What should have been a beautiful piece of retro fan service didn't work out. Last year, the new ports of the original Doom trilogy came through a range of devices and, although the Doom 3 port of Panic Button reached the goal, Nerve's conversions of the original Doom and its sequel left much to be desired. Incorrect lighting, interrupted music, stretched aspect relationships and other problems affected what should have been a joyful celebration of a genuine game phenomenon. However, everything has changed now: although it is not quite perfect, I can recommend these revised ports and, in fact, this is one of the most important game patches I've seen during my time at Digital Foundry.
To begin, it is worth noting that while the new update contains a lot of new additions and corrections, not all features are completely new: the first patch of the game has already managed to correct a selection of the most heinous problems. Incorrect lighting levels in the original version were fixed months ago in update 1.03, the mandatory login requirement of Bethesda.net was eliminated and the speed and quality of the audio was also improved. Patch 1.03 basically delivered the game that we should have experienced at launch and, to be fair, Bethesda could have left things at that time. However, the decision was made to refine it further, and this is where things get interesting.
A crucial addition is compatibility with additional WAD content packages. In its current state, both Doom and Doom 2 receive the WADs created for Final Doom, while the original Doom also receives Sigil from John Romero with Doom 2 that benefits from Nerve's No Rest for the Living itself. This is a great bonus feature since these additional WADs are of very high quality, bringing a lot of additional content to the game at no additional cost. Based on the patch notes, the team is also selecting additional WADs that will be available in due course. While the original PC has no restrictions on what WAD can run, it is great to see additional content coming to the console platforms.
Second, Nerve has substantially improved performance on all console platforms. The original Doom engine pointed to a half-speed update based on a 70Hz CRT monitor, which translates into 35 locked frames per second. This now runs at 60 frames per second. This is a bit complicated to explain, but while the processor runs at 60 fps, the logic of the game still runs at 35 fps, so there is a certain level of interpolation integrated into the way the game is presented: This is how every other port of origin handles this situation as well.
I own the Doom port of Nerve on PS4 and Switch, and then I took the sequel to the Nintendo hybrid. I didn't feel it was necessary to buy all versions, since the differences are minor, but I noticed some variations in performance that surprised me. First, whether you're on Switch or PS4, the base games work as expected. Doom 1 and Doom 2 have a stable speed of 60 frames per second with just an occasional touch here or there, at least at the levels I played. This is a small beer, things that you are very unlikely to notice or care about.
It is not perfect, but it is very, very close, but the interesting thing is that additional WADs can present problems. I chose to use the Sigil of John Romero as a test point, since it is a very demanding WAD and, indeed, the performance varies according to the platforms. On Switch, it is mostly locked at 60 fps, but you'll find some small falls here and there. In the grand scheme of things, this amounts to a slight interruption in fluency, so again, it is not really a big problem and is something you will probably never notice.
However, interestingly, the basic version of PlayStation 4 does not run Sigil as well as Switch, which is quite strange. Looking more closely, it seems that the source port is resolution sensitive to reach 60 fps, so the resolution is reduced in Switch. While PS4 operates at three times the original resolution at 960×600, the switch is reduced to 640×400 instead. Fortunately, in a game like this, the reduction in resolution works in conjunction with the old-school visual design, so reducing the pixel count is not exactly annoying, but it explains why the performance is faster than the PS4 base. As expected, PS4 Pro is essentially flawless.
Next, an appropriate 4: 3 aspect ratio option is added. The launch of the original port was sent with a wider 16:10 aspect ratio, but this revised release allows you to switch to a suitable 4: 3 mode, presenting the game and the HUD as it should be. It is an improvement, but I still have some doubts with this, since the 16:10 and 4: 3 modes depend on an uneven pixel scale. Due to the lack of interpolation, the pixel width varies in the image and produces a slight distortion, and this happens because the native resolution of the screen is not divided equally in the central resolution of the game. I am not saying that a blur filter is the solution here, but a very subtle subpixel interpolation feature could make a big difference in terms of presentation cleanliness. In general, it doesn't distract too much, but it's still something I'd like to see corrected.
In addition, I would have liked to see a suitable 16: 9 widescreen mode such as those available in various source ports on other systems. I understand that the intention was to maintain the accuracy of the original presentation, but a wider viewing area is a good feature that would have been worth having. In addition to the aspect ratio options, you do In the new patch, Nerve has also added two brightness adjustment options that allow you to change both the overall brightness of the game and the brightness of the map. You can mark configurations that fit your environment, basically. Playing Doom in a well-lit room on Switch can be difficult in the default settings, so these new features are very welcome.
Beyond visual adjustments and customization options, other new features focus on usability. A level selection function is added to the game that allows you to enjoy gun starts from any map on any WAD. Meanwhile, the weapon selection system is also modified. The d-pad now acts as a quick selection of key weapons, which is useful, while alternating weapons with the shoulder buttons now uses icons at the top of the screen instead of forcing it to move in turn for each weapon. Nerve has even returned to the game to change some of the elements that were previously censored. The health packages, which appeared as pills, are changed to a green cross. It is not yet the original graphic of the red cross, but it is closer and looks pretty good. In addition, the bonus stages inspired by Wolfenstein in Doom 2 have also been restored correctly, which is really nice to see.
In fact, apart from the pixel scale, I only have one or two pending problems. If you use the sleep mode of your console, the game may display occasional pauses until you close and reopen the game. This is specifically mentioned in the patch notes as improved with respect to previous versions, but it is still surprising and disappointing that such an error remains at all. It is a real problem in a system such as the Switch where it is likely to enter and exit sleep mode regularly.
Also, I feel that there is still some additional latency in the controls, especially in Switch. I didn't have the opportunity to sit down and measure it accurately, but it feels a little slower than I expected. I know there are multiple approaches to interpolation that can have an impact on the input response, perhaps it is related to this? Things could be left as they are and I would still be happy in general, but in an ideal world, I would like to see a more effective solution.
Still, I don't want to bother you too much because the fact is that this is a transformative update that sees a disappointing port raised in a very elegant example of great retro fan service. While I prefer to continue with the source ports of the PC and play at a high frame rate in my CRT, this is undoubtedly an excellent way to allow access to Doom on even more devices. It is especially good for Switch owners because it is always nice to have a portable Doom experience. It is a big change after an initial disappointment. Honestly, all the original Doom trilogy ports for the machines of the current generation are now obvious purchases, especially for Switch owners. The games have a good price and there is a lot of content ready to use with more on the way, but ultimately, we are getting new ways to play Doom and that is never a bad thing.