Doom on Switch Sacrifices Crisp Resolution in Favor of Frame Rate

Doom on Switch Sacrifices Crisp Resolution in Favor of Frame Rate

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

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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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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