There are few games as genre-defining as Doom. While it didn’t invent the first-person shooter, it came early enough in the life of the FPS and was such a monumental leap forward that most people associated the genre with Doom for years (if not decades) after its release. Heck, it even got name-checked in an episode of the sitcom Friends – a sure sign of cultural impact if ever you needed one.
This fame is also partly because it received more console ports than you’ve had hot dinners, as long as you’ve had roughly nine hot dinners. From popular systems like the PlayStation and Xbox 360 to less successful consoles like the 32X, Atari Jaguar and 3DO, there was a time when a Doom conversion was as essential as a controller port. Even the SNES and Game Boy Advance got in on the action, both delivering impressive attempts, given how relatively weak their hardware was.
Now, for the game’s 25th anniversary (although it’s technically its 26th, but who’s counting?), Doom has received another helping of ports, this time including the Switch. This marks the third time Doom’s been officially released on a Nintendo system, but is it third time lucky? Well, yes and no.
There’s still no questioning the overall quality of Doom. While many games a quarter of a century old don’t really hold up to today’s standards, Doom is still an absolute blast to play. Its maze-like stages are still fun to explore (thanks to the ever-useful automap that you can bring up whenever you’re stuck), and played in the right environment it’s still possible to get a little creeped out when you hear the snarl of a demon nearby and don’t know exactly where it’s coming from.
Part of this is down to the sheer quality of the weaponry on offer. While it became infamous for its final discoverable weapon, the BFG 9000 (which stands for Big... um, ask your dad), its lesser guns are designed just as well. The piddly pistol you start with is enough to get the job done with most smaller enemies, but the number of shots it takes will still make you eager for an upgrade. When that upgrade comes in the shape of the shotgun, there’s no bliss like it. We reckon the Doom shotgun is still one of the most satisfying guns in the history of gaming and playing through the Switch version hasn’t changed that one bit.
All three chapters from the original Doom are included here: that’s Knee-Deep in the Dead, The Shores of Hell and Inferno. It also adds the fourth chapter – Thy Flesh Consumed – which was added in The Ultimate Doom, an expanded re-release in 1995. So it’s safe to say that in terms of content, there’s nothing missing here. You can also take part in local multiplayer and co-op for up to four players, though there are sadly no online options here, which makes the most infamous issue with this new port – the requirement to create a Bethesda ID – even more ridiculous.
In case you’ve missed the latest gaming furore, when you boot up Doom for the first time you’re made to sign up for (or log into) a Bethesda account. If you choose you don’t want to do that, then no Doom for you. You also can’t play offline until you validate the account, so you can’t make up a fake email just to get past the screen – not unless you want a future that consists of Doom-free train journeys.
Bethesda insists that this was an accident, and that this was always supposed to just be optional (despite the game stating “a Bethesda.net account is required to play this title”). While we stroke our chins, raise our eyebrows and basically chew the scenery with the most suspicious expressions we can muster, Bethesda assures us it’s hard at work undoing the requirement that definitely honestly wasn’t supposed to be there. An eventual happy ending, then, but do bear in mind that at the time of writing you still need a Bethesda account to play the game.
There are some other niggles here, in that this isn’t actually a perfect port of Doom. Most of the inaccuracies will only affect long-time fans of the series: the iconic music is slightly slower, sound effects are a little muffled, the sprite scaling seems to be a little off and everything’s been stretched a tad wider. Not to full widescreen, mind you – there are still borders on either side of the screen – but stretched enough that it’s no longer 4:3 and will seem a little chunkier to those who’ve played it a lot on its original aspect ratio.
Other issues will potentially annoy everyone, however. Most notably, the game runs a little juddery throughout. It’s not game-breaking by any means, but once you notice it, it can be the tiniest bit off-putting. Digital Foundry’s John Linneman tweeted that he measured it running at 35 frames per second, which makes sense given that many PC monitors at the time had a 70Hz refresh rate. This doesn’t play perfectly with today’s mostly 60Hz compatible displays though, which leads to the judder. While we have little doubt a properly rewritten version of the game could have easily run at 60fps on the Switch, even a slight downgrade to 30fps would have made for a smoother experience.
These issues aside, it’s still Doom, and in that respect, we have very few complaints. It continues to be one of the greatest games ever made, and even though this new Switch port meant we had to play through it yet again for the umpteenth time, it never felt like a chore. You still get that adrenaline rush when a door suddenly opens and loads of demons pour out, you still get a grin on your face when you take out an enormous Cyberdemon, and that shotgun is still the stuff of legend.
Given that we’ve only had SNES and GBA versions before, this new Switch port of Doom is the best version ever released on a Nintendo system by a country mile. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though: its annoying still-to-be-fixed DRM and its smattering of small technical issues does dampen the entertainment somewhat. That aside, if you’re looking to slay hordes of Hellspawn on the move, there’s no better way.