Bethesda and id Software's 2016 reboot of DOOM is making it way over to the Nintendo Switch this week, and after spending a full week playing it we can confirm that it feels just as gory and intense as you'd hope. Somehow the developers have managed to cram the entirety of the game (minus the user-generation features that went underutilized) including DLC onto the Switch, and it's a glorious technical marvel.
When DOOM released in 2016 it caught the gaming world by surprise. First-person shooters have been at the top of the sales charts for years, but they've started drifting to pseudo-realism and near-future military simulations like the Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the Titanfall franchises. Conversely, DOOM is less about aiming down the sights of a sniper rifle to get headshots and killstreaks, and more about drenching levels in the blood and guts of demons.
The Switch is most definitely under-powered when compared to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, not to mention any mid-range or better gaming PC, so this version of the game does suffer from significant performance and visual fidelity loss. That was unavoidable. But the fact of the matter is that it just doesn't impact the game as much as you might think. The change from 60 frames-per-second to 30 frames-per-second is a little jarring at first, but in handheld mode it really isn't even that noticeable. Everything ran smoothly in the time we spent with the game, and we didn't notice any major issues. Multiplayer seemed to suffer every now and then, since the Switch is an all WiFi device without a reasonable wired connection solution.
If you own a Nintendo Switch then that probably means you're a fan of Zelda and/or Mario, and most of those players aren't going to be too picky about pushing the upper limits of frame-rates and screen resolutions. If you look closely, some of the game's textures do look a bit muddled, and the draw distance leaves a bit to be desired. However, if you're moving through a level at full-speed, blowing off demon limbs at every turn, then things are probably moving too fast for you to care if the wall in the corner of the room is blurry or not.
DOOM itself has an interesting history with Nintendo. While the series has never exactly called a Nintendo platform its home, there have been appearances here and there, such as the bright red-colored Super Nintendo (SNES) DOOM cartridge For the most part, however, DOOM's ultra-violent gore hasn't been the best fit for Nintendo's family-friendly image. Thankfully with the Switch, Nintendo appears determined to appeal to both camps.
If you're a Switch owner then there's a good chance you spend time with the console in both docked and handheld mode. For those unaware, the Nintendo Switch is unique in that you can plug it into a standing dock so that it can display on your TV easily, or you can just undock it and play it in handheld mode like any other handheld gaming system. The switch (get it?) between the two modes is incredibly seamless and headache-free, which is important for a game like DOOM.
While playing DOOM in handheld mode is entirely possible, it's really just not the best way to play the game. The nub-like control sticks of the Switch aren't conducive to quick, accurate, and responsive turning and aiming, plus the cramped design is sure to lead to some long-term play issues. To get the best experience playing DOOM on Switch, it's best to dock the console and kick back with a Pro Controller.
In terms of content, DOOM on Switch is essentially the entire game, including all of its DLC and updates such as the Arcade mode. The exception to this is that it will not, as mentioned above, include any of the user-generated content features or level editor. If you purchase the game physically on a game card that version will need to download a free update in order to access online multiplayer features because only the campaign would fit on the microSD card, reportedly.
DOOM on Switch is a landmark release, not just because it's one of the best games from the past year hitting Nintendo's system, but because of how few games like it there are available on the console. You'd be hard-pressed to find other first-person shooters at all, let alone Mature-rated ones full of blood and gore. If DOOM does well on Switch, in addition to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim next week on November 17th, 2017 (also published by Bethesda), then we could start to see more third-party support down the line.
While it would be a lie to say that DOOM on Switch is the best version of the game, I can say that for my personal preferences, it may be my favorite. The portability of having it on-the-go is wonderful, and the delight of being able to knock out a few multiplayer matches from anywhere in the house cannot be overstated. I've always been the type of gamer that can forgive technical shortcomings for user-friendly design, and it doesn't get much more consumer-focused than Nintendo. DOOM is the blood-soaked kick in the pants that the Nintendo Switch's game library needed to wake up and realize the potential for the previously untapped and under-utilized core gamer market on Switch.
Next: Doom Review Roundup
DOOM for Nintendo Switch releases Friday, November 10th, 2017 and was previously released last year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.