Perhaps the most surprising thing about Doom — a game defined by its speed and precision, not to mention its gleeful application of gore — running on the Switch is that it’s not surprising. It’s right there: Doom on the Switch. It’s the campaign, the enemy placements and behaviors, the arcade mode. While I didn’t play the multiplayer component, it will be available as a separate download for those who want it. It’s a modern, cutting-edge, game of the year-winning shooter and it’s running on a Nintendo handheld.
First things first: Bethesda isn’t sharing details on the frame rate or resolution, and for good cause. The answer is: Neither are as good as on the Xbox One or PS4, or the gaming PC you built to play it maxed out, so why supply the ammunition? While the console versions enjoyed a steady 60 frames per second — a feature that helped advance the game’s focus on speed and precision — the Switch version runs mostly* at a smooth 30 frames per second.
It’s not ideal, but take it from someone wearing a Doom shirt right now: It still brought a huge smile to my face the way Doom did last year, regardless of frame rate, regardless of texture quality. Here’s some off-screen capture, courtesy of Nintendo World Report:
Let’s talk about controls. Before the WASD militants shout down anyone with the temerity to suggest Doom on a gamepad is good, let me say that I played Doom on PC ... with a gamepad, both Xbox 360 and Steam Controller. Here’s one area where the concessions needed for the Switch are hard to overlook: The Joy-Cons do not feel great in Doom. Perhaps this is why Bethesda had a row of Switches sort of attached to a stand, with a Switch Pro Controller helpfully laid out in front. I awkwardly picked up the Switch to play it with the Joy-Cons, but it was quickly clear that the Pro Controller would be the preferred input mechanism of choice.
Is it possible to get used to playing it on the Joy-Cons? Someone beat the hardest boss in Dark Souls with the Donkey Kong Bongos, so sure ... anything’s possible. But the short travel of the Joy-Con’s analog sticks coupled with the reduced frame rate made the game’s speed feel out of control in my short time with the game. Once I picked up the Pro Controller, there was still some learning curve, but it was immediately a more natural curve.
So yes, Doom on the Switch is Doom, in most of its glory, on a portable console put out by video gaming’s most family-friendly brand. It’s both not surprising — successful video game coming to successful video game platform — and enormously surprising — highly demanding and extraordinarily violent shooter coming to family-friendly, mobile-powered handheld. Those parallel truths were on display at Bethesda’s preview event. While Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and The Evil Within 2 both enjoyed large sections and guided introductions, Doom on the Switch was unceremoniously just ... there in the venue’s lobby area. Why no fanfare, for what is clearly something special? Well ... it’s Doom. You’ve played Doom. But now you can play Doom on the Switch.
Above, I asterisked “mostly” because there were parts of the first level where the frame rate dipped considerably. It usually recovered, but in one instance it stayed low. A spokesperson told me that the game was still undergoing optimization — courtesy of the port’s developer, Panic Button — and with the full game already running as well as it is in advance of its Nov. 10 release this year, there’s still time.
And this experiment continues next year, with the release of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus on Switch in “2018.” With Nintendo giving prime real estate to violent games about bullet murdering hell demons and Nazis, and with Bethesda doing the work to get these games running on what is essentially a mobile platform, it’s anyone’s guess as to what other surprises are possible on the Switch.
Update: Doom will launch on Switch Nov. 10. The story has been updated to reflect this.