Id Software's 2016 Doom was a revelation that revitalized the classic shooter series. A modern throwback to the 3D FPS action of yore, Doom 2016 was a modern masterpiece in pure, adrenaline fueled gameplay. The fast-paced action demands top performance, especially as you start racking up the kill count. It's why I was a little taken aback when the Switch version was announced. Having played a build of the game for the Switch, I can say that there were moments when it seemed like the Nintendo console couldn't quite handle the action, especially when I decided to push the action to its limits.
Doom was recently announced for the Nintendo Switch and I got a chance to play a build of the game a couple weeks ago. The demo was undocked and it was only for about half an hour, but I tried my best to take the little version of the game through the wringer. During that time I may have accidentally pushed the game a little too hard, causing some serious framerate issues. The build I played wasn't the final product I don't think, so I hope the full release version of Doom on the Switch will be optimized to handle maximum carnage.
A little backstory: Earlier this year, I watched the annual Summer Games Done Quick charity event where players would speedrun various games for a good cause. I happened to watch a run for Doom (2016) this year and learned a little trick. Using the game's trademark super weapon, the BFG, you can fire a huge bullet that will damage all surrounding enemies in its patch continuously, before the weapon's blast disappears. The trick then is to pull up the weapon dial right after firing the weapon. Doing this will freeze time, but allow the BFG's BF blast to continue damaging enemies without disappearing. It's a big damage cheat that lets players cause maximum damage during speedruns and finish off the final boss super quick.
Since the Switch build of the game I was playing at the time gave me access to the BFG from the get-go, I decided to try out this little trick I learned while running through one of the levels. So, I proceeded to punch one of the bloody altars and summon a horde of demonic evil. When a suitable amount of enemies appeared, I pulled out the BFG and fired the weapon and immediately hit the weapons dial. That's when all hell broke loose and the game slowed to a crawl. Safe to say, I don't think a lot of players will be speedrunning Doom on the Switch.
While this was an extreme example, I did find that the build of Doom on the Switch I was playing did occasionally suffer from some framerate issues during more standard play when the action got a little too hectic. Last year's Doom is a fast-paced game that encourages players to rack up kills in rapid succession. When you get good at ripping and tearing through enemies, you can start flying through the levels, leaving behind death and destruction in your wake. The moment-to-moment gameplay for Doom on the Switch handled itself just fine, only when the action started piling up did I notice that things became a little jittery.
I reached out to Bethesda last week to find out what the framerate was for Doom on the Switch, and they came back by telling me that while it wasn't one-to-one, it would be comparable. I think that's an accurate statement, but I don't think it accounted for the kind of extreme actions I took while playing the demo. And if you can't be extreme while playing Doom, what's even the point?
But how was Doom on the Switch overall? The graphics looked really good on the Switch. While it's definitely noticeable that this version toned down the graphical fidelity a bit to accommodate the hybrid console, I was still blown away by how good the game looked running on the Nintendo console. Yes, the sharpness of the graphics was a little duller, and the lighting was a bit paler, but everything felt truer to the original than say, Dead Rising on the Wii.
I only played the game's arcade mode thinking it would be a good way to try out as many levels of the game as possible, and I can say with confidence that each level I played, whether it took place back on the Mars space station or in the pits of hell, looked like I remembered them on the PlayStation 4 version of the game I played. Even the loading times were as long as I remembered.
Likewise, I found Doom's levels to work perfectly on the Switch. I praised the 2016 Doom's level design as being less expansive, but requiring more finesse to navigate. They were at times more vertical than sprawling, and I found that the magic of these stages were true in the Switch version (on handheld mode) as well.
As for the controls, the joy-cons were fine though I thought they tended to overshoot a bit when I used them. It felt like when I swung my camera around to aim at an enemy behind me I would always overturn by just a hair. I'm finding out more and more that if you want precision on a Nintendo Switch game, you'll want to play with a Nintendo Switch Pro controller which I tried out with the demo. However, the demo build apparently crashes if you try to switch between the Joy-cons and pro controller mid-gameplay so that's probably indicative of the build not yet being finalized.
All-in-all, Doom on the Switch looks and plays fine. But I can't help but be a little worried about the framerate for the final build of the game. Yes, I used a speedrunning technique to mess things up a bit, but by pushing the version of the game to its limits, I managed to find some limitations to the Switch version of the game that doesn't exist on other platforms. While I don't know about the docked version of the game, which tends to bump up the power of the Switch a little bit, the handheld mode might be a good way to play only if you're willing to take a slight hit on frame-rate.
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