DOOM’s Switch to Nintendo’s Newest Platform is Rough Around the Edges
DOOM for the Nintendo Switch is fairly impressive, but is not the way you should experience one of this generation's best shooters for the first time.
Last year, id Software and Bethesda Softworks brought back DOOM — one of the most notable series in gaming history that revolutionized the first-person shooter genre. The only word to describe how well it actually turned out is “miraculous.” With no exception, it is the perfect modern interpretation of the classic.
While it brings back some now-dated concepts for the genre (like a health bar and the inability to reload), DOOM made use of those deficits in unique ways. Its brilliant and fast-paced action, alongside its excellent technical performance, truly made it one of the best shooters of this console generation.
When I saw that DOOM would be coming to the Nintendo Switch, I was at first overwhelmed with joy and then immediately concerned. The hardware disparity between even the original Xbox One (which was previously the weakest current-gen console, performance-wise) and the Nintendo Switch is nothing to be scoffed at. Would the graphics look like garbage? Will it run at 60 frames per second? Hell, will it even run at a steady frame rate?
These are the questions that have been haunting me since its reveal, and they were certainly answered as I stepped forth into the demonic wasteland with the final version of the game.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of playing DOOM on the Switch, I do want to compliment id Software and Bethesda Softworks for making a full-featured port of the game for the Nintendo Switch. A concern I personally had with the new console was the presence of AAA ports with missing features. Sure, you will probably have to purchase a large SD card if you want to download a title like DOOM for the Switch, but at least you can play the game without feeling like something is absent from the original. Well…mostly.
Right as the Doom Slayer wakes from his slumber, the differences in quality between its initial release and the Switch port are apparent. Graphically, the game looks okay in motion; running across the ruinous Mars station slaughtering Hell demons and imps looks similar to its current-gen launch counterpart.
However, once the game interrupts its frantic flow and keeps your avatar in one spot to look at some building in the distance, it looks pretty rough. The sharp, detailed environments and weapons are replaced with muddy textures that are just too noticeable to look past. The character models do look impressive though for the amount of power the Switch is working with.
Docking the system and playing it on a TV screen only made these rough edges more noticeable. The comparisons below were captured from the Nintendo Switch (left) and a PlayStation 4 Pro (right) to illustrate the difference in graphics quality:
To be fair, as mentioned above, there is a blatant power disparity between the two consoles. Obviously, a PlayStation 4 version running on the Pro would look better between the two. Good looking graphics are not the be-all, end-all of making a great game: it has to perform well technically too. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Part of what made 2016’s DOOM so phenomenal was how technically sound it was on a performance level. When there is an army of demons constantly spawning as you violently get rid of them through various explosive means, it’s impressive that it stayed at a steady sixty frames per second.
DOOM for the Nintendo Switch runs at thirty frames per second…mostly. However, if you find yourself in combat with a horde of enemies, you will likely hit some frame drops that are atrocious. There were more than a handful of times where my brutal melee kill was lost due to these significant dips. It interrupts the flow of the gameplay to an extraordinary extent when the drops happen, which are too often.
With all this negativity, there is only one question that begs to be answered: is this game still fun? I can assure you, DOOM on Nintendo Switch is still a blast to play regardless of its poor technical performance. The port still features the frenetic and brutal gameplay that the title is famous for; destroying enemies with excessively violent melee attacks, explosive barrels, and the various weapons found throughout Mars and Hell is just as fun as it was last year.
As enjoyable as DOOM may be, playing in handheld mode is a bit too uncomfortable to play for extended periods — the longest a play session could last comfortably is about three hours. In some ways, it seems apparent that the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con controllers were not built with first-person shooters in mind — which is to be expected when Nintendo console owners tend to primarily play Nintendo licensed games, which has a lack of shooters save for the Splatoon franchise. I felt my grip slipping constantly trying to play DOOM handheld for long stretches of time.
After thirty minutes of play time, I used the console’s kickstand for the first time and played with a Switch Pro Controller. Like all of my previous experiences with the accessory it plays great, and DOOM was no different. Using the Switch Pro Controller is incredibly comfortable and not unlike others in the market.
Bethesda Softworks and id Software’s DOOM is legitimately my favorite game of this generation thus far. The hectic and overwhelming gameplay, satisfying combat mechanics, and exceptional technical performance make it one of the most unique experiences on any of the home consoles. DOOM for the Nintendo Switch is not my preferred way to experience the popular id Software shooter, though it is objectively the most convenient way to experience the title.
While it is a feature complete version of the game, a deluge of problems plague the port. Dips in graphic quality are too noticeable to not wince at for those who have played the game on the current-gen consoles; even this would be fine if it ran at a consistent framerate.
Unfortunately it doesn’t, making it a notably inferior version on a technical level. The novelty of playing DOOM on-the-go wears thin because of this, especially when the Switch in handheld mode feels like it is always slipping out of your hands due to the demanding gameplay.
Despite all of its problems, it is impressive that the game runs at the level that it does. In motion, the intense action looks great and the character models are fairly representative of the ones found in the initial release. It is still the fast-paced demon-filled shooter I love; everyone and anyone should play this game.
If you have never played DOOM, I would suggest experiencing it on a different console for a truer experience to the original. If you’re always trying to find an excuse to play DOOM again and you just so happen to own a Nintendo Switch, it may be worth experiencing again for the novelty of having demon killing on-the-go.