Friday, June 3, 2011

Preview: Duke Nukem Forever

There's no words that can do the opening to this text justice.

Duke Nukem Forever was announced in 1997, began as a sidescroller, then became a FPS in the Quake II engine showed at E3 in 1998. It was delayed and rebuilt in the Unreal engine and set to release in 2001, it's after this we all remember it. Because Duke Nukem Forever has not been released yet, it's releasing in a week. Members of the First Access Club got an exclusive downloadable demo today and I'm sitting now after spending about an hour on it writing my personal impressions.

Duke Nukem Forever is a lot of fun, that's something I can certainly not deny. The humour is in classic Duke Nukem 3D fashion along with some renewal here and there. Jon St. John portrayal of our hero sounds just a perfect today as it did in 1996. But the demo is not perfect by any means. First of all, let's get gameplay summed up.

DNF plays like a classic 90's FPS with some few modern elements added in. The main elements here are Regenerative Health and a Two Weapon Limit. The health system feels out of place, but while playing I didn't feel that it detracted to much of the Duke experience, there's still a chance of course for a harder difficulty supporting classic health like GoldenEye on Wii did. However, the two weapon limit might be the most controversial of the changes. I'm personally really not a fan of it at all, it just doesn't fit in this style of game.

I can understand Counter Strike doing it and I can understand Call of Duty doing it as they're trying to be as realistic as possible, but when it comes to a classic unrealistic FPS in the style of the 90's titles like Duke, Doom, Quake, Half-Life or even some modern ones like Prey, Bioshock or F.E.A.R. it just feels wrong. Thankfully there is something that slightly makes up for this, because there's A LOT of weapons around the map, so most often if you want to change your weapon you can probably find it in  a corner somewhere, and you can also pick up your own dropped weapon of course.

Apart from that it's good old run-and-gun, crouching behind something when needed and the addition of vehicles is something that felt like it can be really fun in the full game, we did not get to drive that much in the demo. The weapons I found in the "open" map after the introduction was the Shotgun, Ripper (Machine Gun), RPG, Shrink Ray and a Railgun. They all felt very fun and worked the way they should, the Railgun feels straight out of Quake II except it has a proper scope rather than the, so it's more like Quake IV in that regard.

The first map was the introduction to the game, which is pretty much a remake of the ending of Duke Nukem 3D, you've all seen it by now, it looks good and it's fun. Very easy, but fun. After this we're thrown into Anderson's Mine, any follower of Duke media during these years will remember this part from the two old builds. The map is a whole lot of fun with driving, gunning, mini-boss and even the mine-cart sequence I've been waiting for, which in the end was very short.

The game gets hard though, towards the middle. The map I'm talking about is very unforgiving, even though there's stuff like Pipebombs and Beer that increase your toughness for a bit you'll probably die a lot. This is certainly because of the classic design of the game however, the regular enemies rarely tries to flank you but instead unleashes their ammo on you while running towards you, and even if you don't think it, that's pretty deadly when you're facing five at the same time and try to pick them out with your slow Railgun.

The game looked a bit unpolished however, more so that some demos I've seen played by the press. I played in 720p on the Xbox 360, it's possible that the game looks better on PS3 or PC, in fact, I can probably guarantee it looks better on PC as it was built for it. Another reason for this would be that it's an old build, I can't confirm this, but judging by the content this is probably the same build as on PAX last year, which would explain the lack of some polishing like anti-alising. However, the fact that it's on Unreal Engine means that the mandatory texture-lag is here and is still annoying.

In the end, it's a fun demo that works in hyping me for the main game in 7 days, but the problem is that the it's not just the game that's hyped. We heard about this exclusive demo back in November, and we've been eagerly awaiting it, for a single-player-only experience with two maps that we've already seen before we even heard about the demo. A bit disappointing, but in the end, it's a fun demo and the game looks like it will be a lot of fun as well. Always bet on Duke? You know what, maybe I will.

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