Doom was one of the best games of 2016, and if you’d told me in March that it’d be making its way to Nintendo Switch, I’d have laughed at you. Yet here we are, and Nintendo’s new hybrid has scored itself one of my favourite games of the generation – at a cost.
Doom takes place Mars, and follows on from the UAC’s botched efforts to sap Hell’s argent energy, in turn leading to demons invading the brown planet. Amidst all of this, the game’s protagonist, the Doom Slayer, wakes up mid-invasion and is given the goal to kill all of the demons, send them back to Hell, and fix the problems the UAC has caused. Doom’s story was never all that interesting, more or less acting as a thread to ensure you have reason for why you’re tearing demons to shreds. And to this degree it’s serviceable.
Slicing a current-gen game down to fit in with the Nintendo Switch’s mobile-level specs must have been a huge undertaking for port developers Panic Button, yet it has managed to make the experience feel just like Doom did last year. I've played through the game on both the PlayStation 4 and PC, yet my time with Doom on Switch has been pleasant and at times bewildering – getting a game of Doom’s size to fit and run on a tiny tablet is remarkable.
Of course, compromises have been made, and they are abundant and visible throughout. The most noticeable is that the framerate has been cut in half, capping at 30 rather than 60. Be that as it may, after a short adjustment period I didn’t have too much of an issue with this cap, and Doom still feels exactly like it did last year: excellent.
Some hefty downscaling has occurred on the graphical side of things as well, though this is more prevalent in docked mode rather than handheld. Playing Doom Switch edition on a TV is not something I’d recommend at all, as the game caps at a dynamic 720p resolution and looks really blurry and out of focus. Play in handheld mode, though, and that dynamic resolution is a little more difficult to notice thanks to the Switch’s small six inch screen. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the minute details – the UAC logos sprawled around Mars, the vehicles dotted around the place, and so on – are very, very low quality. Again, another set of graphical compromises that had to happen for Doom to exist on Nintendo's hardware.
For the most part, those compromises make Doom on Switch run pretty well, though entering large areas and taking on a lot of demons in the same space will see that 30fps cap plummet to the low 20s. Sequences like these make the game feel like it’s almost running in slow motion, and take away from the immersion. That said, after you get rid of a few demons or dial it back into a confined area, the framerate improves and you can continue on.
In addition, the game’s text is tough to read while playing handheld, shrunk down to a size that is almost minuscule when compared to everything else on screen. This makes objectives and prompts especially tough to digest while mid-fight, and I hope this can be fixed soon as it’s an odd problem to have. When the Switch is docked, though, this issue is non-apparent.
Another weird issue I found with the game’s campaign was that the audio would completely stop working at random points, forcing me to have to back out to the main menu and reload my save in order to fix it. Holding the home button on the Switch would indicate the audio is still working, and that something within Doom was breaking the audio. I’m hoping that a patch can fix this issue as well, as it is quite annoying.
When you finish up with Doom's campaign, you are granted access to Arcade Mode: an additional mode that allows you to compete online through leaderboards on each of the main campaign levels with every weapon and skill unlocked. I had a great time with this, and it works perfectly as a mode to play in quick bursts – something the Switch obviously promotes.
Doom on Switch also includes the game’s multiplayer, alongside all of the content that has been added to it over the last year and a half. This encompasses a ton of team-based modes, as well as a few free for all modes that really round out a fun, quick-fire experience for those wanting to continue to play the game after completing its excellent campaign.
I had a lot of fun playing multiplayer on Doom last year, and that continues to be the case on the Switch version, too. Framerate can get a little choppy when a lot of characters are on screen, but nothing too serious. The only major problem I had with the multiplayer was that I’d always have a bad connection to the game’s servers, meaning I had to compete against lag and thus struggled to land precise shots more often than not. That said, for a portable multiplayer FPS experience, Doom is fantastic, and I hope players continue to populate the servers into the future.
Making use of the Switch’s Joy-Cons to play Doom wasn’t an issue for me, though I can see it being a hurdle for most players. The precision involved in a twitch shooter like this one is notable, and there’s going to be an adjustment period for a lot of players to get used to the smaller buttons and thumbsticks. It’s not all that bad, though, and you also have the option of using a Pro Controller, which is perfect for it. The game also includes motion control support, though the functionality is a simple shake of the controller to perform a glory kill – nothing in the way of gyro aiming or the like, which is a bummer.
Underneath all of the compromises and tweaks Panic Button has made lies one of the best first-person shooters of the generation, and it still remains so. Doom on Switch is fantastic, and after those initial hurdles of entry I really, really began to appreciate the effort that the developers have put into making this game possible on the hybrid console.
Mick Gordon’s raring soundtrack accentuates one of the best shooters out there to date, and everything from the original game minus SnapMap is included here. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series or have played Doom before, if you have a Switch I recommend you pick this up – its existence alone is a technical marvel.