It used to be a surprise that a current-generation behemoth like Doom 2016 could be jammed into portable form over the Nintendo Switch. Years later, players still loving the handheld are in for another shocker as Bethesda and Panic Button have managed to tackle bombastic sequel Doom Eternal in portable form. But the most alluring part of this Switch version is how it managed to bring everything; including bigger action, gameplay mechanics and scope which gave the PS4 and Xbox One a sweat. I’m happy to say that Doom Eternal works enough to give fans the dream of playing the complete experience wherever they go, without any reservations for future content or boredom.
Doom Eternal on the Switch is about nine months overdue since Bethesda’s love child released on current-gen systems on March 2020. But this was also the most anticipated one for those waiting for a truly portable version. The best part about a good game re-releasing is how its best qualities are intact. Mostly. Even over a family-friendly console like the Nintendo Switch, Doom Eternal is exactly as what Zubi Khan’s review reflected on earlier this year. As a true carbon-copy from consoles, the game still is “a violent and visceral tribute to single-player shooters.” Its gameplay improved on every aspect of its 2016 reboot, which was unique in fast-paced, unapologetic rampages with demons we no longer fear. This confidence, injected with Bethesda’s decisions for a gameplay-first story and roguelike level design warranted a sequel. Of course, I absolutely don’t need to reiterate Doom Eternal’s success in outperforming the first game by keeping the signature combat and sprinkling new mechanics which improve the fun. I shouldn’t dabble in the sequel’s payoff in storytelling for veterans and some jaw-dropping answers which kept players invested. Obviously, there’s no need to discuss Doom Eternal’s reliance on skill with a bigger difficulty and lack of repetitiveness for it.
“Obviously, Doom Eternal’s value on a handheld is what puts this above the PS4 and Xbox One versions – it’s the exact game, but adds versatility to the table.“Clement Goh, Reviewer
We’re here to discuss how well Doom Eternal carries its weight on the Nintendo Switch. Performance was the biggest challenge for studio Panic Button as they were in charge of porting it. Their experience from Doom 2016 for Switch had to be the biggest preparation, as Doom Eternal is absolutely daunting. Keeping sophisticated enemy AI, keeping hordes of demons on a screen, fully-animated maps and HD graphics aren’t easy over the Nintendo Switch’s CPU. Over the upgraded console, the game barely balances out its frame rate with dynamic resolution scaling. This common technique turns down the graphics quality when players aren’t looking at it. Of course, Panic Button has previously used this in Doom 2016 Switch, but managed to keep the game looking beautiful with 30 frames per second.
It’s inevitable that Doom Eternal has kept the same 30 fps, which can feel a bit jarring for players who’ve already played the console versions with 60fps. The change definitely has an impact on performance, as Bethesda specifically wanted high frames for the frantic combat to work. Doom Eternal runs worse than the last game on Switch because it has to fit more in every level. This gives players a significant disadvantage when fighting hordes of demons, who can lag up the screen and cost valuable reaction time in fights. Mostly, the Switch version loses a baseline for turning fast, seeing clear targets and timed button presses. The game’s lower fps also results in dips below 30fps, many of which caused input lag over my Switch on occasions. After some getting used to, I made the most out of its playable flow and naturally slayed demons like a force of nature. But unlike the smooth consistency of Doom 2016, its sequel lacks some of that performance polish in favour of simply making it serviceable on Switch. It’s my biggest gripe of Doom Eternal for Switch, especially when every second was life or death for the Slayer. I surprisingly never lost the joy or sweaty palms across the campaign, as the game still manages to keep up with a close 30fps in seamless fashion. An added benefit included having no crashes, freezes or major glitches that took me out of the senseless bloodlust. In an added detail, frames were laughable when Doom Eternal played a cutscene. Players might feel like they’re watching a pre-recorded CG cutscene straight out of their favourite 1990’s computer game. From start to finish, Doom Eternal still magically runs as it’s supposed to on the Switch, even when it shouldn’t.
This is where I meticulously found these performance issues across my Nintendo Switch’s Handheld mode. Of course, Doom Eternal was enough to drain my battery after over two hours of play. The CPU ran hot and top fans blew out my GPU’s cries for help. As far as most Switch ports go, Doom Eternal barely escapes a trap for crappy performance. But it doesn’t even touch the bar raised by Sniper Elite 4 or BioShock The Collection, which have magically optimized themselves to work with Switch hardware instead of against it. Over Handheld, I still found it to be easily the best way to play Doom Eternal. Over a couch, break or in bed, it’s an incredibly satisfying demon-killing machine. Obviously, Doom Eternal‘s value on a handheld is what puts this above the PS4 and Xbox One versions – it’s the exact game, but adds versatility to the table. For years to come, I don’t think I’ll get over being able to play Doom Eternal as a definitive shooter anywhere and anytime I want. Because the game works enough on Handheld, it did more than enough to make my wait well worth it. Speaking of wait, the Switch version even loads entire levels at 22 seconds and it’s not too far off from its more powerful PS4 or Xbox One versions.
“Somehow, Doom 2016 on Switch managed to keep its details without too much blurring. But Doom Eternal is forced to blur almost everything with more performance stresses. Sadly, it’s inevitable for the game’s scale. But having no compromises on gameplay ironically makes it the ugliest version ever.“Clement Goh, Reviewer
Overcoming the performance on Handheld or Tabletop Mode can be easy after the first two missions. Doom Eternal becomes a smoother experience when the Switch is docked with full power. Rocking more voltage and less GPU stress, the entire game sports a more stable 30fps. I found combat to be much fluid and tactile. Suddenly, fixing my cursor over a Mancubus’ cannon felt like a breeze even when I was in motion. This gave me less chances to miss my shots while the added reaction times over Docked Mode brought me closer to Bethesda’s vision for fast combat. Of course, the bigger screen would help with my sightlines compared to the smaller screen. I could also finally read text since it’s practically fine-print on the Switch’s smaller six-inch screen. The TV mode also let me use the system’s controller attachment for a comfortable and console-quality experience. Doom Eternal‘s never-ending tension can cause cramps for Handheld players, especially when Joy-Cons are already constricted by size. It made me prefer using a controller attachment for Tabletop mode when away from a TV. As with Doom 2016 on Switch, it felt fragile to play Eternal when it was built for tougher console controllers. In seriousness, players raging from many Doom Eternal deaths (like myself) should be careful to not accidentally break their Nintendo Switches.
Doom Eternal‘s performance was just one part of the problem for Nintendo Switch users. Playing on TV comes at a cost of seeing some really muddled visuals. This is where I truly noticed Panic Button’s sacrifices in bringing an even bigger sequel of Doom for Switch. Sure, good became better. But bad became worse as Doom Eternal struggles to keep up with native 720p HD. This means it can feel like playing a real mobile game on Android or iOS at times. Textures are just flat, lacking much details from afar and can even glitch out from some unpredictable angles. Somehow, Doom 2016 on Switch managed to keep its details without too much blurring. But Doom Eternal is forced to blur almost everything with more performance stresses. Sadly, it’s inevitable for the game’s scale. But having no compromises on gameplay ironically makes it the ugliest version ever. There are some brighter moments where quiet scenes will boost performance and show Switch players the clearest visuals. Mostly, things get awkward in busy fights and glory kills bring out the worst from low-res demons. It doesn’t help that Doom Eternal has some great stereo sound, with frequent audio delays/skips in cutscenes and firing weapons from frame issues.
Panic Button was nice enough to keep Doom Eternal‘s next-gen like details, including demons falling apart to expose bone and sinew. Other visuals like bullets projecting light, bloom and reflective surfaces keep things from looking too old. Most of these graphical nightmares are shown over a big HDTV, even when the game is upscaled to a near-720p. What doesn’t help are the motion blurs mixing with frame drops and making enemies harder to see all around you. The visuals over Handheld make these issues more forgivable. The scaling on the small Switch screen make Doom Eternal look sharper and a natural fit (pun intended). But players are constantly tormented by seeing signs vanish/reappear on walls, objects blurring up close when they shouldn’t. Some spots in levels even vanish for a second depending on where players zip across. Much of these problems were also seen in Doom 2016‘s Switch debut, but here’s to hoping Panic Button sends a patch and improve visual quality. What doesn’t change are some cumbersome platforming segments, which are an even bigger nightmare over the Nintendo Switch. Because the blurring is more frequent, it’s even harder to see distant platforms or climbable surfaces on walls from afar. This was one of the core elements in navigating Doom Eternal‘s levels and disappointing Switch visuals made these parts go from bad to worse.
In a plot twist, the downgraded visuals still didn’t take away from the satisfying joy of playing Doom Eternal on the Switch. Most of the elements I loved from its original console versions are still intact. This means forgetting about the frames and graphics to continue pulling eyeballs out of Cacodemons or blinding Arachnotrons with their own legs (Did I mention this is now one of the Nintendo Switch’s most violent games to date?). Regardless of its tech pros and cons, Doom Eternal still feels like the crazy sequel it became. Bethesda and Panic Button have given Switch players all of the content from its console versions. There’s enjoyment in its 11 hour campaign which takes players through nearly every location from past Doom games. The reboot essentially gives players open ground to kick some demon ass, combined with some heavy metal to get the Switch juices flowing. In a rare case, Doom Eternal‘s campaign has some endless replay value for killing demons in any set piece with over seven difficulties to master. It’s enough to keep players busy for years to come, giving the Nintendo Switch a new life once all the Animal Crossing turnips are sold. What I especially liked most from Doom Eternal were cheat codes, giving players maximum replay value by annihilating demons with infinite ammo, lives or virtually any kind of Slayer superpower. The Switch port is much easier to access and lets players take this cathartic joy to work, bed, trips and inevitably in the hands of middle-aged professors rediscovering gaming with Doom Eternal. Switch owners might rejoice at being able to use gyro aiming; something which was added in as a fan request for Doom 2016.
Despite some bigger sacrifices taken for a bigger sequel, Doom Eternal has been worth the wait for Nintendo Switch fans.Clement Goh, Reviewer
It’s impressive that the Nintendo Switch can keep all of Doom Eternal‘s controls. The sequel packs even more functions, including a grenade launcher, flame belch, dash and crucible sword without a button more. Thankfully, the Joy-Cons have the same number of keys as the DualShock 4 or Xbox One controller. This makes it easy for a replicated experience on Nintendo’s handheld. Apart from the aforementioned hand-cramping, I had some hard times reaching for the R3, which was awkwardly placed on the Joy-Con’s bottom. For a game full of Glory Kills, this took plenty of fumbles before mastering the “right stick click”. Otherwise, Doom Eternal controls well for a twin-stick shooter. I highly recommend tweaking the sensitivity and shutting off and acceleration delays for a really reactive experience to compensate for slow performance. This took away much of my critiques for slow aiming or poor movement/turning on Switch.
Nintendo Online subscribers get access to Doom Eternal‘s multiplayer modes. Invasion and Battle are some engaging ways to screw up other player’s campaigns by becoming a demon. They can either surprise single players with the mode on. Demons can also team up against a super saiyan Slayer in Battle mode – something I hope stays alive with crossplay along Nintendo’s servers. It’s an incredible giggle-inducing mode which actually makes it more fun to be a demon. This already gives Doom Eternal even more replayability in the unlikely chance its Campaign goes stale. But the cherry on top of the Switch version includes the upcoming Ancient Gods story DLC at a later date. Panic Button and Bethesda have left no stone unturned for delivering a definitive Doom experience for players, no matter how small the Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite becomes.
Despite some bigger sacrifices taken for a bigger sequel, Doom Eternal has been worth the wait for Nintendo Switch fans. It’s the latest game to push the boundaries of what Nintendo’s aging console can do. I’m also wholeheartedly convinced that no game is untouchable by Switch through some basic understanding of ports. Panic Button deserves a fiery fist bump for preserving Doom Eternal‘s content, frenetic first-person shooter combat and catharsis in a portable device. Its high replayability and fast load times make this a natural fit for convenient gaming on-the-go, with plenty of reasons to stay addicted after the first run.