God, DOOM is good. It’s so good. It was good when we reviewed it on PS4 last year and it remains good now, almost 18 months later, as it debuts on the Nintendo Switch. One of the biggest questions gamers had for the Switch at launch was whether it could support portable versions of major AAA releases. If DOOM is anything to go by, the answer is an emphatic yes.
If you played DOOM on launch last year then you know what the deal is already in terms of plot. You, an unnamed marine, awaken in a research facility on Mars. There is a demonic invasion in progress. You can tell because of all the screens around you that say Demonic Invasion In Progress, and also all of the demons. So you start killing the demons. And you don’t stop killing the demons until the game says “Okay, you can stop killing the demons now because there’s none left, you killed them all, good job” and rolls the credits.
Developer id Software’s 2016 update of the venerable shooter shows a tacit understanding of what made the original such a landmark piece of design, but also that they knew what to modernise. My concern was that, in the move to a portable system like the Switch with its many control configs and battery considerations, DOOM simply wouldn’t be able to survive. I needn’t have worried. It as good on the Switch as it has anywhere else.
To get the game running on the Switch however, certain concessions have had to be made. DOOM now runs at a locked 30fps and with visuals that are a fairly obvious step down from its Xbox One and PS4 cousins. But beyond these two points, the game is exactly the same one you played and enjoyed the hell out of last year, with the added benefit of total portability.
The only time the game felt like it suffered on the Switch’s hardware was when I was using the Joy-Cons strapped to the side of the tablet in handheld mode. It’s possible this is a personal thing but playing an FPS with my hands on either side of a screen is something my brain really struggled to put together. Played in TV mode with a Pro Controller, no such problems were encountered.
The only other major drawback of the Switch version is that the game is an unrepentant storage hog. Weighing in at a whopping (for the Switch) 21GB, buying DOOM digitally will likely mean the purchase of a microSD card as it simply won’t fit on the Switch’s built-in memory. This also makes it a challenge for those who like to use their Switch while travelling — just putting DOOM on your microSD eats up a lot of space you could be using to store other games on a long haul flight.
Moving from TV to handheld mode reveals no major changes in performance on the Switch. It seems Bethesda found the operating sweet spot for DOOM on this hardware and pinned it down. That I can now take a shooter as great as DOOM with me anywhere I go is, frankly, a bit mindblowing. That something this violent and unhinged is available on a Nintendo console of all things, doubly so.
DOOM remains a fabulous example of what can be accomplished when a developer returns to old material with fresh eyes, and is granted the room to move around creatively. It’s a love letter to the games that made id a household name, an assertive statement about where the series is headed next and now it’s a textbook example of cross-platform optimisation too. I can hear it now, growling and gnashing its pointed teeth from within my work bag. I am powerless to resist.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Highlights: It’s flippin’ DOOM on the go
Lowlights: Lower res may be a turn off for some
Developer: id Software
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.