One of the best first person shooters of the generation comes to Nintendo Switch and somehow it manages to play almost exactly the same.
Now that games as graphically complex as Control and Hitman 3 are coming to Nintendo Switch via streaming it seems there may be a move away from porting last gen games to run on the system. Streaming has its obvious limitations, so perhaps ports will be around for a while longer, but if Doom Eternal ends up being one of the last then that’s a hell of a way to finish.
Despite its modest technical abilities the Switch has already played host to a range of seemingly impossible ports, from a stunning version of Alien Isolation to a version of The Witcher 3 that seems like literal witchcraft. Arguably the most impressive of all though has been Panic Button’s ports of recent Bethesda games, including Wolfenstein 2 and the 2016 reboot of Doom.
All these ports suffer from noticeable compromises in terms of visuals and performance but considering how impressive they look on the more powerful formats it really does seem a miracle that the Switch versions bears any comparison at all. That’s certainly true for Doom Eternal, especially as the Switch version is just as playable as the originals.
Doom Eternal is already one of our favourite games of the year, so the excuse to replay it has been very welcome. Although, once again, we’ve ended up frustrated by its horribly uninteresting storytelling which manages to make a demonic invasion of Earth seem no different from a hundred other alien invasions in video games. We’re sure creating all the weird lore was so Bethesda didn’t have to worry about upsetting religious people in America but it’s painfully dull and completely at odds with the high-octane madness of the game itself.
Doom Eternal is basically an 80s heavy metal cover brought to life. There’s a clear evolutionary connection to the original Doom – one of the grandaddies of the whole first person shooter genre – in that there’s no recharging health, no reloading, no aiming down sights, and no dying from a fall; many of the creatures you face off against are the same too but it would be wrong to call Doom Eternal a simplistic game, in fact it’s one of the most tactically challenging action titles of recent years.
Eternal builds on the concept of glory kills from the previous game, where you could restore health by performing a finishing move on an enemy. In Eternal you not only get health from an enemy but also ammo and armour depending on what kind of weapon you use and what state an enemy is in when you kill it.
Although there are still normal ammo and health pick-ups as well you begin to look at each battlefield as not so much a collection of enemies to be beaten but resources to be collected in the most advantageous order possible. Although really, you’re rarely thinking consciously at all, as the game’s lighting fast action unravels at such a pace you’re acting purely on instinct – which feels fantastic when that ends up with you carving a path through the legions of Hell in a highly choreographed ballet of ultra-violence.
Doom Eternal isn’t a perfect game, apart from the storytelling we still don’t think the fiddly and overly difficult platforming is a welcome addition, but when you’re in the heat of battle there’s been nothing else to beat it all generation. And, despite a shopping list of caveats, the Switch version is just as enjoyable. As you might imagine, those compromises all revolve around the graphics, which in the original versions ran at a silky smooth 60fps.
The Switch drops that down to 30fps but never any lower, instead sacrificing the resolution to keep the frame rate steady. There’s also a lot of very clever stuff going on with texture filtering, that we only half understand, the end result of which means the game looks very blurry in screenshots but, in large part because of the fast pace of the game, remarkably impressive when you’re actually playing it.
Things look blurriest in handheld mode but, really, if you’re staring at the graphics then you’re already dead when it comes to a game like Doom Eternal. What’s important is that the game plays essentially identically to the original versions and, once again, we can’t help but use the word impossible to describe that.
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What’s more predictable is that this is still being sold at the same price as the original versions were at launch, although if you buy before December 22 you do get Doom 64 for free and a small DLC pack including skins and a remixed level. There’s no physical release though, just a digital download, probably because the file size is so big the cost of the cartridge would be prohibitive.
As we enter the new generation, and the power gap between the Switch and its rivals becomes even wider, Doom Eternal is a useful reminder that the power of a console is far less important than the skill of the developer using it. Panic Button has done some extraordinary work on the Switch but this is their best yet and while Doom Eternal is still better on any of the other formats this does a hell of a good job of offering essentially the same gameplay experience.
Doom Eternal review summary
In Short: An extraordinarily good port that seems physically impossible given the modest abilities of the Switch but is just as playable and enjoyable as the other console versions.
Pros: Superb action, with the use of enemies as resource drops creating a constant sense of pressure and tactical complexity. The lore is silly but the game’s visual style and soundtrack are pure heavy metal.
Cons: There are severe but necessary compromises at work in terms of the graphics. The story and platforming are still as boring as ever.
Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Stadia
Developer: Panic Button and id Software
Release Date: 8th December 2020
Age Rating: 18
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