the sound effects for the guns are just incredible as is all of the sound work here. Bullets ricochet, the sound effects for the Lost Souls feel like they were ripped straight from Doom 3, which isn’t really a bad thing, and even the sounds of the weapons reloading are amazing.
Even if you don’t like Brutal Doom 64 for legitimate reasons, there’s no denying that this is a well put together mod. The new weapons, enemies, re-balanced gameplay, and presentation all come together nicely to form a truly solid package. Sure it has some issues, but the good far outweighs the bad and I do believe future versions will rectify the problems. Compared to the original Brutal Doom, Brutal Doom 64 is still young and not even a year old. I’ve got to imagine projects like this take time and thanks to Sergeant Mark’s dedication to Doom, I have no doubt that the future of Brutal Doom 64 is very bright.