Playing Doom on the Nintendo Switch had me marveling at the game in awe all over again. Though it’s been more than six months since the official release of the Switch, the idea of taking a proper, AAA console game with you on the go is still an incredible concept, and it’s on full display here with Bethesda’s Doom port. My experience with Doom on the Switch has been nice, but technology has not yet advanced far enough for us to be able to enjoy a home console experience on a portable device without making a few, crucial sacrifices.
As announced when the port was first officially revealed, Doom runs at a locked 30 frames per second, as opposed to the 60 you’d get on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The drop in frame rate is definitely a huge bummer, as the crux of the Doom experience centers around the fast-paced, frenetic action, and the kinetic movement of your character as you jump around a level, shooting demons in the face and finishing things off with a glory kill. That said, while the frame rate drop is certainly noticeable on the Switch, the game covers it up relatively well with its motion blur and bloom lighting effects. The difference in frame rate feels like less of an issue because of how the game is presented onscreen, in both docked and handheld mode.
What’s even more impressive is that the frame rate is fairly consistent throughout the game, and I only ever noticed it dipping slightly when there were too many enemies on the screen as I tried to pull off a glory kill. In terms of gameplay, the dropped frame rate honestly didn’t affect my experience too much as you’ll get used to it before too long. Though you’ll definitely have a period of adjustment if you’re just coming off from Doom on one of the other platforms.
Visually, however, the game doesn’t fare as well. Running at 720p in docked and handheld mode, the textures are noticeably muddier here than on the PS4. I get that fitting such a graphically intensive game like Doom onto the Switch couldn’t have been an easy feat, and certainly some concessions needed to be made, but considering the fact that the frame rate was already halved to compensate for the hardware limitations, it’s doubly disappointing to see that the graphics don’t hold up well at all in the port. Were it possible, I would have preferred to see the game maintain 60fps while making whatever graphical concessions it needed to. By cutting corners on both the frame rate and graphical side of things, the Doom port feels a little half-baked that is kind of nice to play, but not so nice to look at.
The HUD and UI also look awfully tiny when playing in docked mode, and it was difficult to see the button prompts and tooltips that popped up during the early chapters of the game. This is less of an issue when you’re playing in handheld mode, but when I had the game connected to my TV screen, I found myself constantly having to shift closer to check the map properly and make sure I was applying the right suit upgrades.
So, as a port, Doom definitely has more than its fair share of warts. But there are other factors that still make this game worth picking up. For starters, even though you need a micro SD card to be able to even fit the full digital download on your system, load times were surprisingly decent. Loading from one chapter to the next took maybe about 10 seconds, and continuing your game from the main menu screen took even lesser than that. Not to mention the fact that the port contains almost every game mode present in its PS4, Xbox One, and PC counterparts, with the exception of the map creator. The online multiplayer portion is available in its entirety here, so you won’t be missing out on the online offerings.
While playing with a pro controller is the best way to play, I didn’t have much of a problem adjusting to the Joy-Cons in handheld mode either. It’s probably got something to do with my 60+ hours on Splatoon 2 in handheld mode, but the Joy-Cons were perfect for jumping in and out of the game during a commute, or when I just wanted to clear a quick encounter before dinner. When playing exclusively undocked, I also found that a fully charged Switch could get me around an hour and a half to two hours before I had to plug it in.
As for who this port is for, I have a hard time recommending it to players who have already enjoyed the game on other platforms. Aside from being able to take the game with you wherever you want, basically everything else about it is inferior to the other versions, and you probably won’t get that much more enjoyment out of it on Switch. However, for players who haven’t played the game, or for those who just love Doom so much and want to be able to play it anytime and anywhere, the Switch port is still a decent pick-up as long as you don’t mind the muddy textures too much. The gunplay on the Switch won’t be as smooth as you’d like it to be, but it’s still very much playable on the hybrid console, and it certainly isn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just not as good as you know it can be, and that’s important to keep in mind here, especially if you’ve already experienced the game during its original release.
For its first major Switch port, Bethesda has done a pretty decent job with Doom. While I personally would’ve loved to see better UI adjustments, and either improved textures or frame rate, I still had some fun on my romp through hell on the Switch, and being able to play it wherever I wanted was a huge plus, as it usually is for most games on the platform. Overall, Doom is yet another nice gem you can add to your growing Switch library, but you’ll have to decide if the portability is worth the sacrifice of other crucial aspects of the game.