Part of what made games in the early-and-mid ’90s is how clever some developers had to be to get everything running. That’s cropped up with Bethesda’s re-release of the original DOOM games on the Switch, although there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
DOOM 1 and DOOM 2 garnered plenty of coverage over the weekend thanks to the bizarre online-only requirement that found its way into the final release. The company quickly did an about-face and fixed the account requirements, but thanks to some quirks with how the original games were coded, there’s some glaring issues that couldn’t be resolved.
As noted by Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry below, the problem with DOOM 1 and DOOM 2 comes from how the games were coded from the off. Back in the DOS days, DOOM was designed to run at a 35fps cap, which at the time was half the refresh rate of a 70Hz CRT monitor.
The decision was made to keep motion consistent, but it’s an obvious problem since just about every screen on the planet now supports 60Hz — not 70Hz. But for whatever reason, perhaps simplicity in porting, developers Nerve opted to retain the 35fps cap for the DOOM re-release on the Switch.
So that’s strike one. Another strike against the game is the way it’s been scaled. DOOM 1 and 2 — not DOOM 3, which was released in a different time with different standards — scales in a way that results in an inaccurate, awkward looking presentation. The original game ran at 320×200 or 16:10, which was stretched out to 4:3 when run on CRT monitors at the time.
That’s an obvious problem in a world where 16:9 is the default aspect ratio. Many source ports of DOOM have found ways around this with various forms of aspect ratio correction, or by applying black bars on either side of the action.
All of that is bad enough. But the biggest problem is actually the audio, which plays back at the wrong speed. Digital Foundry has a great cut of the original metal track from E1M1, versus the slower and less dynamic soundtrack in Nerve’s port. These problems creep through to the PS4 and Xbox One ports that have just been released, as well.
Fortunately, none of these problems beset DOOM 3. The more modern title is much more malleable when it comes to not only the Switch’s hardware, but all the standards and aspect ratios in modern consoles today. It even runs rather well on the Switch, although you’ll get the best performance by far through the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, which both run the classic shooter at a native 4K with no perceptible drop from 60fps.
It’s a bit of a shame for the classic DOOM titles, which deserve to be revered and enjoyed in 2019 just as much as they were in the ’90s. What’s more perplexing is why DOOM 1 and 2 don’t have online multiplayer, given it was included in the Xbox 360 port (which Nerve also coded).
So in short, you’re better off giving DOOM 1 and 2 a pass. It works, but it’s got problems that just shouldn’t be present in a 2019 re-release of a game that’s over two decades old. That’s not much help if you’re looking for a solid FPS on the Switch — there’s a few good third-person options out there, but not much in the way of retro first-person games outside of Panic Button’s ports of Wolfenstein and DOOM 2016. DUSK is coming to the Switch later this year, mind you.
In an age of analytics, where publishers looking for more ways to keep players engaged, legacies of the past have been discarded or stripped away. One such legacy that's still clinging to life is the art of the singleplayer FPS campaign, with the wide sweeping levels, full of secrets and monsters hidden behind corners, largely done with. Thankfully, 2018 has been very good about bringing that part of gaming back to life.Read more