Doom (Switch) Review

Id Software's 2016 sequel/remake/reboot of its iconic first person shooter Doom surprised and delighted both critics and fans for its lightning fast action, old-school mechanics tuned hair-trigger sharp and lush graphics awash in demonic gore. Bringing this processor-intensive game to the Nintendo Switch is an achievement -- though not without some notable flaws -- and adds some mature content to Nintendo's hugely popular, generally family-friendly console.

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Doom is all about frantic action, vertical mobility, smooth and precise ease of movement, powerful weapons and over-the-top bloody kills, set to a chest-beating soundtrack and contained by a simple, nonsensical story. On PC and other more powerful consoles, a framerate locked at 60fps makes every image snap and crackle, and even the most subtle movement translates responsively into the action on screen. In contrast, porting Doom to the switch meant taking a significant hit of 30fps, and for anyone who has played the original, the difference will be striking and disconcerting. Everything that requires real speed or precision -- from well-timed jumps to aiming and shooting in the heat of a frantic battle -- feels a little sluggish.

Lack of speed and precision is further amplified in handheld mode where Joy-Cons tuned for Mario and Zelda don't quite feel up to the task of a twitch game like Doom. Using the generally excellent Pro Controller, things fare much better, but the tradeoff is that playing Doom on a big screen further amplifies both the framerate issues and clarity of visuals.

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On a PC with a high end graphics processor, Doom was a big bowl of eye candy, with spectacular and sharp lighting and particle effects. On the Switch, textures are often blurred or muddy, almost to the point of eyestrain when writ large on a monitor or television. It isn't as noticeable in handheld mode, where the 720p resolution feels adequate, and dialing down the motion blur helps, but the player spoiled by recent console shooters will definitely notice the drop in quality.

Doom's single-player campaign is the game's signature feature, returning happily to old school shooter mechanics like health and armor pick ups, tons of secrets to find, and frenetic battles broken up by periods of exploration. To this classic recipe, the developers stir in some ingredients we've come to expect from RPG-shooters like weapon and armor upgrades and other collectibles. And, of course, it has a multiplayer component. Doom multiplayer was widely regarded as a mess, and it doesn't seem to be any better on the Switch with its inconsistent matchmaking, long wait times and frequent disconnects. The Switch version generously includes all the game's DLC but doesn't have the SnapMap editor.

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Doom is, at core, a classic first person shooter with satisfying weapons and lots of ways to kill and dismember a legion of demonic enemies from another dimension. The game's great level design and near-perfect pacing shine through on the Switch, and moment-to-moment gameplay is still a blast to play, though the framerate drop and somewhat gauzy visuals may irk players used to other versions. In the end, Doom on the Switch is a welcome bit of mature content and a fine shooter that transcends whatever compromises had to be made to port it to the system.