It’s been a long wait for Nintendo Switch fans of the Doom series, but Doom Eternal is finally upon us. Courtesy of the porting wizards at Panic Button, Doom Eternal on Switch is a feature-complete version of the game that performs just as well, if not better, than its predecessor. Evolving on what made Doom 2016 great, Doom Eternal ups the ante in almost every department. New weapons and mechanics emphasize smart decisions in the midst of frantic combat, and surprisingly fun platforming sections round out the pacing to give players some of the most rewarding gameplay in the series. Yet, while the game has been admirably downscaled for Switch, some necessary sacrifices won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
Rip and read?
While Doom 2016 took a mostly off-hands approach to storytelling, the same can’t be said for Doom Eternal. Cutscenes with great production values are plentiful (even on Switch) and regularly key you in on the journey of the Doom Slayer and his enemies. Although, whether you can understand them is a different matter. Unless you’re a series veteran, many of the events may seem to be frustratingly out of context to begin with. It’s only as you progress further that the game begins to tighten up its narrative into a cohesive whole that’s worth the payoff by the closing stages. In the meantime, the brunt of the story is presented to you through collectible codex entries that flesh out the world and characters. Radio broadcasts give you an idea of the humans in peril, and occasional dark humor can provide some welcome comic relief.
While relegating large amounts of the story to collectibles worked for Doom, the emphasis on both cutscenes and readable lore feels like Doom Eternal is trying to have its cake and eat it too. Your enjoyment of Doom Eternal’s story will depend on how much you engage with its lore, and considering just how much there is to read, it can sometimes be a detriment to the otherwise great pace of the game. If you stick with it, Doom Eternal has some fascinating payoffs for Doom fans, but this definitely isn’t an approach to storytelling that’s for everyone.
The only thing they fear is you
Doom Eternal can be a relentless assault on the senses, but remarkably, it’s one that you always feel in control of. Powerful weapons like the “Meat Hook” super shotgun let you close the distance with enemies, while new tools like an Ice Bomb can let you place threatening demons on hold. Whether it’s overloading a soldier’s shield with a plasma rifle or using a precision shot to destroy a Mancubus’s arm cannon, making quick decisions with Doom Eternal’s arsenal while managing resources is at the core of what makes combat so potent. The newly introduced enemy weak points are a key part of this. Stronger demons will often have telegraphed weak points that can be destroyed to impair them permanently.
Deciding whether to prioritize a bigger demon’s weak point or finish off smaller demons to replenish your essential health and ammo is always an engaging choice to make in the heat of battle. These choices wouldn’t matter without an appropriately challenging difficulty, but Doom Eternal nails this too thanks to many of its creative and intelligent demons. Thankfully, fast load times, forgiving checkpoints, and collectible bonus lives provide a great safety net to ensure you can keep playing as aggressively as the game encourages.
It’s clear that id Software wants you to play with controlled aggression but there’s also now a focus on meaningful variety to the Doom experience. New environmental hazards like traps and explosives make positioning a key component of combat. Equipping runes can let you alter your play style to take advantage of abilities such as gaining health from using the new Blood Punch attack, which is a powerful punch charged up by using Glory Kills on enemies, and the returning weapon mods offer extra firepower as incentives to engage with bonus challenges.
When you’re not in combat, Doom Eternal has a suite of new platforming gameplay to offer. Chaining together double jumps, dashes, pole swings, and more can have a satisfying rhythm, and this platforming serves to both make exploration more enjoyable and act as a welcome breather between fights.
Hellishly well made
At the heart of this adrenaline-fueled combat and engaging exploration is some stellar decision-making on the part of id Software. Combat arenas are large, multi-leveled, and often have a host of objects to platform on or damage your enemies with. As a result, there’s always enough breathing room for you to make meaningful decisions during an encounter. Instead of scrambling to find resources, the game turns your enemies into moving banks of loot. Ammo can be regained by chainsawing lesser demons, Glory Kills can replenish your health, and using your new Flame Belch can cause demons to spew out armor for you.
As a result, Doom Eternal pushes you to play with smart aggression. Any given fight will have a mixture of lesser and more powerful demons, letting you decide when to attack weak points on bigger threats or kill some fodder enemies to replenish your resources. Everything you need comes from aggressively engaging your foes, but the order you prioritize these threats in can make all the difference.
Clear 3D maps and fast-travel options make collectible hunting relatively painless. This is important because both combat and collectible hunting feed into Doom Eternal’s new upgrade systems. Various upgrade points are allocated based on the collectibles you discover and how many encounters you beat in each level. Sentinel Crystals can be exchanged for health or ammo upgrades, while Praetor Suit Tokens can upgrade your suit abilities and so on. The plethora of progression options lets you tailor combat to your personal preferences, and the increasingly challenging battles make all of it feel essential. PvP multiplayer in the form of the new Battlemode is another added twist on the Doom blueprint, though the novelty of pitting two player-controlled demons against a player-controlled Doom Slayer wears off quickly due to how similarly matches can often play out.
Slaying on the small screen
Panic Button did an admirable job when it ported Doom 2016 to Nintendo Switch a few years ago, and Doom Eternal has fared even better. Levels load quickly, with large, intricate maps to explore and hardly any waiting to do between respawns. There are also very few notable bugs that I could see in my time with the game, and it retains just about all of its most important technical features such as the terrific sound design and impressively animated demons that still take visible damage as you attack them. Character and weapon models range from good to great on Switch, and Mick Gordon’s blood-pumping soundtrack still puts you in exactly the right mood to fight.
On the other hand, as this is a Nintendo Switch version of a game released earlier this year, there were bound to be some unavoidable drawbacks. A dynamic 720p resolution is no doubt an impressive achievement for Doom Eternal on Nintendo Switch, but it can mean that textures often don’t hold upon closer inspection and distant environments can come across a bit blurry. The overall brightness is somewhat lower than on its console counterparts, and the generally solid 30 FPS also takes a hit to 20 FPS during cutscenes. On a positive note, lighting can look better in indoor environments, and the fast-paced nature of the game means that you’ll often be moving too fast to notice the flaws.
Doom Eternal is every bit the evolution of its predecessor that fans could have hoped for, and Panic Button has done one hell of a job porting it over to Nintendo Switch. Faster-paced combat challenges you to adapt your strategies, make meaningful decisions, and use everything in your arsenal to counter all manner of intelligent demons and their unique weaknesses. Well-designed levels break up the intense encounters with precise platforming, and at almost every corner there are rewarding upgrades and worthwhile secrets to uncover. While your enjoyment of the plot will depend on how you engage with it, and it isn’t the most graphically impressive version of the game, Doom Eternal on Nintendo Switch is a worthy way to practice demon-slaying on the go.