The power of the Nintendo Switch is in how it reinvents the concept of a handheld game. Where previously there was a wall between home console experiences and those you could have on the go, the Switch brings that wall crashing down. What this does is makes otherwise not-so-amazing games feel even better, since you can play it anywhere, anytime. DOOM is pretty great already, offering a classic, action-packed shooter experience in all of its previous forms. While this version isn’t the best DOOM has ever been, that added bonus of portability really does make it worth checking out.
DOOM is a classic shooter in almost every way, including its bare bones story. You wake up on Mars, there’s demons around, you grab a gun, and you pretty much don’t stop shooting after that. As you explore the scifi setting you’ll begin to understand what happened at the base, but it is all there to service the gameplay. To keep you moving, keep you shooting, and keep you having fun. This is the key success of DOOM, bringing back the idea that a shooter just needs to provide the adrenaline and the action, and players will enjoy it.
What works so well here is the gunplay and the various mechanics that underpin it. Running and gunning has rarely felt better than it does in DOOM. The character moves fast, and aiming is fluid, with the different types of weapons allowing for strategies based around the lay of the land. And when you do get up close, which you’ll want to do often, you can slam enemies with a “Glory Kill” that drops health and gives you a gory look at that demon’s demise.
The question for anyone looking at DOOM on Nintendo Switch is, how important is portability to you
This seemingly simple addition really does change the way DOOM plays, forcing players to keep moving, and working their way toward enemy fire, instead of away from it. This plays into DOOM’s strengths, keeping the action coming right at the player, and solidifying its old-school feel. Fans of classic shooters have likely already dug deep into DOOM and its many quality elements on other platforms, so what makes this Switch version different?
For one, it’s simply astounding that it even runs on Nintendo’s relatively underpowered device. Sacrifices were made though, and often they are significant. The game maintains a solid framerate, which is the most important part, but to support that the visuals had to be toned down quite a bit. This includes dropping to 30fps from the standard 60 that was featured on other consoles. This isn’t all though, making DOOM on Switch easily the worst looking version of the game, with graphics quality dropped across the board.
Textures are fuzzier, animation is simpler, effects are turned down, and the whole game has less polish to its visuals. Even if you haven’t played DOOM on PS4, Xbox One, or PC you will notice the downgrade as the game doesn’t live up to other titles on different platforms. For the Switch though, it’s a well polished game and is among the top of the graphics heap. Nintendo consoles have been underpowered for a while, and they get around it usually by presenting unique, often cartoony art styles. DOOM doesn’t allow for this, and while considerable effort was put into maintaining the experience, there’s no doubt that if you’re a graphics snob, you’ll want to avoid this game.
But those sacrifices were all made to service one thing: portability. Playing on my 65″ 4K TV emphasized the lower quality visuals quite a bit, but shifting to handheld mode served to wash most of them away. There’s something surreal about playing a game that looks and plays like this anywhere you want. The smaller screen of the Switch also helps hide some of the wrinkles, making for a better visual experience, though using a Pro Controller, which is far better than the Joy-Con, does become less comfortable.
The question for anyone looking at DOOM on Nintendo Switch is, how important is portability to you. The game runs worse, including a lower framerate. The graphics are toned down significantly, making for the least visually enjoyable version of the game. But there is a bit of magic to being able to play this game on the go, and its fast pace makes it actually work quite well as a handheld title. I was not only able to play at home and switch to mobile seamlessly, I actually found myself drawn to the experience, grabbing my Switch whenever possible, or playing on the couch while something else was on the TV.
Outside of this double-edged sword DOOM is pretty much the exact same game as what was found on other platforms last year. This includes the disappointing multiplayer that will likely be ignored by most players, especially since the map editor has been cut. The Switch isn’t overflowing with multiplayer shooters, so those who don’t already own Splatoon 2 might get more use out of the mode here.
Single player campaigns are still the main draw for a lot of gamers though, and DOOM’s is exceptionally solid throughout. Classic shooters had been in big rut before DOOM came around, and even a year later they’re still a rarity. Genre fans who have no other way to play this game will certainly want to check it out, and super fans won’t be too disappointed if they double-dip for the portability. The game simply shouldn’t work on the Switch, but the developer somehow made it work and work well.
DOOM is a game that few would have guessed would hit the Switch, yet it’s a perfect fit now that it has arrived. The less capable hardware does force a lot of sacrifices, but fewer than many might have expected. This results in a less visually pleasing game, but still a solid one that delivers on the important stuff. And the game really takes new shape when played in handheld mode, presenting one of the best looking and playing shooters ever found on a portable console.