Review: DOOM for Switch packs the entire game on a portable machine
A port worth celebrating even with a few compromises
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Code was provided for review purposes)
Publishers: Bethesda Softworks
Developers: iD Software
DOOM was a genuine surprise when it released in 2016. Coming from a lackluster multiplayer beta to Bethesda's review copy change where outlets would get the game either one day before, or the day of launch, there were red flags everywhere surrounding DOOM. Somehow, despite that, it ended up being an immensely satisfying throwback to shooters of yesteryear, with gorgeous graphics, a story that knew not to take itself seriously, fast-paced combat that continually encouraged you to be on the move to stay alive, and those fantastic glory kills that constantly rewarded you with more health and ammo.
Bethesda's announcement of DOOM for Nintendo's Switch was a genuine surprise. How was a game that gorgeous, gory and smooth going to translate to the less powerful Switch? Turns out, just fine, if you're able to give in to a few compromises.
The same experience, through and through
Since the Switch version is nearly identical to its 2016 release on consoles and PC, I'll refer you to Dan Miller's fantastic review of DOOM. There you can read about the game's story and mechanics in more detail, in case you never gave DOOM a chance when it released last year.
In a nutshell, a demonic outbreak happens on an outpost on Mars due to humans wanting to harvest energy from Hell(yep!) and it's up to you, the Doom Slayer, to put an end to every demonic hellspawn that has now crossed over.
The game also features the same multiplayer modes found in the original game, with a lot of tweaks and reworks done to it. It's still my least favorite part of the experience, but for those looking to take their aggression out on other players, can indulge themselves with all the multiplayer offerings.
Arcade Mode is also available, giving players the option to hop in any stage, with any loadout they want, and go to town in all-out action without being bogged down with the narrative cut-scenes. Those thinking about double dipping will no doubt appreciate this mode, as they've probably "been there, done that" with the game's campaign, and Arcade Mode is a good way to jump directly into the action, and into your favorite levels to boot.
The Switch experience
There's little doubt that the devs had to make some pretty big compromises when porting a game like DOOM to the Nintendo Switch, which is already an underpowered machine compared to its console competitors. The resolution never goes beyond 720p, even when playing docked, and the framerate is cut in half, staying at an almost consistent 30fps.
The resolution never bothered me all that much, as I was still able to make out the action quite fine. I never felt overwhelmed by a lot happening on a small screen either. If there's one aspect that doesn't carry over well when playing in handheld mode, it's the text. It's a bit too small to comfortably read. Other than that, I found myself being quite impressed with the game, despite its more muddy textures and lower resolution comparatively.
The 30fps is something that's hard to judge, simply because it will bother some players, and not be an issue to others. For me, having already played DOOM on PS4 with a smooth 60fps framerate, jumping into DOOM on the Switch at half that, was certainly eye-opening. With that said, It never detracted from my overall experience. I didn't find myself constantly cursing the game, wishing that it was smoother, and instead enjoyed the experience at a locked 30fps. If you need to see whether you can stomach the game at 30fps, just watch any DOOM gameplay video on YouTube and set the video resolution to anything sub 720p since that disables the 60fps option. If you're not bothered by that, you'll be fine playing it on the Switch.
One thing that players will most likely have an issue with is playing with the Joycon. It's undoubtedly my favorite controller on the market right now, and I love playing games freehand without having them attached together, but there is a slight tradeoff, the small joysticks. There's probably a reason why Splatoon 2 players prefer to either use Gyro controls or the Pro Controller when aiming, and that's most likely due to the fact that precision aiming with such a small joystick is tough. After a few minutes of playing DOOM, I switched to the Pro Controller and everything was fine. I was able to pick off enemies with ease. Switching back to the Joycon, my aim was all over the place. Determined, I decided to play the rest of the day with the Joycon and see if I was able to adjust. Thankfully, I was. Just two missions later, I found myself finding just the right amount of tilt I need to apply to the joystick to aim exactly where I needed to, and found little issue playing the game with the Joycon exclusively afterward. It was a good learning experience and proves that despite thinking that the Joycon would be a suboptimal way to play the game if you stick with it, it's certainly something you can get used to.
While many are touting the best way to experience DOOM on Switch is docked and with a Pro controller, you're losing out on the novelty of what makes DOOM on Nintendo's portable so magical. It's perfectly playable in handheld mode, and despite the lower resolution, I still find myself surprised at just how the devs were able to pull it off.
If to you, graphics are king and let's face it, in a world of PS4 Pros and Xbox One Xs, they probably are, then the Switch version of DOOM might certainly seem a bit underwhelming. And if you've already experienced the hell out of this game on other consoles or PC, I wouldn't say that DOOM is a must buy if you also own a Switch. The novelty of playing a game like DOOM on the go is certainly there, but at full price, it might be a hard sell for those thinking of double dipping. However, if the Switch is your main console, and you somehow missed out on id Software's fantastic throwback to a bygone era of First Person Shooters, then I wholeheartedly recommend DOOM on the Switch.