Before Call of Duty, there was variety
If one thing could be said about today's games, it's that the First Person Shooter reigns supreme. Next to sports games, the FPS has so far been the single most successful, most saturated and most popular genre in the industry. But, all great successes start somewhere. While the FPS genre got its start on early '90s MS-DOS based computers, the genre really hit its stride on the N64. As far as home consoles go, it was the first system to really house a large selection of FPS games. The PS1, and to a lesser extent, the Saturn, had some games in the genre, but the N64 by far had the most, even with its small library.
Notable Games in the Genre
We tried out every First Person Shooter we could get our hands on, good or bad. There's older titles and late releases in our overview.
007: The World is Not Enough
So, is this the next GoldenEye? Not really, but hey it isn't bad. This Bond game has cutscenes and voice acting. It also did a better job following the source material than GoldenEye as most major scenes from the movie are recreated in the 14 levels present. The graphics are detailed, and the frame rate is smooth. The sound is excellent, though lacking the classic Bond theme, and the gameplay is diverse and challenging. The multiplayer has plenty of levels and allows for bots this time. This makes for an excellent multiplayer experience with a few buddies. This game created the format for the Bond games that would follow on the PS2/GCN/XboX systems, and that is fascinating.
Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M.
In many ways, this is like an unofficial spinoff of the Turok series. The game uses the Turok 2 engine and as such, Armorines bares many resemblences. Armorines is based on the comic book series of the same name and the main focus of the game is protecting Earth from an invading force of bug-like aliens. To most critics, Armorines lacks many of the qualities found in Turok, but it does have a 2 player co-op mode, passable graphics, a neat theme and a decent number of levels. It's not a great FPS title, but there are worse ones on the N64.
For anyone who was playing PC games in 2000, the name Daikatana might ring a few bells, or perhaps bring back a few disturbing memories. This trainwreck of a FPS was ported to the N64 just three months after the already disasterous PC release. Not surprisingly, the N64 version of Daikatana is pretty bad. How bad? Well, the graphics actually saw a downgrade from the PC original. Not only in graphical detail, but there is significant fog in most levels, especially in Greece. Two of the game's characters aren't even present in-game, only in cutscenes. Daikatana may have been released in 2000, but it feels like it's from 1997, which is ironically when the PC version's development was started. Almost every other FPS on this list is much better than Daikatana, so unless you like crummy games, we here at Micro-64 suggest you avoid this one.
On the surface, this game may seem like a rather late port of a then outdated game, but Doom 64 is in many ways a sequel to the original Doom, more so than Doom 2 in fact. There are 32 new levels to play, many more enemies, really nice graphics, a fully 3D engine capable of graphical and level design techniques not possible in the original Doom's raycasted engine and an atmospheric and forboding soundtrack. Doom 64 may not have any multiplayer, but the single player mode alone makes the game worth playing.
Duke Nukem 64
"Racy", "politically incorrect" and "awesome" are but a few words to describe the original Duke Nukem 3D, later released as Duke Nukem 64 on the N64. To see such a game released on a Nintendo platform is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Not to worry, the game was adjusted for the worse. Many of the items were renamed to remove drug and sexual references. More oddly though, some sections of the game were changed to include levels and areas from the Plutonium Pak expansion. New weapons were added, as well as a 3D model for the final boss. Stranger yet, there is no in-game music. Thankfully, a split screen multiplayer mode was added to Duke 64, giving it more replay value. Despite all the changes though, the core gameplay of Duke Nukem 3D is much the same, which makes Duke Nukem 64 a decent game for anyone's N64 collection.
If there was one game to choose as the posterchild of N64 first person shooters, it's GoldenEye. To many people, this game changed the way home console FPS games were designed, forever. Indeed, it pioneered many improvements that hadn't been seen on a home console, like competent A.I., complex story missions, quality in a licensed game and an incredibly fun multiplayer mode. Today, GoldenEye is a bit rough around the edges and isn't too impressive when compared to contemporary PC games, but it's still a very noteworthy game that should be first on any N64 beginner's list. The multiplayer mode alone has kept people coming back to this gem for years, if not a decade by now.
Hexen started out on the PC, using a modified version of the Doom engine. Out of every game on this list, Hexen is easily one of the most unique. The game takes place in a dark fantasy setting, where you can play as a Fighter, Cleric or Mage, and fight lots of foul monsters. While this may be just another multiplatform title, Hexen is actually a pretty competent port. The graphics are good, the game itself is quite faithful to the original PC version and it was one of the first FPS titles for N64 to offer 4 player splitscreen, a feature which none of the other ports of Hexen had. Other than that, this port doesn't offer much else that can't be had in the PC, PS1 or Saturn versions. If you already have an N64, it's a good game to own. The novelty of fighting witches in what is essentially Doom with axes and hammers alone makes playing Hexen worth it.
As the followup to the critically acclaimed GoldenEye 007, there was a lot of hype riding on Perfect Dark. Unlike some spiritual sequels, this one was great. The graphics and sound were better, the story was original and more complex, the story mode missions had greater depth and the multiplayer mode was further enhanced. Perfect Dark even includes some high end video options like a Hi-Res mode (480i) and widescreen settings. Perfect Dark uses the Expansion Pak to aid in all these improvements and even offers a few game modes for Jumper Pak users. Unfortunately, the game does suffer from quite a bit of slowdown, especially when using Hi-Res mode, or with 4 player split screen and bots. Despite that though, Perfect Dark is one of the best FPS games on the N64 and is certainly a great followup to GoldenEye, even if it was only in spirit.
Quake was id Software's second major FPS franchise, first released on PC in 1996. Two years later, it was ported to the N64. Quake is very much a spiritual successor to Doom, in that it plays similarly to it, but brings along many technical improvements, partly in thanks to advancing 3D rendering. For the most part, Quake is faithful to the original DOS version. Its visuals are the same, and so is the music. Most of the levels are present, but as with most PC ports, some had to be cut. Roughly six, in fact. To make up for this, Quake's multiplayer mode was retained, although not as many players are supported.
For lots of FPS fans in 1997, Quake II represented what a good sequel should be. Nearly everything is improved over the original Quake. The graphics, sound and (arguably) gameplay were all much improved in a technical sense. When the N64 port rolled out in 1999, fans of the Windows version might have been surprised at what the cartridge release contained. Almost every level, track and multiplayer map was completely different. It's more like a partial sequel to the actual Quake II on PC, similar to Doom 64 not being a port of any prior version of the original Doom. A split screen multiplayer mode replaces the original Quake II's network and internet multiplayer. There's also some new lighting effects and graphical details. Even the Expansion Pak is utilized to improve Quake II's visuals. This is one of the N64's better shooters, if only for the unique levels.
Gamers who have defeated the Turok games and are looking for more might want to give South Park a try. South Park plays a lot like Turok 2, right down to the controls. But, where Turok is a darker, more serious toned game, this game is more about humor. Instead of hunters, dinosaurs, and oblivion spawn, you're killing aliens, clones, and giant chickens. Many characters and quotes from the show are all here. The levels in South Park are less exciting and more linear then Turok, but there are a lot more enemies to kill. South Park doesn't have the best graphics, but then again, the TV show didn't exactly have the best animation. In this case, the graphics work. The multiplayer mode is where you can play as all the different characters from the show. Up to 4 players can play and there's nearly 20 arenas to choose from. Acclaim did a good job with the source material, even though there wasn't very much of it at the time. The second season of the South Park TV show was just about wrapping up, so this game is based on the early episodes.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six
In a way, this game could be considered an evolutionary step in the legacy of GoldenEye 007 and others like it. You control a group of SWAT soldiers, who can be assigned onto two teams, who take on dangerous missions to neutralize terrorist plots and save lives. It's quite an impressive game, both for its time and on the N64. The realistic theme and presentation in Rainbow Six played a part in popularizing realism in FPS games, which has been at an all-time high in recent years. In some ways, the game may even be a bit much for the N64. For instance, Rainbow Six is one of the few FPS games on N64 that requires almost every button on the controller to play the game. In fact, Rainbow Six is somewhat difficult to play with the "Left Handed Mode" which many N64 shooters offer. It's not impossible, but you will have to lift your right hand to access certain buttons if you need to zoom in your scope, swap weapons or use items. Rainbow Six is for sure a memorable game, but it was perhaps too much for the N64 to accommodate. It was ported very well, but the controls may turn some people off.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
This was the very first FPS release for the N64. For being the first, it certainly left an impression on gamers and the industry, though GoldenEye 007 would steal the spotlight a few months later. While today, Turok is somewhat of a relic, it does have its qualities. For one thing, the graphics are quite impressive, even with the dense fog. The enemies were well animated and had very advanced (though scripted) death animations, decent music, excellent sound effects and lots of blood and gore. The level design and objectives were not much improved over Doom, but the trimmings really made Turok feel special. Still, the game's rough edges, subpar single player missions and no multiplayer modes to speak of leave one with not much reason to play Turok, except for nostalgia or a genuine appreciation for the game. Turok 2, Rage Wars and Turok 3 greatly improve over the original. Even if only for the great visuals (for their time), memorable sound effects, multitudes of weapons and leagues of enemies to blast into a gory mess, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is an FPS every N64 fan should own.
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Turok 2 took everything the first game did and made it better. The graphics are a step above and are more realistic. There are more death animations and blood, and With the expansion pak at your side, the resolution could be doubled to make the graphics even better. The only possible downside to this mode, is the game tends to suffer from slowdown a bit. Turok 2 does excel in the sound department. The sounds of explosions and weapon fire sound great. The background music is done excellently and helps keep the slight horror feel going. This game also has some voice acting done. There are 6 levels in Turok 2 and they are much harder then the levels in the first game. Even on the easiest difficulty this game is still incredibly difficult. One flaw that contributes to that difficulty is the lack of save points. The bosses are also much harder in Turok 2 which certainly adds to the difficulty. Turok 2 has an interesting multiplayer. Each multiplayer character is completely different and there are quite a few of them. There aren't many modes, but they have all the standard ones you'd expect. Turok 2 was one of the best game's Acclaim every developed, and was also a big seller on the N64. For that reason it's definitely worth a look.
Turok: Rage Wars
Turok: Rage Wars was released between the second and third Turok games. Rage Wars is the odd one out of the N64 Turok series as it's pretty well a multiplayer-only game. Yes, you can play single player, but you'd just be doing the death matches against computers by yourself. Rage Wars features 4 multiplayer modes, a 2 player co-op mode, bots, plenty of characters to unlock, plenty of weapons, and many other cool things. Turok: Rage Wars continues the trend of impressive graphics, and just like Turok 2, the expansion pak can make things prettier. Rage Wars also has some excellent background music, but it's a bit on the quiet side. This is best as you don't want music getting in your way while trying to listen for gunfire. Though there is slowdown, it's not much. This game has less of it than GoldenEye had. In conclusion, if you enjoyed the multiplayer of Turok 2 or 3, then definitely check out Turok: Rage Wars.
Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion
Though shorter and less innovative then the second Turok game, Turok 3 is still a good game. Turok 3 brings just about the same formula as Turok 2, but with two major improvements. The biggest would be that you can now save anywhere. No longer will you feel cheated when you're unable to find a save point, die, and then lose an hour of gameplay. The other improvement is adding two main characters to play as. Each character has their own weapons and abilities, but also their own paths in levels. This was a great way of adding replay value. The graphics in Turok 3 are just as good as Turok 2, if not a bit better. High resolution mode returns to make the graphics pretty, but once again it brings a bit of slowdown. The music in Turok 3 fits the creepy atmosphere and voice acting once again returns. Turok 3 also has an excellent multiplayer compared to Turok 2. It has more modes then Turok 2, but not as many as Rage Wars. When you compare the first Turok game, to Turok 3, you'll see this game has evolved quite a bit and barely resembles that what it originally was. If you enjoyed Turok 2 more than the first game, then I suggest giving Turok 3 a try.
The First Person Shooter is without a doubt one of the N64's strongest genres, as evident by the many titles in the above list. There's a bit of everything, really. Ports, classics, series and stand alone games. There's something for everyone when it comes to first person shooters on N64. We here at Micro-64 hope you found this feature useful in some way.
Written by Aaron Wilcott
October 20th 2012