Has id Software delivered a handheld/hybrid experience worthy of its hellish shooter?
If someone last year had told us the new Doom would be released on a Nintendo console, we would have laughed. "There's no way Nintendo has a console with enough juice to run Doom!," we would have said. Well, good thing nobody did, because here we are, one year later, and Doom is released on Nintendo's hybrid console, the Switch.
Since we've already reviewed Doom, this review will focus on how well the game runs on the Switch. We had a blast with the PC version last year and were impressed by how well it handled on both the PS4 and Xbox One, but how does it fare on the Switch? Surprisingly well, actually. At first, we imagined it would be a laggy and choppy experience, with frame-rates down in the sub-20s, but instead we're treated to a consistent, smooth, and pleasant experience. Not without large visual sacrifices, of course, but that was to be expected in order to get the game to even run on the console.
The game runs at 720p, both in handheld and in docked mode, and it's locked to 30 FPS. The texture resolution is much lower, and the quality of lighting and shadows have been turned down a notch, so if you were to compare it to the PC version, we would say the game runs on the lowest settings. The image isn't as sharp, and some of the finer details seem to disappear too, not to mention that sometimes enemies seem to fade into the background and can be difficult to spot. The colours have also got this sort of washed out look to them, but then again, these were more necessary sacrifices in order to provide a smooth gameplay experience on the Switch.
The intense and fast-paced action-packed experience we got from the PC version of Doom feels watered down here, with only 30 FPS and the downgraded graphics, but after some time with the game we realised it was just as much fun. Despite running on hardware with only a fraction of the power of a PC and/or PS4/X1, it's the exact same game. The levels are identical, the weapons are all there, and the enemies and animations are the same too, but most importantly the music that accompanies you during the intense combat sequences is back too. The awesome industrial metal soundtrack still delivers an adrenaline kick through the headphones while you play, and the "Doom feeling" is well preserved. It's just as satisfying now as then to tear through demons with a chainsaw, blow them to bits with a shotgun, or just rip them apart with your hands. We giggled like a psychopath, just like we did when we were playing on PC.
The controls are very different from the PC version, unsurprisingly, since the Switch doesn't exactly have a mouse and keyboard setup, but the controls work great, and if you're used to playing shooters on console, you shouldn't have any problems getting comfortable. Aiming could be a bit hard with the fast-pace and with enemies jumping all over the place, but this was just a minor adjustment we had to make to our play style. We would recommend the Pro controller over the Joy-Cons for longer gaming sessions, though, as is the case with many games.
The best argument for having Doom on the Switch is, of course, the handheld mode. Now it's finally possible to have a full blown Doom game on a handheld system that you can take anywhere. We've come to love the Switch as a handheld, and over half our time with the system has been in handheld mode, so whether we're in front of the computer, lying in bed, or spending some quality time in the restroom, the Switch is pure gold to bring along. The fact that we can annihilate both the demons of hell and our inner demons at the same time is a big win, no?
Doom on the Switch might be an impressive technical demonstration of what can be done on the pint-sized console, but it's not just a single-player experience, there's also multiplayer to discuss. This side of the Switch has been a bit hit and miss so far, but it didn't take us long to find matches once we sat down to check out the multiplayer one evening. There have always enough people to fill two teams and deliver varied matches so far, and only on a few rare occasions did we end up in an uneven match with a clear difference in the skill level between players.
The first thing we noticed was that the online multiplayer seems to be more taxing on the Switch than the single-player campaign. With all the players jumping about and everything that happens on the screen at once, we did notice a couple of dips in performance. It's also a lot easier and more comfortable to play with the console docked and not in handheld mode, mainly because the tiny screen on the Switch becomes a bit too small for the intense action.
Doom's multiplayer has been through a bit of controversy ever since the games first release back in 2016. Some people complained about the initial lack of game modes, the feel of the weapons, and the damage they dealt, as well as of course the DLC maps. The DLC is all included in the Switch release, so at least they've pulled everything together, and we were positively surprised by how active it actually was on the Switch. Clearly there's a market for competitive shooters on Nintendo's console, and with Splatoon 2 being the only real shooter title out there at the moment, Doom has managed to land itself in a nice little niche.
The fact that the studio has got Doom running on the Switch is impressive and just shows how flexible and capable the console is. It's a clear sign of how far we've gotten with handheld technology, and the 3DS pales in comparison. This doesn't change the fact that Doom on Switch is the weakest version of the game, and if you want the complete experience with both gameplay and graphics, obviously you should go for the PC version (or even grab it on PS4 or Xbox One). However, if you just want the gameplay and portability, then it's the Switch version all the way. This is a great port despite all the visual sacrifices, and we will definitely play it some more, especially on those long boring road trips.
7 / 10
You get the new Doom on the go - an impressive feat, Stabile flow throughout, No content has been cut out, Brutally entertainment, Great audio.
The visual downgrades at times make it hard to read text and get all the details in handheld mode, but then again that may not be why we play Doom to begin with.