I have to admit that I didn’t come too hot off of Bethesda’s reveal of Doom back at E3 2015. After years and years of languishing in development limbo, the little bit that was shown of Doom didn’t make an impact on me, but luckily, it turned out to be one of the best first-person shooters of this current generation. Alongside Wolfenstein, with which not only it shares a long and turbulent history of reboots, ports and changes in developers, the Doom series has had a colorful quality spectrum when it comes to ports. Especially, its first two iterations which saw versions for just about every platform known to man — including portables. But if you ever played any of the latter, you know they didn’t really feel as quick or responsive as you expected them to. It took getting to a portable like the Nintendo Switch for a first-person game to come really close to feeling like a full experience on the go.
Even with a few technical compromises, Doom still feels like Doom on the Switch. It’s visually blurrier, thanks to the lower resolution and less detailed textures that developer Panic Button had to tone the game down to. Unless you haven’t seen any footage of Doom running on anything other than the lowest settings on PC, there’s no hiding the fact that the Switch version is technically inferior, but the corners that were cut did not hamper the single most important aspect of a Doom game: its gameplay.
I’m still not a huge fan of controlling such a fast-paced game on that system’s offset analog sticks and trigger buttons, but after playing Doom for hours, I’ve come as close to getting used to it as I’m ever going to get. While not nearly as comfortable as say, a DualShock 4 is for pulling off the twitchy movement that’s required for an intense game like this, the Switch’s controller setup works serviceably well, regardless of which configuration you choose to play in. As with any intensive portable game nowadays, Doom is murder on my hands after longer stretches of play, and like with Monster Hunter, I’m forced to put my Switch down and take a break every now and then.
I generally stuck to portable mode when playing, which ultimately is the better way of enjoying the game. The smaller screen helps in making Doom look a lot sharper than it does in docked mode, where the blurriness really shows. In terms of performance, I didn’t run into any slowdown at all regardless of my Switch being docked or not, which is extra impressive considering how busy Doom gets at times, with multiple enemies popping up on screen at once, not to mention the fact that some of the levels happen to take place in outdoor environments, which are more taxing to display. Same with the visuals, the framerate also suffered a cut for this port, but the smoothness of 60 frames per second that was sacrificed gives way to an incredibly solid playing experience at 30.
Content-wise, Doom has made the transition to portable without any noticeable losses. Outside of the absence of Snap Map (an editing tool that allows you to create your own levels and challenges on the other versions of the game), all other content made the transition to the Switch, with small visual tweaks here and there. Even the multiplayer is included and was very much playable for the little of it that I’ve tried of it. It’s an impressive achievement for sure, even more when it comes to file size. Although it’s one of the bigger downloads when compared to other Switch games at around 20 gigs, this version of Doom doesn’t even come close to the monstrosity that the other versions can mount up to. Still, you’ll probably need pop a new SD card into your system in order to blow up demons back to where they came from while on the go.
Admittedly, there are better ways of enjoying Doom if you’re looking to enjoy it on a big screen TV while lying on your couch, but it’s the system’s versatility of play and the incredibly impressive port expertly handled by Panic Button that really makes the Switch version such a fantastic pick up. Yeah, it doesn’t look nearly as sharp, its menus and text are hard to read, the sound feels little muted while in portable mode, and you might be forced to take a break to charge up your Switch and give your hands a breather, but there’s no denying that the notion of carrying around and playing a fully-featured portable version of a game such as Doom is absolutely bonkers. Considering that the Switch is barely a year old at this point, it’s exciting to think of the prospect of other “big” experiences making their way to Nintendo’s newest system if this is any indication of just how well they could turn out.