Death is a given, and that's doubly true for video games. And when death comes, it tends to come in force. Who among us can claim we haven't, at some point in our gaming career, meandered through plains sprinkled with corpses, or waded through rivers of blood past bobbing human remains? If video games are to be believed, corpses are more gregarious than the living. They flock to gruesome sites of executions, torture and massacres, hang themselves from nooses, impale, flay, contort or dismember themselves into bloody bouquets for us to gawk and shudder at in passing.
If the games we play are anything to go by, the depths of hell are one of humankind's favourite destinations when it comes to travels of the mind. Few fantasy RPGs or horror games could be considered complete without at least a quick excursion into the domain of demons and sinners. And what better place to conclude your game than hell itself? What better villains to fight than the citizens of Pandemonium? Hell has found a steady home in many kinds of games, and its popularity shows no sign of abating.
We like the Switch version of the Doom 2016. We respect its remarkable technological achievements and we're blown away by the fact that a playable version of this game exists at all for Nintendo's hybrid machine, but the fact is that the game has issues. The drop from 60fps to half-refresh was inevitable, but the impact to resolution and wobbly performance detracted significantly from the overall experience. Last week, developer Panic Button released a patch for the title and to say that people were excited about its potential would be a vast understatement - our social media was awash with demands to re-test the title, with many believing they were seeing some profound improvements in the revised code.
But what has actually been delivered? The patch notes suggest that developer Panic Button has 'increased the average resolution in lower-res areas of the game', which is a welcome upgrade. In shoehorning a modern game engine onto a mobile chipset, Doom's pixel-count is highly variable. Like for like comparisons in the most intense scenes aren't really possible, but we found some interesting data points nonetheless. Outside of combat, we actually found pixel-counts before higher and lower than the original release we tested, but in more challenging scenes, the game does appear to hit 720p while docked more often in situations where you might expect drops. However, drops to 648p are commonplace. In actual fact, Doom seems to scale both horizontal and vertical axes - it's a truly dynamic experience.
The point here is that while there is a difference, the perceptual effect is not significant - it's improved but it's still a very blurry game overall. It's even more difficult to determine in handheld mode but pixel counts do not suggest a transformative boost here. But that's not really the whole story. The fact is that this new patch does improve the experience and it's all about improved performance.
Just how powerful is Nintendo Switch and what are its limits? From Digital Foundry's perspective, it's been fun - and fascinating - to see the evolution of the platform, our expectations of the core Tegra X1 processor's capabilities exceeded by several key releases. But a Switch conversion of the Doom 2016 reboot? That's on a whole new level, and we had to check it out. We went hands-on with the game for about 40 minutes last week, our key question being: just how did they do that?
December 10th 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of Doom, the first-person shooter that changed everything, not only for PC gaming but for consoles too, as the hardware of the time attempted - with varying levels of success - to bring that classic PC experience to the living room. Last year, DF Retro revisited Doom on every console platform, using today's Digital Foundry tools and methods to assess the quality of each port. It's a piece we're happy to republish today!
The measure of any piece of hardware is whether it can run Doom. And it turns out that pretty much any modern computer can, whether it's a MacBook Pro's Touch Bar, the programmable display in a key on the Optimus Maximum keyboard or a Vtech InnoTab.
"There was never a name for the Doom marine because it's supposed to be you" - John Romero, co-creator of Doom
There are few games that will ever have as much impact on the games industry as Doom. Two decades after release it remains a touchstone for the genre, and has influenced a whole generation of designers; the shooter that defined a thousand shooters.
To mark the anniversary of Doom's release, 20 years ago today, here's a treat from the Eurogamer archive: Paul Dean's retrospective essay on the game, first published on 15th January 2012.
The history of PC gaming can be neatly split into two eras. Everything from 1993 onwards we can class as the Modern Age, in which the PC is established as a games platform in its own right. (We can pinpoint 1993 based on the fact that before that year the number of PC games that have survived into posterity drops off precipitously.)