Panic Button has worked its magic once more and has brought one of the year's finest shooters to the Nintendo Switch.
The last month of the year was looking depressingly light in terms of releases until Doom Eternal dropped seemingly out of nowhere on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch port was delayed indefinitely after the game was pushed back from October to March, and many fans including myself were starting to question its whereabouts. With it finally arriving though, I was excited to descend into the depths of hell once more to relive this masterpiece, especially after seeing the magic Panic Button worked with its predecessor in 2017.
Before we delve into things too deeply though, I should mention that as we have reviewed Eternal back in March, I won't be going too in-depth with the game's mechanics (you can find our original review here). Instead, I will just be skimming the surface on what makes it so special, whilst also giving my impressions on how it functions on Nintendo's hybrid system. Right, with all of that out the way, let's get stuck in!
As far as sequels go, I feel that Eternal manages to strike the perfect balance as it manages to layer upon what made Doom (2016) so special. Things feel cranked up to eleven here though as the action is more frantic, the story is more in-depth, and new platforming abilities have been introduced. The online mode has also received a significant overhaul and it feels very distinctive compared to offerings from other shooters. The Battlemode is an excellent example of this as it sees one solitary doom slayer try to take down a pair of players who are playing as demons. It's great fun and really does feel like it wouldn't belong anywhere else.
The core of every Doom experience really is the gunplay and taking down hordes of demons has never felt as good as it has within Eternal. Just like in Doom (2016), you need to stay on your feet to avoid all of the oncoming projectiles and to scoop up much-needed consumables. Doomguy has a few more tricks up his sleeve this time though as he can double dash to close the gap between enemies and he can set enemies alight using his shoulder flamethrower to receive armour pickups. There's an obscene amount of modifications that can be added to weapons too, so there's plenty of scope to tailor your inventory to your liking.
Platforming has a greater focus within Eternal and is often introduced to break up intense moments of gunplay. Doomguy can bound across the air, climb up certain parts of the environment, and vault over poles to reach great heights. It doesn't have the same pulse-racing effect on me as blasting demons in the face, but knowing that I will slip into a pool of lava if I mistime my steps is still a pretty intense feeling.
Okay, so it's pretty clear that I think Eternal is a special game, but how does it handle on Switch? Well, in Docked Mode you could easily be fooled into thinking it is running on a vanilla PS4 or Xbox One if you are not paying too close attention. When looking at the two versions side by side though the differences are more apparent, as the colours appear washed out and the textures look blurrier and less detailed. Another difference is that the frame rate on Switch is capped to 30fps, whereas it runs at a buttery smooth 60fps on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. I should mention too that next-gen versions are just on the horizon so this gap is only going to appear more apparent with the jump to 4K.
I may be stating the obvious here, but if you're after the prettiest and smoothest running version of Eternal then you aren't going to find it here. The real selling point for me, and I'm sure many others, is that the game is fully playable within Handheld Mode. When playing in Handheld Mode I was absolutely blown away! The resolution may have been bumped down to 720p and it's noticeably less prettier than when docked, but this is still Doom Eternal running on a handheld. The fact that a shooter this ambitious in scope can be played when out on the bus is nothing short of breath-taking, and I loved every moment playing.
With regards to the controls, Eternal pretty much handled the same as it did on the Xbox One and things never felt too cumbersome whether I was playing with a Pro Controller or with the Joy-Cons in Handheld Mode. Motion controls are, however, exclusive to the Switch and can be used to move the crosshair of your gun around the screen. Personally, I am not a huge fan of motion controls, but I do have to admit that it felt responsive and I was able to take aim with ease just by flicking my wrist in the right direction.
My experience with the port was pretty positive, but I did encounter a game breaking bug. Just after grabbing the rocket launcher I was gunned down and found myself locked behind a gate that I was previously able to access. I tried firing rockets and grenades, reloading my save and even threw myself off a cliff, but nothing could make the gate reopen. This doesn't appear to be a widely reported bug, but I thought that it was worth noting as I had no choice at that point but to start a new save file. Besides this though, I encountered no further bugs.
Before I conclude, something that is important to point out is that the first story DLC The Ancient Gods: Part One is not currently available within the Switch port at launch. The developers have shared within a Q&A that this is coming soon, but no date has been shared as of present. Some may prefer this as it gives them something else to look forward to on the horizon, but it's worth pointing out as there isn't quite as much to sink your teeth into. What is available, however, is the excellent Doom 64 if you purchase the game before December 22. There's also a few other fun goodies you can pick up too within the included Rip and Tear Pack, so I'd urge you to grab this one quick if you are interested.
Panic Button has achieved the seemingly impossible as they have ported one of the year's most ambitious shooters to the Switch without compromising too much on quality. It may not stand shoulder to shoulder to the other versions in terms of graphics and frame rate, but seeing this absolute beast of a game running in the palm of your hands is nothing short of breath-taking. It is disappointing that the DLC is not included from the get-go and I did encounter one particularly nasty bug, but these are minor complaints at the most. If you're a Switch owner and have yet to check out the excellent Doom Eternal then I would strongly urge you to pick this port up. I promise you, you won't regret it!
9 / 10
It's the same excellent game that launched earlier in the year, it adds motion controls, playing it in Handheld Mode is a sight to behold.
I encountered one pretty nasty bug, the DLC isn't here at launch unlike other platforms.