Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over.
Today, Rory looks at all the doubters, then at all the ‘miracle’ Switch ports, then back at the doubters, then back again to the…
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the Nintendo Switch is not an N64. It seems like a blatantly obvious statement on the surface, but with the way I’ve seen some of y’all talking about it on the internet recently, I feel like it needs to be said.
It seems like the release of the admittedly-fairly-hideous Pokémon Scarlet and Violet at the end of last year has totally poisoned the discourse when it comes to what the Switch is capable of.
Those aren’t a handsome pair, it’s true, but cherry-picking ugly games that were likely rushed to a strict deadline, then holding them up as the pinnacle of a console’s capabilities is a dumb, bad-faith argument. It’s like saying the PS5 is weak because Balan Wonderworld exists. Yes, sorry for the reminder – it does still exist.
Sure, the Switch’s 2015 mobile SoC is showing its age as the 9th console generation thunders along, but in the right hands, it’s still capable of pumping out some impressive results, and there’s no reason why a Call of Duty title for Switch couldn’t look fantastic. This thing can run Crysis Remastered, for crying out loud!
Let’s take that example and run with it – the game that famously brought the highest-of-high-end PCs mercilessly to their knees, now runs perfectly well on the pocket-sized Switch, retaining its fully-destructible environments while introducing a completely overhauled, voxel-based, real-time Global Illumination lighting engine.
And how about Alien Isolation, which our friends at Digital Foundry concluded looks even better than the PlayStation 4 version? What about DOOM Eternal, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and Dying Light, which, despite their concessions, are all incredibly impressive and playable ports in their own right?
Look, we’re not for one minute suggesting that a potential Switch version would be the best-looking on the market, by any stretch – truth be told, I think Microsoft is probably looking to release on Nintendo’s next-generation machine at this point – but to suggest it’d be some sort of hideous, poorly-performing mess seems strange, and conveniently ignores plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Microsoft has already shown it’s willing to put in the effort to provide a fantastic experience for Nintendo players. When work started on the Switch port of Ori and the Will of the Wisps – a game that struggled on Xbox One X at launch, let’s not forget – developer Moon Studios was hitting around 20fps in an early build.
It initially looked like a 30fps target would be the ceiling, but with some hard work and smart optimisation, the team managed to get the final game running at a buttery smooth 60fps, something that just didn’t seem feasible at the start.
Of course, a sidescrolling adventure like Ori has about as much in common with an FPS as Leonardo Di Caprio has with his lovers, so it’s not exactly an apples-with-apples comparison. But the point is – with some intense optimisation, sensible cutbacks, and dogged determination, developers have shown that you can get almost anything to run on Nintendo’s plucky little hybrid machine. And I don’t see anything in Call of Duty that would make it the exception.
It’s true that the Switch can struggle more with large, open-area experiences on account of its aging CPU, so something like Warzone could potentially pose a bit of a challenge. We’ve definitely seen that titles like Apex Legends and Fortnite, while perfectly playable, don’t exactly run optimally on Switch, but a more traditional, map-based CoD shouldn’t pose much of a threat.
I’m not talking about a port of Call of Duty Mobile here – although in fairness, that game is actually excellent and I’d welcome it with open arms – or even a dreaded cloud version. If you’ve read our Best Switch Ports feature, then you’ll already know that titles like NieR: Automata, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Overwatch, Dragon Quest XI and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice have all received native Switch ports that look and perform admirably.
Let’s also not forget that the golden era of the series was arguably during the reign of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Legendary titles like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and its sequel are still upheld as the pinnacle of the genre by many, and ran at 60fps on hardware that the Switch handily beats out.
So while Twitter edgelords may reply to CoD Switch tweets with hilarious screenshots of modded Minecraft or PS1-era shooters (they’re trying, god bless ‘em) we only need to look back at the last two entries on Nintendo hardware for a glimpse of what’s actually possible.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Call of Duty: Ghosts were perfectly good-looking entries on the less powerful Wii U. I revisited both titles recently, and I feel confident in saying that nobody would be disappointed with that sort of graphical fidelity in their pocket, something that the Switch is more than capable of delivering at a rock-solid 60fps.
Going further back, we’ve even seen instalments on Wii, Nintendo GameCube and (seriously) Nintendo DS. If that comes as a surprise to you, then you’ve quite obviously not read our recent Brief History feature. And for that, you must go to bed without any supper.
It’s been 10 years since Ghosts launched for Wii U, and the Call of Duty development teams have naturally moved on to a much more modern and sophisticated game engine. But Microsoft is confident that it’s a scalable one, backed up by the fact it’s still supported by the Xbox One, and PC GPUs from as far back as 2015. They don’t seem worried, so why are you?
No, not you. Or you. Nope, behind you. The dude about to deploy the PS1 Medal of Honor gif. No, the othe— ah, forget it!
Let us know your thoughts on CoD’s Switch prospects below.