Nintendo’s third-party developer relations have never been as strong as Sony’s or Microsoft. Some consoles, like the Wii, had a great deal of third-party games, even if the console missed out on many of the most popular franchises that debuted on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. The Wii U’s third-party support was much worse, thanks to low lifetime platform sales.
From the beginning, Nintendo has said it wanted to reverse this situation with the Switch, but it hasn’t been clear if the company could do so. The Switch, after all, has a fraction of the hardware resources or thermal envelope of the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, and its differential resolution (up to 720p in handheld mode, up to 1080p when docked) sometimes means that handheld mode plays better than docked, due to bandwidth and performance constraints. Despite these limits, the early feedback on iD Tech’s Doom port for the Switch is surprisingly positive.
Up until now, the most demanding game ported to the Switch by a third-party developer is probably the Elder Scrolls Skyrim Enhanced Edition, and it’s not even out yet. It’s also a PS3 / Xbox 360-era game that turned six this year. There’s still tons to see and do in Skyrim if you’ve never played it before, but running a six-year-old game on a brand-new console isn’t why most people buy a handheld, even if they love the game in question. Doom, which came out less than 18 months ago, is a much more impressive feat.
According to Engadget, the early game play is “identical to Doom on other platforms. The same fast-paced, demonic shooter action that embodied the spirit of the classic game is there, and it still feels great. Sprinting through corridors of the UAC facility or performing stylistic ‘execution’ glory kills on the spawn of hell is as satisfying as ever. The controls feel right. The complete experience translates.”
On the one hand, it’s downright impressive iD Tech managed to squeeze a game designed for much heavier systems into a handheld. On the other, it’s not actually surprising. Doom runs really well on just about any reasonably new GPU. Many games either tilt towards AMD or Nvidia to the significant detriment of the other company, or don’t scale very well, period. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an excellent example of this type of title — despite being a great game with good graphics, turning on MSAA will send performance cratering, even on a GTX 1080 Ti. Doom, in contrast, could almost run on a toaster.
Perhaps THIS toaster? Needs an HDMI port.
There are a few caveats, however. First, Bethesda required that all testing be done on the Switch in handheld mode, rather than the more-powerful docked configuration. Second, not all the levels have been optimized yet. But the early levels are apparently rock-solid, and that bodes well for the rest of the game. iD Tech has also promised a port of its soon-to-be-released title, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, for the Switch.
The Switch continues to sell extremely well, a fact which will do more to persuade third-party developers to bring titles to the platform more than any outreach from Nintendo. Doom should be out in time for Christmas 2017, with Wolfenstein II following at an undisclosed date in 2018. Wolfenstein II doesn’t even launch until October 2017, implying that bringing the title up on the Switch is significantly different from the other supported consoles, but not so difficult as to drag on for years.