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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Bethesda
Release Date: Nov. 10, 2017

About Andreas Salmen

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Switch Review - 'Doom'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 10, 2017 @ 4:30 a.m. PST

DOOM returns as a brutally fun and challenging modern-day shooter experience.

Buy Doom

The Doom series launched the first-person shooter genre to new heights. The first two titles were released on Nintendo consoles and handhelds, but since then, it's been quiet. It's a pleasant surprise to see Bethesda doubling down on the Switch with two titles for this holiday season, Doom and Skyrim. Doom is a case study on how current-gen ports will run, sell and work on the Switch, and the results may be surprising.

Before jumping into technical details, let's take a look at the game itself. If you know all about Doom and just want to know if it runs well, scroll to the end. (Spoiler alert: It does — mostly.) Most of Doom's functionality has been ported to the Switch:  the campaign, collectibles, multiplayer, secrets and DLC. The only part missing is the Snap Map editor, which, if it did run on the system, would overload the memory card due to its sheer size. Players who purchase Doom digitally should make room for 23 GB on their memory cards. Physical copies include only the single-player part of the experience, and the multiplayer portion is a free 9 GB download. Guess who's buying memory cards on Black Friday?

In the single-player campaign, we awaken on a strange altar, get attacked by a demon, start slaying monsters, and it's non-stop action from the next 12-15 hours. Doom is still as fast and gory as it was in the 2016 release. Think of a fast-paced first-person shooter, quadruple the speed, and you'll have a sense of how it feels to play Doom. The game relies on good reflexes and making split-second decisions, and when we're kicking ass, it feels utterly awesome.

The secret to survival in Doom is to attack and keep moving. Within the first 10 minutes, the game overwhelms players with hordes of enemies, and those who stand still or move erratically will face certain death. In the absence of cover systems, reloading, and health regeneration, it's wise to sprint to the corners of the battlefield to search for life-saving pick-ups.

Once we've sufficiently weakened a foe, it's highlighted for a glory kill so we can rip them apart in a celebratory sequence of blood and bones. The flashy attacks are fun to watch, but they're also vital for survival, as they drop small health packs and ammunition. Later in the game, we'll also get the signature chainsaw to dismantle enemies for loads of ammunition. Unlike the glory kills, the chainsaw attacks are limited.

Throughout the campaign, we'll find new weapons that range from the combat shotgun to the BFG. No reloading is necessary, so we blast through ammunition quickly, and it's often necessary to change weapons. The guns vary drastically in damage, fire rate, and functionality, so it's fun to try out different weapons. The extensive arsenal makes the fun gameplay even more enjoyable.

As we progress, we'll face an increasing amount of demonic forces and the main antagonist. Doom is a mostly linear experience that consists of 12 levels, which are big enough to encourage exploration, and there is plenty to find. Everything that was available in the original release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One is present in the Switch iteration: classic missions, collectibles, rune trains, upgrades and weapons.

Every stage offers individual achievements, such as killing a certain number of enemies in a specific way or with a particular weapon. Based on how well we fight, we acquire points that can be spent to add a secondary modification to each weapon. Runes provide extra perks, like quicker kill animations and larger pickup quantities.

The game is engaging and jam-packed with goodies, but repetitiveness creeps in during the latter half of the experience. While the retro-inspired and modernized gameplay feels like a breath of fresh air, the levels sometimes feel like duplicates of the same concept. Some players may feel that Doom could've gone deeper with its puzzles, but fans of the genre won't be disappointed with the single-player experience.

After the credits roll, players can attempt 100% completion or try to beat Doom on other difficulty modes. Players also have the option to play classic Doom and Doom II levels (if they'd located them in the main game) and replay individual levels in arcade mode in order to be ranked on the worldwide leaderboard.

The multiplayer portion wasn't well received when Doom initially launched, but it's above-average and the best one available on the Switch. The upcoming game lineup won't change this stance in the foreseeable future.

Doom has the most complete set of multiplayer features on the Switch. Like the main game, the multiplayer mixes some good, older genre conventions with modern shooter advancements. Eighteen maps are available. There are a few free-for-all modes, but most modes are focused on 6v6 team matches. There are the usual candidates, like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and a few variations on zone capture modes. We can join random lobbies, create private matches and invite friends to play with us.

The technical side of things should also be considered. This is Doom, a title from 2016, running on what is essentially a tablet with controllers slapped on the side. For that alone, running such a game in any capacity is a great achievement. The resolution may be lower, but this Doom port is not just the PC version on minimum specs. Post-processing seems to be mostly active, and character models are very detailed.

There are obvious limitations that may interfere with the gameplay experience. The resolution is dynamic in both handheld and docked modes, and it shows on occasion. In handheld, the resolution can go up to 540p, so it looks blurrier than in docked mode. In docked mode, however, the resolution can go up to 1080p, though it rarely achieves it. According to Bethesda, the average resolution in docked mode is 720p.

As a result, edges are comparably rough, and the appearance seems slightly unfocused. The blurriness is most notable in handheld mode and decreases in docked mode, thanks to the slight edge in processing power. Doom is a fast-paced game with a lot of motion blur involved, so you get used to it. Smaller captions are sometimes difficult to read, whether in handheld or docked mode, and there's a lot of text to read in the multiplayer portion, so this can be a hindrance.

The title targets 30 fps at all times, though the Switch occasionally struggles when a large number of enemies, lots of effects, and a scenic view come together. There have been a couple of occasions where the game came to a complete halt for a second or two. It is not a frequent occurrence, but it's noticeable in docked mode. In handheld mode, either due to the smaller screen size or the slightly decreased visuals, it hasn't been as noticeable. The sound has cut out in a few rare instances, but the issue is usually resolved by reloading the game.

Graphical assets sometimes look washed-out. The environments aren't that dependent on details, so the loss isn't as tragic, but some surfaces in the research facility look too blurry to ignore. This continues on to the multiplayer portion of the game. It even seems as if the visual specs have been dropped further to stabilize the frame rate. The result is a slightly less visually impressive but constantly smooth gameplay experience, which is arguably what matters most in a fast-paced online shooter.

The game is best played in docked mode with a Pro Controller.  The game is still perfectly playable with the Joy-Cons, but the awkward position of the thumbsticks means that it's far from the best experience. There is some HD Rumble integration that is very toned down, and motion controls are limited to shaking the Joy-Con to trigger a glory kill. It would've been nice to see some extra effort here, but it works fine without it.

One thing to note is that the training mode is not available without an internet connection. We're hoping this is fixed soon because it would be nice to be able to engage in bot matches on the go. It seems like a minor missed opportunity in this package of FPS goodness.

Doom on the Switch is impressive. It's pretty much the same game it was over a year ago, and that is not a bad sign. It obviously isn't perfect and won't be everyone's cup of tea. Some may be bothered by the technical hiccups, while others will rejoice in the newly awakened third-party support that has brought them one of the better FPS experiences in the past two years.

Score: 7.9/10

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