I never thought I would see Bethesda bring games to the Nintendo Switch, especially a game like DOOM; this demon-slaying first person shooter is the type of graphically demanding and mature title that Nintendo consoles have lacked since, well, the original DOOM released on the Super NES. There’s been a lot of talk back and forth about whether DOOM would work on Switch since it only runs at 30 frames-per-second and a 720p resolution. As I wrote after the reveal trailer, a lower frame rate and resolution don’t hold back DOOM from being one of the best and undoubtedly most important third-party releases on Switch.
DOOM takes place on a Mars facility moments after an eager and sadistic scientist created a portal between our world and hell. The storytelling unfolds by way of environmental clues — satanic rituals, dismembered bodies thrown about — and through voice communications from a couple different characters. Everyone in the facility was either turned into a demon or killed by the demons that spawned from hell, so the only friendly faces you’ll come across have been decapitated.
The atmosphere in DOOM reminds me a little of the first Half-Life. You’re making your way through a facility that has just been eviscerated, coming across new weapons and equipment along the way. Areas are ambient up until you run into a horde of demons — then a hard rock track plays that matches the brutal violence happening on screen.
Each level in DOOM is fairly linear with a few branching pathways that lead to hidden upgrades, like a little robot that gives your guns secondary abilities and dead workers that can enhance your suit. Upgrades are essential to surviving in DOOM, and the game does a good job encouraging exploration because demons are only at certain points in the level — they don’t just spawn randomly.
Some levels will have large open areas that have a couple branching pathways that may lead to upgrades or to a couple different objectives. One level had three separate objectives that sent me backtracking all over the level; you won’t get lost in DOOM if you follow the marker on your HUD. Exploration in DOOM isn’t anywhere near something like Metroid Prime, but it’s still a lot more open than your run-of-the-mill Call of Duty game.
The most intense parts of DOOM happen when you come across hell portals. There are several throughout each level that you have to deactivate, and doing so causes a whole bunch of demons to spawn around you. This is where DOOM really sets itself apart from other first person shooters: because both you and the demons move so swiftly, the gunplay requires you to run around and shoot instead of hiding behind cover. You have to get a sense for the arena you’re fighting in and loop around it while dodging fireballs and firing off shots.
There’s a neat sort of “chain” mechanic in DOOM called the glory kill. An enemy will flash when they’ve been weakened enough, allowing you to run up and finish them off with a visceral and gory melee attack. Doing so will cause health packs to explode from the enemy — your health doesn’t regenerate on its own, so lining up glory kill after glory kill is paramount to your survival.
Weapons have some pretty decent variety. There’s your basic shotgun and heavy machine gun, as well as a plasma and lightning rifles. The coolest weapon to use, when you have gasoline for it, is the chainsaw — it’ll tear through any demon no matter how large, causing them to explode with an ammo surplus for the rest of your weapons. You can’t run around using just one weapon in DOOM; certain weapons work better against certain demons, so you’ll have to quickly switch between your weapons as the battle evolves.
Overall, while the campaign was fun, I felt like each level went on for a little bit too long. Still, it’s nice having a rich single player campaign in a first person shooter. That’s becoming too rare these days.
DOOM has an online multiplayer mode for up to twelve players and a variety of team-based and lone-wolf game modes. The multiplayer is as fast paced as the single player is, which is awesome — it reminds me a lot of the classic deathmatch in the original Half-Life. There’s no camping and respawn times after being killed are almost instant. The coolest part of online battles is being able to turn into a demon and wreak havoc on your enemies. Demon transformations, and other timed power-ups, are obtained by picking them up on the map after they spawn or by killing someone that currently has the power-up.
All of the multiplayer DLC is present in the Switch version, so there are a ton of maps to play on. I’ve played hours upon hours of the multiplayer already, and I can only remember two maps that I’ve played on multiple times. This really helps the multiplayer feel fresh — it would be a disaster if, say, there were only two maps to play on that cycled every couple hours.
I haven’t experienced a single bit of lag playing online, even with a full game room. You can party-up with friends online, but there isn’t a voice chat option available. This hurts some of the more cooperative team game modes — Nintendo really needs to figure out what they’re doing with the Nintendo Switch Online App.
There’s also an arcade mode that has you running through levels from the single player campaign, killing as many enemies as you can to get the highest score possible. Your high scores are uploaded and ranked through online leaderboards, so there’s quite a bit of replay-ability in arcade mode.
The big question, ever since DOOM‘s announcement for Nintendo Switch, is how the game would perform on the platform.
DOOM looks pretty dang good on Switch; this isn’t a Modern Warfare Wii situation. The art direction is a little lacking, I think, but the game is a technical marvel on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and the same is true for the Switch version — albeit for a slightly different reason. Panic Button did a sensational job porting this game to inferior hardware while still maintaining a high level of graphical fidelity.
However, there are some sacrifices getting DOOM on Nintendo Switch. While the other versions of DOOM run at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second, the Switch version runs at 720p and 30 frames-per-second. The frame rate is consistently smooth in the single player, which is what’s important. There are a couple times where it chugs below 30 frames-per-second, though: the first is when you blow up mines in arcade mode, and the other happens on two of the weaker multiplayer maps.
Handheld mode has the same exact performance as docked mode, but some of the textures for objects within levels look a little blurry when you look at the up close. The game looks pretty impressive in handheld mode, but there is one problem I had: having to use my right hand to hold the system, aim, and fire resulted in some frequent hand cramps.
As a side note, there’s an odd glitch where the audio mutes in-level but works within the menu and system menu. You have to close the game and restart it for the audio to work again. Hopefully this is fixed soon via a software patch.
Overall, though, DOOM runs exceptionally well on Nintendo Switch.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for DOOM was provided by Bethesda for this DOOM Switch review.