I know that for many people (and oftentimes, even me) a review simply exists as a headline and a bunch of text you scroll past to get to a contextless number. With that in mind, I avoid giving games a full 10 out of 10. Even the best game is never perfect, and anyone can choose to see only that score when they open my review and decide I’m full of it.
When I reviewed Doom Eternal earlier this year, though, I felt it in my bones – this was my 10 out of 10 game. Minor flaws and microscopic hiccups existed in it just like any other game, but at the end of the day I had such an amazing time with the game that it was hard for me to see it any lower on my score scale.
Now, I’m playing the game again, but under different circumstances. After a lengthy delay, the latest id Software shooter has found a home on the Nintendo Switch thanks to the technical wizardry of Panic Button. A lot of my love for Doom Eternal comes from the jaw-dropping visuals and silky-smooth action that PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC platforms are built to handle, and while the Nintendo Switch is an amazing console, is definitely not built for massive, hyper-detailed games like this. That hasn’t stopped Panic Button from doing incredible work to get games like the original Doom, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and even Warframe running on the Nintendo hybrid handheld.
Like those games, major sacrifices have had to be made in order to get Doom Eternal running smoothly on the Nintendo Switch. To reiterate, it does run smoothly on Nintendo Switch, and that alone is something I still struggle to wrap my head around. Doom Eternal is all about nonstop run-and-gun action, and the Switch never lets up no matter how many demons or explosions flood your screen. It’s key for the Doom Eternal experience that you’re able to move smoothly within the arenas and environments as you hop over Cacodemons, set Imps ablaze, and shred into so many more kinds of foes like a graceful, blood-sprayed ballerina of death.
If you’re playing with the system’s default Joy-Cons, that ballet might face some missteps. One of the key elements of Doom Eternal is utilizing your melee button to activate Glory Kills when enemies are near-death, triggering a brutal execution animation and rewarding you with a pool of health pickups and ammo. You activate your melee attack by clicking in the right stick, and while this is a fluid act on other consoles or a keyboard, the smaller Joy-Con sticks are just a bit too awkward to be clicking into as often as the game expects you to. It’s an unavoidable discomfort when playing the game in handheld mode, but if you’ve got Doom Eternal docked, I’d recommend the Pro Controller.
There are a few other major concessions with this version of the game that shouldn’t be all that surprising. For one, the visuals have been significantly downgraded. Panic Button have smartly cut corners in every aspect of the visual department rather than massively gutting one or two parts of the graphics. The textures are a bit blurrier, character models are a touch chunkier, environments are a bit flatter, and the dynamic resolution means the image is always just a bit blurry.
All of these downgrades look rough in still screenshots of the game, but when you’re actually playing it and experiencing the mayhem in motion, it’s a lot less noticeable. You don’t have time to pick apart the blurry faces of demons or the soft environment textures when you’re always running and gunning and murdering, so while this is an obvious downgrade from the other versions of the game, it doesn’t feel as obvious once you dive in and start playing.
The other big hit comes in the form of a lowered framerate. Rather than running at a fluid 60fps, Doom Eternal on the Nintendo Switch runs at 30fps. It’s a stable, solid 30fps that I only noticed drop briefly during cutscenes, but after playing so much of the game on beefier consoles, it’s hard to adjust to. In the first few levels of the game, your arsenal and enemies are simple enough that the slower frame rate doesn’t hinder action too much, but in later levels, there’s so much multi-tasking of equipment and so many enemies to slaughter that it can sometimes feel like you’re being held back by the frame rate.