There was a time when the thought of playing a game like 2016’s Doom on Nintendo Switch seemed too good to be true. Yet here we are, playing Doom on Switch. While it’s impressive to see it running on a portable system at all, Nintendo’s convertible console obviously can’t stand up to the performance of other consoles or PCs. Doom has endured a few compromises during its transition to a more modest platform, and depending on your tolerance for blurry visuals and fiddly controls, these cut corners may be a deal breaker no matter how fascinating the experience is at first blush.
One thing is certain, however: Doom’s campaign is all here, accompanied by the leaderboard-centric arcade mode. Just like before, you push through hordes of demons with bullets and gut-wrenching melee takedowns while a heavy metal soundtrack encourages you to go faster and hit harder. As enemies scale, your weaponry follows, offering a gratifying escalation of excitement befitting Doom’s reputation.
This is not to say that Doom’s campaign was perfect to begin with, and the same issues it had in the past persist on Switch. There’s a fair amount of repetition to deal with, some of which diminishes what should be a monumental milestone: landing on the ground in Hell. You wind up going to and fro multiple times, and despite the feverish action that carries you along the way, there is an amount of deja vu to contend with that saps your enthusiasm, if ever so slightly.
Ultimately, Doom’s fast-paced combat makes the occasionally repetitive journey worth taking, and the addition of arcade mode allows you to focus on action alone if you have little interest in the game’s so-so narrative or mission structure. The mode was introduced on other platforms in a post-release update and is designed for people who want to either practice their speedrunning skills or rank on internet leaderboards. Multipliers and other score-boosting elements have been introduced to encourage different tactics, and in some cases, to create an unlikely path around a map for optimal scores and efficiency.
Every stage of the campaign is unlocked in arcade mode from the start, and you’re allowed to pick and choose from the weapons that would normally be available to you, in addition to every rune perk (regardless of mission), when choosing your loadout. The freedom to hop back and forth throughout the game is a boon as a returning player, though it’s constructed in such a way that you might want to dip your toes in the campaign from the start to get your bearings if you haven’t played Doom since 2016. Unless you’re able to find the rare extra lives amidst all the chaos, one death is all it takes for your run to end in arcade mode.
One of the unfortunate realities of playing such a demanding game with Switch Joycons is that you’re bound by the limitations of small analog sticks. Doom offers sensitivity and camera smoothing adjustments that do help to a degree, but compared to playing on the full-sized Pro Controller, Joycons feel notably less reliable. And despite the options menu hinting at motion controls when docked, they don’t apply to aiming–you just waggle the right joycon to melee enemies, which isn’t as responsive or effective as simply pressing in the right analog stick.
Switch’s screen can also prove problematic when facing a room of sprinting demons. It may just be too small to provide the encompassing experience the game’s toughest challenges demand. It’s also strange to see the UI as it is, with a font size so small that you’ll be hard-pressed to quickly read menus when playing undocked. None of this is to say that Doom is unplayable or unenjoyable on the go, it’s just the least optimal way to play.
No matter how you approach playing Doom on Switch, you will undoubtedly have to contend with blurry visuals. Bethesda has promised the game will run at 720p regardless of whether your Switch is docked or not. In practice, even if Doom is outputting a 720p signal, It frequently shifts into lower gear, presenting not only low-res textures and models, but an overall muddied image that indicates dynamic resolution switching and stretching. There are rare moments when Doom appears sharp and clear, but you regularly see drastic swings in quality.
There’s nothing else like it on a portable system, but be prepared to face a handful of compromises, especially if you’re used to playing on other platforms.
If you can stand to look at a lesser version of Doom’s once captivating world, you’ll find that the game plays well enough on Switch so long as you’ve got a TV in front of you and a Pro Controller in hand. There’s nothing else like it on a portable system, but be prepared to face a handful of compromises, especially if you’re used to playing on other platforms.
For a more in-depth look at Doom, be sure to check out our original review of the PS4, Xbox One, and PC versions from 2016. Come back in a couple days for our final review after we’ve put Doom’s multiplayer modes to the test on Switch.
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