I generally find the game selections for Nintendo machines a bit too twee and family-friendly for my tastes. So why then did I buy a Nintendo Switch? Well, it was largely for the promise of upcoming games. And also because I had a good chunk of spare cash following an unexpectedly large tax rebate… and because I had a pushy friend whispering in my ear like Grima Wormtongue.
Anyway, a few days ago, a game catering to my tastes landed on the machine – id Software’s 2016 version of Doom. I already own this game on PC and I love the hell out of it. It’s more of a sequel to Doom and Doom II than a reboot, casting the Doom marine as a legendary figure to be awakened when humanity is threatened by the forces of Hell. What little story there is has been relegated to text-log entries for the nerds who are inclined to read them. The developers know that the main appeal of Doom is blasting hordes of demonic enemies with huge sci-fi weapons amid hellish imagery.
Doom recaptures the spirit of ’90s first-person shooters with it’s non-stop-shooting, non-reloading, circle-strafing, health kit-guzzling, super-fast, super-smooth, dance-of-death gameplay that many modern shooters (especially the COD and Battlefield kind) eschew in favour of health-regenerating, cover-hugging plod fests. Doom is also divided into stages, just like old ’90s shooters, and just like old shooters, these stages are littered with secrets you definitely want to find.
Clearly I liked the PC version of Doom, so I gladly paid more money for a portable version, which will come in damn handy during the frequent, thumb-twiddling downtime in my day job. It was also a purchase partly motivated by curiosity, to see if the Switch could handle it. I had to order a microSD card before I could download the game though, because the Switch only has 30GB of internal storage, most of which had been taken up by Zelda and Street Fighter, and Doom munches up 21GB by itself.
Once the microSD card arrived, I was able to download Doom and sate my curiosity. So how is it? Well, I stopped caring about the technical specs of consoles long ago, but I heard the Switch is roughly on par with a PS3 or an Xbox 360 in terms of power, and if that’s the case, then Doom is pretty damn impressive. Obviously they had to scale things back a bit. For instance, even my ageing eyes can tell the texture resolution is a fair bit lower, even on the undocked, 6.2-inch screen – but it’s only noticeable if you really look closely. I think some of the lighting might be different too, but it’s hard to tell. The frame rate is also noticeably lower, especially if you play them side-by-side. The Switch version seems to run at a steady 30fps most of the time, but does occasionally slow down further, either in areas with volumetric effects or in those big ambushes where the action gets intense. Also, certain sound effects seem to cut out sometimes, mostly during the glory kills, in my experience, but I’m sure patches are on the way.
In terms of content, it’s the same single-player game as the other versions, and it includes the online multiplayer too. Honestly, I’ve never cared about the multiplayer, even on the PC version, but I gave the Switch online multiplayer a quick go, and it seems to work fine. I didn’t notice any lag or anything and finding matches was easy. I do have a fibre connection, though. Apparently it has all the multiplayer DLC content too, though I wouldn’t know which is which. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be offline ad-hoc multiplayer, which seems like a wasted opportunity. The one thing Switch Doom is missing is the SnapMap feature. Maybe this is a loss for some people, but I’ve never really seen the appeal myself. All I lost is the ability to play amateurish recreations of classic Doom maps or maps from other shooters – whoop-de-doo. Perhaps if there was more originality on display I’d care more, but I don’t think we’re missing much.
The last thing I should mention is the controls. There are a bunch of control schemes on offer, and sensitivity and smoothing sliders you can adjust to get the aiming in that sweet spot. When my switch is docked, I use a pro controller, which is great. Using the Joy-Cons when the Switch is undocked is quite good too, although the right thumbstick is situated a bit low for my liking.
What surprises me is how few sacrifices the developers had to make to get a decently playable version of Doom on the Switch. I’ve got a portable version of one of my favourite games, and I’m quite happy with it.