You Might Want To Skip The DOOM 1 And 2 Ports

doom 1 2 3 switch ps4 xbox one port bethesdaImage: id Software

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 320x200 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.

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Comments

    The split screen is also rubbish, with two player coop or deathmatch giving you two shrunken versions of the screen and having loads of white space around them, rather than a proper split-screen. It's a pretty shoddy port.

    It’s fun to play and cost $7 what’s not to like.

    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.

    What exactly is the issue here? I'm confused.

    The games were originally coded to run at 35fps. The games were never designed to run higher than that and you'll get no real benefit if it went any higher, 35fps is the "effective" cap. This is backed up by the fact that a number of source ports and mods actually have uncapped framerate (for example ZDoom) and at best there isn't really any perceivable improvement, and at worst there are claims it causes the controls to feel sluggish and even can induce headaches, motion sickness or eye strain. The game's physics are additionally closely tied to the framerate which also creates problems if you increase it. You also need to keep in mind that Doom is not a 3D game, it's a 2D game that's faking 3D. FPS works in a different way in 2D games than what we've grown accustomed to in 3D games. If you raise that framerate somehow, they'll run too fast.

    Most modern console games run at 30fps anyway, unless you force it to run at 60fps on the PS4 Pro/XBoneX at the cost of graphical fidelity (the notable exceptions being racing games and fighting games, which tend to always run at 60fps).

    As long as the game runs at a consistent frame rate and doesn't jump all over the place, what's the problem?

      Its sad that DOOM engine ports to the Switch run better than an officially developed version.

      Also, I'm not really sure where you got the idea that CRT monitors ran at 70Hz. The refresh rates of CRTs was variable depending on the monitor, but would drop as you increased the resolution. Your typical consumer monitor back in 1993 though when Doom came out was likely capable of 640x480, 800x600 or at best 1024x768 (Doom itself only ran at 320x200) and many monitors easily hit at least 120Hz or even higher at those resolutions. Your video card also played a big role, as even if the monitor could support high refresh rates...if you video card couldn't do it, you wouldn't achieve that maximum.

      The games clock is tied to the refresh rate. 70hz and 35fps is fine, but you run it at 60hz you'll either drop frame rate or run into other synchronisation issues, such as stuttering while the rest of the game is waiting for the display.

    One small correction: VGA's 320x200 mode was never a 16:10 aspect ratio: it always implied rectangular pixels giving a 4:3 aspect ratio. The assumption that pixels should be square is more recent.

      You are entirely correct.

    I've been playing the port and the only non bethesdanet related problem is the music. Why would the game running at its intended speed be a problem?

    That's not much help if you're looking for a solid FPS on the Switch

    Author doesn't seem to understand the target audience here. They're people who played Doom 1 and 2 back in the day and want to give it a run for nostalgia's sake or people who never have but want to check out what early FPS games were like...

    No-one is going to buy Doom 1 or 2 looking for a solid FPS that they'll sink a bunch of hours into. The problems stated here are complete non-issues for the target market.

      While I agree with you about the "solid FPS" thing, I think the issues pointed out will annoy the nostalgia people since the game won't run like it should. And the people checking it out to see what all the fuss was about won't get a "real" experience either. So it's still a valid article.

        Actually, it's the opposite. The game *does* run as it should...ie, it runs the same as it did in 1993. The issues the article is talking about are more to do with the fact it hasn't been "modernised". It runs at 320x200 at 35fps using rectangular pixels, instead of filling a 16:9 monitor at 60fps using square pixels.

        The only really valid criticism imo is the slowed-down music tracks, which I do admit is pretty weird.

          See my reply above, it could possibly explain the slow music.

    Wasn't the Xbox 360 port quality, as well? It boggles the mind how they fucked this one up, considering it's the same people.
    I hope Bethesda fix all the issues but I doubt they'll look past the Bethesda Log-in controversy.

    It might not technically be perfect, but I played Doom on the Switch and honestly didn’t notice the issues.

    It scratched my nostalgia itch.

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