REVIEW: Doom (Switch)

Undoubtedly Doom. And Fun As Hell.

The company id Software is often credited for pioneering the first-person-shooter genre with their breakthrough 1992 title Wolfenstein 3D, which takes advantage of using a spatial 3D environment with fast-paced action. It was a year later in 1993 with Doom being hailed as its true successor in taking the formula that worked and improved upon it in many ways that essentially every game in the genre uses it today. Doom was designed with Wolfenstein 3D’s blueprint, but added verticality, use of stairs and ladders, a moody lighting system and implemented the first ever team deathmatch which has been a staple for the genre ever since. Doom was so successful that it has made an appearance on various platforms along with sequels, spin-offs and franchise reboot. The 2nd reboot of the franchise released in 2016 on current generation hardware (PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC) and is simply titled, Doom, which has been a critical success and is seen as going back to true form of the original games. The studio Panic Button handled Doom for Nintendo Switch, a port of the 2016 curb-smashing hit, a game that many certainly didn’t see coming and one that might turn skeptics into believers of the Nintendo Switch, albeit under-powered, being able to offer complete experiences as the beefy consoles at the cost of visual fidelity that is still appreciable. The last time Doom was seen on a Nintendo console was with the Nintendo 64 in 1997. The last time Doom was seen on a dedicated video game portable was with Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance in 2001. Doom (2016) has now made its way onto the Nintendo Switch which is the first time the series has the luxury to be both a console and portable game at the same time as 1 product. Did the final result of porting a technically demanding game to Nintendo Switch impress the hell out of me or is it all doom and gloom?

Hell’s Warm Welcome

In a market saturated with shooters, it’s easy to mistake one game for another just by looking at it. The top-selling first-person shooters all dabble in real historical war settings in the last century where the sense of realism (minus being a bullet sponge) is the gameplay direction involving the typical squad units and retelling their stories taking orders to complete certain objectives that revolve around always shooting behind cover and moving forward to repeat the process over again. Doom sticks to its tradition of being arcadey but creates a style of gameplay that is not only rewarding, but reminds us that as long as we’re spraying bullets that we deserve instant gratification from our actions. Doom is all about managing how you move. You want to get away from your enemies as much as you want to be close to them. Any time there are scenarios with enemies, the best way to describe it is being frantic fun. You can run but you can pretty much never hide. The enemies in Doom are like your obsessed stalker who always follow you around hoping you eventually bump into them, which you do. Enemies are relentless, restless and fear absolutely nothing so they will not hide. In typical fashion, Doom retains the classic gameplay yet reinvents in fresh new ways. If you know the past games, then you know in every level there are secrets to be found along with color-coded doors which only open by obtaining a matching key. The secrets are optional and add to the game’s value. Sometimes they are in closed-off or well-hidden sections. Sometimes they belong to one of the colored doors. The design of Doom allows players to move around the space they are dropped into in various ways despite being linear. The level design plays to both exploring the environment to move forward and engage in firefights with demons. It’s this back-and-forth of the game which teaches the player to know when to be ready and how to maneuver around each level that strikes a nice balance of pacing.

Run & Gun & Crack Open A Hot One

Doom has a gruesome & gory presentation that includes plenty of blood and plenty of Doom Guy pretending he knows dentistry by performing regular oral checkups on his enemies when they least expect it or curing their headache with a boot to their face against a wall. Each level is constructed in ways where there’s time for the narrative as you scavenge the calmer areas and then it throws you in a firefight where you mainly have to eliminate the demonic threats before you can push forward as gates remain closed. When it’s time for a craziness to happen it essentially becomes like a horde mode where there’s quite a number of enemies versus only you. There’s a certain level of intimacy in Doom that is rarely seen in first-person shooters. Slowly, different enemy types get introduced along your playthrough. Some are agile and can climb up walls. Others can summon enemies and teleport while others are slow yet powerful. No matter their tactics, size or speed they will always come after you. Even though you’re constantly being forced to not stand still and take damage, the levels are designed to be generous with paths in its open space. Littered in these scenarios are plenty of ammo for your various gun types as well as health & armor pickups. The game encourages you to switch between guns and explore these mini arenas built into the level naturally. Since the enemies are always going to come after you, it’s perfectly normal to come across much needed pickups as you run from enemies. You don’t always have to run (you will), but the game makes sure the player has what they need if they look for it.

The beauty of Doom’s presentation is that it’s not only for show because it ties into the gameplay. Doom wants you to get up-close and personal with your enemies and perform one-button finishers called Glory Kills. Successfully doing so provides you with additional health (and armor with the right ability) upon their death. When an enemy has taken enough damage close to death, they will stagger while flashing blue. If you are in range for a Glory Kill while they are staggering, they will flash orange. Performing a melee with the right analog stick (or flicking the right Joy-Con as the game’s optional only motion control) will activate it. Not only are Glory Kills satisfying to witness, they can be performed from any angle including above your enemy. There’s just something satisfying about splitting open an enemy’s noggin in a brutal fashion and watching a bunch of blue health orbs pop out while you gain health. Be sure to point your cross-hair at different limbs as they perform different Glory Kills. Even try them while jumping!

Bloody hell! What happened here! Gross! Cool! Poor employee!

One can expect the basic moves for mobility such as crouching and jumping. You can also perform double-jumping (with the right ability) and ledge-grabbing, both of which will become quite useful in traversing up and down the levels when a firefight. As you progress through the levels, you will obtain new guns which are then yours permanently to keep and select via on-screen weapon wheel. This also slows the game down in the background as you choose giving you time to decide while not truly pausing the flow. While you have a pistol that has infinite ammo just to be safe, it’s also relatively weak and meant to be used to pick off grunts. Most of the weapons have two paths for upgrades and you can switch between the two mods at any given time if they are unlocked by finding a support drone that floats around in each level. These support drones, when found, will offer you a weapon upgrade by unlocking 1 mod of your choice for any of the weapons you’ve found. You are immediately free of restrictions as to which weapon’s mod you are allowed to unlock and the information of the upgrades are displayed so you can decide which ones interest you most. Fallen UAC elite soldiers are also found in levels. Like you, they wear a Praetor suite. You can take their Praetor tokens and put them to good use upgrading your own Praetor suit such as less damage taken from exploding barrels or being able to switch weapons faster. Think of them like this game’s dogtags.

In addition to being rewarded for exploring, you may come across glowing rune stones which can then be activated to complete a certain challenge to obtain some of the game’s most useful abilities. Rune Abilities are given to you if you complete the particular challenge. Activating a rune will teleport you to a separate area and bring you back to the level once you’re done. These are optional of course, but they are the best rewards and act like character perks. Each rune can be upgraded once by performing a number of tasks related to that rune. One rune example is being able to perform Glory Kills from farther away and the upgraded version of that rune allows you to do it from even farther making you zip across from enemy to enemy ripping them apart one after another given they’re in the staggered state. You can equip up to 3 runes at a time with each slot unlocking when you’ve found a certain amount of runes. Players are also given a chainsaw. Much like Glory Kills is the answer to additional health, kills with a chainsaw grants you additional ammo flowing out from your enemies. Chainsaw fluid is a more limited find, but it’s just enough to be there in an emergency. Players can also find and upgrade equipment items such as grenades which have a cooldown and red lightbulb things you squeeze in your palms to shatter allowing you to choose if you want a permanent stat boost to your health, armor or ammo count. There’s a 3D map to view when the game is paused if you are ever lost. I think it moves and pans too slow to be accommodating anyone who has little patience. Luckily I never needed to use it, but it’s there. When it comes to the game’s soundtrack, the music is mainly electronica and a mishmash of Industrial & Heavy Metal. You’ll know when a hectic situation is about to take place when that loud music starts playing to pump you up. Other than that it’s usually atmospheric which means you can relax until the moment you start hearing the devil’s orchestra.

(Left) Standard pose of holding a gun. (Right) Option to choose Classic Doom style of holding a weapon viewed from the center.

Make Room For Doom

The biggest question on peoples minds is how does Doom for Nintendo Switch look & feel compared to the other versions. The short answer to that is: it looks and feels exactly like Doom. The more detailed answer is one that’s not exactly precise, but also noticeably correct. Doom is meant to run at a 1080p resolution when docked and certainly looks better in some areas of the game than others. In portable mode, Doom is meant to run at a 720p resolution. Though that may not always be the case in either modes of play as visually my eyes tell me the resolution is dynamic and changes based on locations in the game and how many things are happening in the scene. Compared to the other console versions which run at a solid 60 frames-per-second, the Switch version runs just as solid but at 30 frames-per-second. While the fps is cut in half, the game’s fast-paced action doesn’t feel hindered in any way. There is motion blur when turning and you can adjust the amount or even disable it in the options. I find that it makes the game look smoother when turning and eliminates any shakiness. Anyone who begins the campaign will immediately notice how blurry the game looks. I found that I soon adapted to it because despite lower texture resolutions and being 30 fps, pretty much everything artistically remains in-tact which keeps it as a good looking game. While playing in docked mode certainly looks sharper and is my preference for Doom, playing in handheld mode does a better job of covering up minor technical shortcomings. It still looks good in either of the modes. The great lighting system is there, particle effects from blasts and sparks from broken sources of electrical equipment look as they should, the depth of field blur is present, light glares from within your character’s visor, metallic objects in the architecture all have reflections. The game looks nice. The only noticeable thing truly missing are screen space reflections. These are reflections on surfaces such as floors and walls created in real time by objects or characters. The game also drops a few frames when in heavy firefights and it can be a minor drag. It doesn’t always happen, but you’ll notice it with a certain amount of enemies and explosions all happening at once. This game is surprisingly optimized and I applaud Panic Room’s efforts in cutting down the game’s original file size being approximately 78gb to nearly 1/3rd on Nintendo Switch being 22gb.

Doom for Nintendo Switch may not look as sharp as the other versions, but the fantastic style the game had to begin with remains prominent throughout the entire game.

Doom doesn’t take its story into a totally deep direction and it knows that. There’s enough context there that it gives your mission some meaning. There’s not a huge cast of characters who need voicing and the ones that are there get the job done. Your fast-paced gameplay isn’t bogged down by elaborate unskippable cut-scenes. When the time for story comes, it does so and then gets you back into face-bashing demon brains into pavement. All you need to know is that you are the “Doom Slayer” taking on foes from Hell as you come and go while on the move to stop a doctor responsible for opening the portal to Hell while being scammed for political reasons. What’s better is that the amount of codex and data you find scattered in each level provides additional information about the world so it’s there for people to learn about if they desire. I think it adds a bit of that documented lore flair which is always better than nothing.

The entire campaign takes about 10-15 hours to complete depending on the player and may go upwards to 20 if you are a completionist. An additional Arcade Mode allows you to blaze through the campaign in a different way going for points and making a spot on the leaderboards.

If you haven’t had enough, the game also has online multiplayer with quite a few modes and character customization and a crazy amount of unlockable taunts. My time with the multiplayer was fun enough. I don’t typically go for arcade shooters when it comes to multiplayer, but it wasn’t a bad experience. I never had any connection drops and I always got into a match. It’s Doom gameplay, just multiplayer. There are additional guns and powerups there not found in the campaign so it may be fun to experiment. Doom for Nintendo Switch comes packed with all 3 DLC content. The only unfortunate thing is that it’s missing the SnapMap Editor the other versions have. Hopefully that is something being thought about in the future and maybe to be worked in when Nintendo’s official online service meant for 2018 actually arrives. The multiplayer mode is a separate 8gb download if a physical version was purchased.

There’s only one major bug/glitch I’ve encountered in the game and it happened just over a handful of times. It’s an audio issue. This happens with other games so I can’t confidently put the blame on the developers as it may be a technical issue with the Nintendo Switch itself. Even my first time playing the game, within 20 minutes the sound from the left speaker was fading out and eventually stopped. Followed less than a minute later was the right speaker. Oddly when this happens it isn’t an issue when the game is paused as the audio is clear and working properly in the menus, but return back to playing and it’s still present. This can be cleared by loading a new level or restarting the checkpoint. It may be an audio-related issue on certain levels. I had the same thing happen when I came back to an earlier level where it happened. I’m thinking this is something that can be patched up eventually. It may or may not happen often on your playthrough.

Summary
It's Doom (2016) for Nintendo Switch. It has online multiplayer. You can play it at the barber shop if you wish. Just don't let it entertain the person with the clippers or you'll meet your doom.
The Stellar
  • Polished, fast-paced first-person shooting at its most fun.
  • Challenging with scaleable difficulty for all types of player skill.
  • Glory Kills never get old.
  • Unlockable Classic Doom & Doom II maps to play.
The Lesser
  • Occasional framerate stagger when plenty is going on.
  • Audio glitch sometimes cuts off sound.
  • Missing SnapMap Editor
9
Must Play
Gameplay - 9.5
Visuals - 9
Audio - 8
Value - 9.4

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