Doom on Switch Sacrifices Crisp Resolution in Favor of Frame Rate

*King Richard III voice* My demon for a Switch port.

Analysis by Caty McCarthy, .

I played Doom at a coffee shop earlier this week. No, I did not lug my PlayStation 4 and a giant television over. No, I did not stream a PC version of the game to my laptop. No, I did not just have a bunch of people dress up as demons to roleplay in front of me in a public setting as I held a controller in the air to pretend to play. Instead, I was playing Doom in the most organic of ways: directly from the source, on my Nintendo Switch.

It's not the best version of Doom—it certainly isn't the prettiest, not that I'd call Doom a particularly pretty game anyways. But it's still Doom. It's still overtly gory, shotgun-glorifying Doom, the fast-paced first-person-shooter revival from id Software that ripped everyone's heads off last year. Remarkably, id Software has shrunk the shooter down in scale in terms of its graphical fidelity. But when it comes to the moment-to-moment action, it's all in tact. Doom remains Doom. Only now it's a bit blurrier than I remember. Actually, a lot blurrier.

I can't say I'm surprised though. Maybe just surprised at how blurry the world of its Hell-overrun world is. When I played Doom on my television from the Switch, it only seemed to accentuate its newfound graphical flaws. Where the HUD and a few slower actions were crisp, everything else in the world looks as if a soft blur has been painted over it in Photoshop. The brighter the environment, the less blurry Doom was; but in Doom, things are hardly radiant. Given that the game was custom built for the hardware to be "comparable," compromises were inherent to the port from the start.

With such a low resolution (as an aside, yes, all the screencaps in this article were captured natively from the Switch's own share button), Doom's the sort of game that I'd almost recommend never playing on your television, if you were to utilize your Switch copy that way. It's the sort of port that feels tailor made to be experienced only portably: the first sort of port of its kind for the 2016 shooter. So in a way, the portableness of Doom feels novel. After all, I did pack up my Switch, walk a few blocks over, and pick up right where I left off seamlessly on the same console.

In-game text, not of the HUD or menu variety, is especially hard to read with the blurriness.

Luckily, the low resolution feels like a compromise and not just because of the lower capabilities of the hardware it's on. As Bethesda announced earlier in the year, Doom on Switch runs at a smooth 30 frames-per-second. For Doom, a fast frame rate is essential: the core of the game is moving fast and performing glory kills even faster, all while demons are running and throwing things towards you.

The low resolution is likely a compromise to enable and never hinder that hellish pace. Though the environments and your very steady gun have a soft blur to them, at least you can run around and kill demons without a single stutter in the frame rate. In fact, I was genuinely surprised at how well the frame rate held up across my many hours with Doom on the Switch. There were only two particular instances that I remember the frame rate choking up even a little, but even then it passed in the blink of an eye, and I was back to blasting monsters away.

Even understanding why there was such a drastically lower resolution than Doom's counterparts on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, it still caught me off guard how noticeable it was. I'm not someone who cares too much about how good games look—it's honestly the last thing on my checklist of things I pay attention to. And yet, Doom's ever-present blur was obtrusive to the point where it made me feel a bit motion sick. With nothing ever in crystal clear focus other than my own ammo, health meters, and the occasional slow action or character close-up, the constant movement ended up making me feel genuinely nauseous. I don't usually get nauseous from games. In fact, the only other time I recall feeling motion sick was demoing things in the early days of virtual reality, before locomotion was figured out on the advanced tech platform.

But nausea is something I feel like I can't wholly knock it for. After all, I might be alone in that plight, for whatever odd reason. Nonetheless, it feels like a definite potential problem that others may experience too. With the game's the lack of sharpness in its surroundings coupled with the game's extremely fast movement, it reminded me of how unnatural motion in VR titles can cause physical discomfort.

Overall, Doom on Switch ended up feeling like an interesting experiment. A lot of people—us at USgamer included—love the Nintendo Switch, and are often saying hyperboles like, "I wish every game was on the Switch." Doom proves that maybe I don't want every game on the Switch. While playing Doom at a coffee shop does feel weirdly novel and cool, it's still a heavily compromised version of it. And honestly, if I'm really in the mood to go berserk on some hellish ghouls, I'll do it from the comfort of my couch. I know that now. I don't want every game on the Switch, because with compromises like these, they're not worth it. At least not if they're gonna make me rub my eyes and wish I had better glasses because of constant blurriness, or make me nauseous as a result.

That said, Doom is still only Bethesda's first effort in porting their latest and greatest to Nintendo's hybrid portable-home console. Next in line is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the belovedly clunky open world RPG; and a recent great, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Surely, both ports will have hard-hitting compromises as Doom has suffered. I suppose we'll have to wait and see how they actually shake out though when Skyrim launches on Switch later this month and Wolfenstein 2 follows in step next year. In the meantime, unless you're really itching for an on-the-go version of Doom, it might be best to stick with where it's at its best for now: everywhere else.

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Comments 30

  • Avatar for VotesForCows #1 VotesForCows 5 months ago
    Strange that they've gone for blurring - presumably to smooth out aliasing from the lower resolution? I'd have thought people who want to play Doom (i.e. me) would prefer a bit of aliasing to blurring, because at least with the former you have a sharper image and know exactly what part of the infernal beasts you're aiming at.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #2 KaiserWarrior 5 months ago
    Kudos to iD/Bethesda for making necessary sacrifices to keep a game that is largely about framerate moving along at a decent one, but... yeesh. All that tradeoff just to maintain 30?

    Sometimes, you just have to throw in the towel and admit that a system just isn't powerful enough to handle your game.

    Having played NuDoom at a rock-solid 60 FPS, I can't imagine giving up every other frame in any circumstance, let alone killing the game's visual quality to get even that much. The game's just too fast and requires too much precision for that to be a viable way to play.
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #3 Wellman2nd 5 months ago
    I really think that Doom is just the first step and a testing ground for future ports. The game is simple enough in design and given the short time between the reveal announcement and its release, I suspect was made as a pet project promoted to full game and in the future, such as with Wolfenstein II the overall product will be stronger.
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  • Avatar for not_themilkybarkid #4 not_themilkybarkid 5 months ago
    Hey Caty, it looks like there's some weird compression artifacts going on with those Switch screenshots?

    ...oh, no.

    ...oh, no.
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  • Avatar for shurn #5 shurn 5 months ago
    @KaiserWarrior she did say the effect it had on her was subjective. this is just my opinion Attempts should always be made no matter how impossible they seem.Edited 6 times. Last edited November 2017 by shurn
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  • Avatar for Outrider #6 Outrider 5 months ago
    Oof, those zoomed in screenshots are pretty blurry. What's going on there? Is it actually lower than 720p?

    Both of my brothers have recommended Doom to me a couple times and with the Switch version coming up, I kinda figured I'd wait and see how this turned out. Maybe it's just a better idea to get it on the Xbox One.
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  • Avatar for Drachmalius #7 Drachmalius 5 months ago
    I appreciate the info on this version, I loved this game last year and a portable version sounds neat. But after reading this and seeing the screenshots no way I'm gonna plunk down 60 for this. Maybe it'll go on sale next year.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #8 SIGGYZtar 5 months ago
    Is this today's stream?
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #9 DrCorndog 5 months ago
    I guess I can see the appeal in portable least until you realize you're forced to play twin sticks that way. Graphical fidelity is not all that's sacrificed, certainly.
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  • Avatar for not_themilkybarkid #10 not_themilkybarkid 5 months ago
    @DrCorndog I've been playing it with a controller even on PC, it handles great! Given how much this game is about movement around the combat space, I find that having motion mapped to an analogue stick really helps. You get a lot more fine grained freedom than you do from WASD.
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  • Avatar for presidentcamacho #11 presidentcamacho 5 months ago
    The framerate is more likely to be the nausea culprit than the resolution. A solid 30 looks especially choppy in a fast paced fps, especially after you've seen the same game at 60fps elsewhere.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #12 NateDizzy 5 months ago
    Yeah, the Switch is not the place I would want to play a fast shooter like Doom, but if you're not picky about frame rates (30 is, IMO, way too low for this game), then go for it.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #13 Monkey-Tamer 5 months ago
    My condolences to my console brothers and sisters. The glory of Doom at only 30 fps and blurry graphics? If that's the cost of portability I'd recommend playing it on another platform. I'm disappointed many console games don't target 60 fps. The norm for PC has been gravitating to 120, 144 and even up to 240 fps. While it does become overkill at over 100 fps for me at least with today's technology 60 should be the norm, not something extra.Edited November 2017 by Monkey-Tamer
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  • Avatar for AndreasStalin #14 AndreasStalin 5 months ago
    Hm this article focusing on the bluriness doesn’t really do the game justice I think. To get a better perspective on how the game runs and looks on the Switch I would advice checking elsewhere before you make up your mind.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #15 MetManMas 5 months ago
    Maybe it looks worse in motion, but it doesn't look that bad to me? Like, I knew sacrifices would have to be made to visual fidelity as well as the framerate for the game to run on the Switch. It's more developer friendly than the Wii U was, but it's still not as powerful as even the base PS4 and Xbone. I expect Wolfenstein 2's port will fare similar.

    Skyrim should be fine, though. The game was originally designed to run on last gen consoles, and the visual "upgrades" in the Special Edition were nothing particularly world-changing. Really, the only thing I'm worried about with Skyrim Switch (besides "fun" new bugs) is stability. Forget the lighting and the mods, the most important thing Skyrim brought to the new consoles was "being less crash prone." That and PS Share.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #16 MetManMas 5 months ago
    @Monkey-Tamer I can live with 30 (as someone who's never owned a good computer I often do), but I get the appeal of 60. A higher framerate can allow for more precise targeting/movement and better hand-eye coordination, as well as making it easier to notice things you might have missed before. When I played Phantom Pain on PS4 after having previously played it on 360, I found it much easier to spot enemy soldiers, animals, plants, and items with the higher framerate. At 30, everything just kinda blends together.

    Of course blending together does also mean that the crappier visual assets stand out less.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #17 The-Challenger 5 months ago
    This project always felt like it had to treat the Switch as a testbed for future games. I hope the lessons learned here result in more competent replications in the future. I honestly thought Nintendo had moved away from the "Vaseline smeared over the screen" look, I guess not.
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #18 LunarFlame17 5 months ago
    I feel like I shouldn’t buy this, considering I already have Doom on Xbox One, but I’m going to anyway. I want more games like this on Switch, even if they’re kind of subpar, cause the Switch is just so great. So I’m going to buy this and Wolfenstein II, and hope that Bethesda brings more of their games to the Switch.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #19 donkeyintheforest 5 months ago
    @VotesForCows totally agree. I hope they patch a low rez, no blurry mode or something. I wouldn't mind if the graphics looked like Devil Daggers if it ran smoothly!
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  • Avatar for docexe #20 docexe 5 months ago
    I’m not surprised it’s heavily compromised given the power differential between the Switch and the PS4/XBOne. Reading a review at another site, it seems the game is still pretty fun, but whether or not you should play it really comes down to whether or not you value the portability enough. Otherwise, it’s just better to get it on any other console.

    Now I expect Wolfenstein 2 will be the same, but as@MetManMas points out above, I expect Skyrim to fare much better. In any case, I hope that at least one of these ports sells well enough for Bethesda to continue supporting the platform.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #21 MetManMas 5 months ago
    @docexe Doom and Wolfenstein 2 might be a bit of a hard sell with their Switch compromises, but I'm sure Skyrim will do just fine. Great, even. It's one of the most beloved wRPGs ever with a giant world with tons to see and do, and now it's in a very portable package.

    Speaking of Skyrim, I bet its VR bundle will move a lot of PlayStation VR headsets this season as well, regardless of how the reviews pan out.
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  • Avatar for docexe #22 docexe 5 months ago
    @MetManMas Well, I certainly hope so. You could probably even argue that games like Skyrim are better fits for Switch than games like Doom.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #23 MetManMas 5 months ago
    @docexe If a low budget Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD ROMhack can sell like hotcakes on the Switch, I'm sure Skyrim will have no problem finding an audience on the platform.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #24 hiptanaka 5 months ago
    ”Surely, both ports will have hard-hitting compromises as Doom has suffered.”

    Probably not Skyrim, as it was originally made for hardware less capable than Switch.
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  • Avatar for hiptanaka #25 hiptanaka 5 months ago
    @VotesForCows Low resolution textures get blurry. Aliasing from a low resolution final image is a different matter.
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  • Avatar for realchris2011 #26 realchris2011 5 months ago
    I am a PC Doom type of guy, Obviously, you never EVER compare games from PC to any console, since PC always wins, and obviously, you should know by now, It's portable, who cares, I will buy it, looks great to me. I can't wait to play it on the go, that's the whole point.Edited 2 times. Last edited November 2017 by realchris2011
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  • Avatar for moochan #27 moochan 5 months ago
    I mean I do have to give Bethesda credit for managing to put Doom on it. Whether or not it's worth a playthrough I guess is up to Switch owners. I'm happy they got it on it but I don't see myself playing it again (played it on PC) just to have a portable Doom. Saw some video of it and yeah it doesn't look that good. I mean it's seem like its still playable which might be good enough for some which I guess is what Bethesda felt is all they could do (which I feel they are right on that). Wolfenstein 2 will most likely look and play the same so Doom on Switch is a nice foreshadowing on what to come if other AAA comes on Switch. Hoping this does well enough for them since this is such a weird thing to do. I don't see Bethesda doing a small game for Switch just ports which I guess is nice of them to do. But I feel the best for them (and other western AAA) would to try to port PS3/360 games that weren't big sellers and hope it finds a good home on Switch rather than them trying to make big new games on a system that can't really handle it.
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  • Avatar for bebin44 #28 bebin44 5 months ago
    @not_themilkybarkid Actually there is heavy compression going on in screenshots directly coming from the Switch. The actually game shouldn’t look as bad.
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  • Avatar for bebin44 #29 bebin44 5 months ago
    This article and some of the comments here are missing the real point, that some of us don’t own every console and a high end gaming PC. Not all of us are game reviewers and mostly enjoy games on one platform. I choose Nintendo so it’s a nice choice to be able to play this game at all on my Switch.

    Saying it’s not worth being on Switch at all is pretty ignorant. You can choose to play it on your powerful expensive gaming PC and not buy it but let us enjoy our only choice.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #30 MetManMas 5 months ago
    @moochan The Switch might not be the most ideal platform for Doom or Wolfenstein 2 since those games were made with more powerful consoles in mind, but the port jobs Bethesda's doing now will give them valuable hardware experience and knowledge to make even better ports in the future.
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