Old game franchises regularly bring themselves back from the dead. Some underwhelm, like Quake, while others fall flat, like Duke Nukem Forever. Rarely, some manage to blow people’s minds, paying homage to the original while still being modern. This is what Doom did last year, and now it’s been made portable.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Every handheld since the PSP has used current gen consoles as a yardstick to compare its power to. This hasn’t been a good indicator in the past, but the fact that Doom has made its way to the Switch is still blowing my mind, and I’ve been playing it for over 20 hours.
For dorks like myself that never managed to get to the game in their backlog, it tells the story of the Doom Slayer. Demons have been unleashed on Mars by the UAC, hoping to harness the power of Hell. These demons have infested the bodies of the UAC scientists, and you are left to tidy up the mess. The premise is silly, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, which fits in well with the chaos that is the rest of the game.
The bulk of your time will be spent blowing through demons using powerful guns and chainsaws, and trying to stop an evil A.I. from keeping the portal to Hell open. The game becomes much more chaotic thanks to Glory Kills, which involves damaging enemies, then completing a brutal finisher to make them drop health.
This discourages camping, and creeping, and rewards close quarters combat. This only remains true until you tackle the Ultra-Nightmare difficulty which – thanks to hard enemies and permadeath – makes it difficult to overcome close encounters. I didn’t last long on any of my attempts, and decided rage quitting was the smartest choice.
The guns are excessively fun, and you can upgrade them in progressively crazier ways. The shotgun was my personal favourite, becoming more so when I loaded it up with exploding shells. Gun customisation has its own mini-RPG elements as you can choose which mod you want to use, with an upgrade path for each one.
Upgrades can be earned through finding collectables, and completing challenges. These are stock standard, like achieving different types of Glory Kills in a level. Though difficult at times, they have nothing on the hidden rune trials. These will teleport you to another area where you must complete goals under a strict time limit. I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to beat my first rune trial, as I kept narrowly missing my targets.
Even with its weak plot, the singleplayer campaign is fantastic, whether you ramp up the difficulty or cruise through it on an lower one. This is due to intricate levels that – thanks to hidden secrets – are fun to explore while you blow away demons. These secrets will reward you with upgrades, or unlock classic Doom levels. The element of level design that really kicks in the nostalgia is the use of coloured keys for opening specific doors, which will really resonate with old farts like myself.
On top of the singleplayer campaign is the multiplayer, which isn’t quite as portable on the Switch thanks to internet requirements. Multiplayer has a few modes, from classics like Deathmatches and Elimination, to another where you need to get kills to regain health. Nothing about the multiplayer is that unique, but the chaotic weapons and level designs make it a lot of fun. Weirdly, I did keep finding myself with average internet connection speeds. This is an issue unique to DOOM, as my fibre gets consistently good speeds. It could be the game itself, or matchmaking not pairing me with New Zealanders, but it is worth noting.
If you want some replay value, but aren’t interested in multiplayer or being punished on Ultra-Nightmare, the game comes packaged with an arcade mode; you replay story missions while trying to put up the best score you can, achieving up to a gold rating.
The port isn’t perfect, as could be expected. The quality of the graphics has been downgraded, but it is still a fantastic looking game, especially in handheld mode. Unfortunately the subtitles become super small to read when undocked, unless you hold the Switch right up to your face. These are minor and not unexpected quirks, but the biggest issue I had was with the sound during a couple of levels.
During an early level, the sound completely cut out of one ear half way through which is especially egregious when paired with the tiny subtitles.Despite relaunching and rebooting, the issue persisted until the level ended. Another level introduced a buzzing sound which also only hung around until the start of the next.
Despite these bugs, I’m still impressed with the quality of Doom on the Switch. The singleplayer campaign – with it’s replay value and multiple difficulties – easily makes it worth the price tag. It is a must play for Switch owners clamouring for some hyperviolence on their train rides.
Blair received a digital copy of Doom from Bethesda for review.