Thoughts on DOOM (Switch)
I am genuinely curious to know what the numbers are of people who have only played DOOM (2016) on Switch, as opposed to people who played it after already playing it on PS4, Xbox One or PC. I'm pretty sure it's a relatively low number. One that I am a part of.
So I got hold of a copy of DOOM for Switch and felt like a man in a desert being handed an ice cold glass of water, since I've been without a new game on Switch for a while now and I still don't have access to my extensive PS4 games library. And not only was I going to be playing a new game, it was a new game that had already received significant amounts of praise on all of the other platforms it had already been released on. But then I had to take a step back as I remembered most of the reviews had focused on how tight the shooting gameplay was, and how the speed and pace were unrivalled in their intensity. And the most intense game I had played on the Switch so far was arguably Breath Of The Wild. An action heavy game, but not exactly lightning fast in its pacing.
First thoughts on starting DOOM were "Wow, this is taking a long-ass time to load". Might as well get that out of the way. The loading times are extensive. Like, noticeably extensive. I thought it wasn't a big deal, hoping that it would just be an initial loading requirement, and that afterwards things would be zippier. Nope. Every death led to an equally long load time leading to my millennial mind wandering off and checking Twitter, somewhat breaking my engagement with the game.
Second thoughts (after the game finally loaded) were "Wow, those textures are garbage". I don't know if this was just exaggerated because I was only playing the game in handheld mode, but the textures were notably, brutally blurry up close. I knew that some concessions had been made to get the game to run on the Switch, but this was painful to look at at times. And I had not even played the game on another platform previously. So although I had seen footage of the game running on PS4, it's not like I knew exactly what the game was meant to look like precisely.
Loading and texture issues aside, once I started playing, I could see why the game had received such high praise. When a game has clear direction, it comes across in the gameplay. It's clear that the vision for DOOM was intensity, brevity and a visceral presentation. This permeates throughout everything in the game. From the start you are punching and shooting demons immediately. Explanations for controls are brief, you run at an almost comical speed, and there is no reload button. Exposition is light, and your character actively ends exposition pieces with his fists. It's appealingly refreshing for a game not to go through the same motions that many of its contemporaries seem resigned to.
I will say, however, that the Switch version of DOOM is easily the weakest, and that is without even playing it on any of the other platforms. This isn't just because of the presentation being murkier, but because of the Switch controls not being precise enough for the speed of the action. More than once I died knowing that if I was using a different controller, I would have survived. And this isn't a case of sensitivity, it's a case of feeling. The Joy Con analogue sticks don't have the precision of other controllers, or a mouse and keyboard. Maybe the Switch Pro controller does, I wouldn't know. Whether playing with the Joy Con's attached to the console, or in the Joy Con Grip, the controls still felt sluggish and I never felt like I had the precision I was meant to have.
The final disappointment however, although minor compared to the presentation and control issues, was with the ending. It's not that the ending is terrible, it's just that it is so boring, and such an anti-climax for a game all about not following the conventions of its contemporaries. The ending has you going back to hell one last time, defeating the giant, horrific spider, alien, Olivia robot thingy, shutting off the gate to hell, and returning to Mars. And then what happens?
That stupid robot, Sam whatever, delivers a boring monologue, and then just swats you away to some unknown location, with a vague promise that you'll meet again. In a way it sort of mirrors the endings of the first two Half Life games. But whilst this kind of acceptance works fine for a blank slate like Gordon Freeman, for the Doom Marine it is bollocks! He should have stopped the Hayden-bot halfway through his speech, destroyed him with a tin-opener and then crowned himself king of Mars. Or something else equally audacious. Something that matched up with the rest of the games outrageous attitude.
I get they were probably setting up for a sequel, but with the attitude that this title had, I would have been more pleasantly surprised if the game simply set itself on fire the moment the campaign was completed.
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