Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pax East 2011 - Duke Nukem Forever Impressions

I’m not sure why I didn’t write about Duke Nukem Forever first, considering: A) I’ve been waiting 12 years for this game to be released, B) my handle for everything is “Dukefrukem” and C) I quote this game(and Army of Darkness) close to 37 times a day. But I was lucky enough to wait 2 hours in line to play the 20 minute demo of Duke Nukem Forever at Pax East on Sunday, the follow up of the 1996 critically acclaimed release Duke Nukem 3D. What did I think?
Well if you’re not familiar with DNF let me brush up on the history. It was announced back in 1997 that a new Duke Nukem game was in the works and a trailer was even released during E8 in 2008 (see below). The game used the “Quake II engine” and was even close to being completed. A few months later, Epic unveiled their new “Unreal engine” which was more realistic and could feature better open areas in game, so in late 1998 it was decided to scrap the game and start over using Epic’s “Unreal engine”.

Three years later another trailer was released during E3 2001 showcasing the changes that were made to the game’s gameplay and graphics. (see below) It was considered the most impressive showing at E3 at the time. In 2004, the website gamespot reported that the development team and switched the engine a 2nd time, moving to the Doom 3 engine. By 2009, most of the funding at dried up at 3D Realms and the development team asked their publisher (Take-Two ) for an extra $6 million to finish the game. Take-Two countered with $2.5 million now and $2.5 million after the game was completed. The development team refused and all development on Duke Nukem Forever was put on hold.

Luckily, some fans of the Duke Nukem series at Gearbox (a large developer of the popular game Borderlands) offered to buy the Intellectual Property and finish the game. After the Gearbox acquisition, it was confirmed by a Gearbox developer DNF was using an heavily modified Unreal 3 engine and mentioned that 3D Realms had “rewrote, replaced, rewrote again, replaced again, iterated, modified, rewrote yet again”. Fast forward to present time and the game is completed and will be released on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on May 3rd 3011. (Final Trailer is below)

It’s great finally getting to play it, but let me start off by saying Duke Nukem Forever is nowhere near worth the 15 year wait… and I don’t think people expect it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m buying it the day it’s released, but you can tell by the gameplay DNF tries to many things aside from being a first person shooter.
The demo starts with Duke taking a leak in the bathroom. Yeh you literally need to hold the right trigger on the controller for the pee stream to be shown. (see trailer if you don’t believe me) Once Duke is done, he goes into a briefing room where soldiers are getting prepared for something. There’s a whiteboard setup with a drawing of a large alien. Duke can pick up pens and erasers and draw on the whiteboard and whatever you decide to draw, one of the soldiers will proclaim, “Oh man! Great plan Duke!”
When you’re done mapping out your strategy you find out you were actually in the locker-room of a football stadium. Outside on the field, there’s a 100 foot alien Duke needs to fight. (sound familiar Duke fans?) Duke grabs the nearest gun and the game throws you head to head with the 100 foot alien. After a long battle, the alien falls to the ground and Duke proceeds to kick the alien’s eyeball through the uprights. Immediately after this happens, the screen pans outward from a TV screen and you realize you have been playing Duke, playing Duke. Duke is holding a controller and there are two women (dressed in school girl outfits, as seen below) on their knees in front of Duke. One of them stands up, wipes her mouth and asks, “but what about the game Duke, was it any good?” Duke responds: “yeh but after 12 fuckin years it should be.”

The demo fast forwards to a driving level and you find yourself in a desert like environment, with all the guns from the first game; shotgun, chain gun, RPG, pipe bombs (which are detonated using Duke’s monster truck car remote) and of course, the shrink ray. Duke is fighting the enemies from the first game as well, Pig Cops and other mutants as he makes his way down a desert valley in his Monster Truck and makes his way into a mine shaft.

The game has no rhyme or reason for some of the environments Duke encounters. Why would Duke need to enter a mine shaft? Maybe this is explained in the full version of the game? And it does not look like much thought was put into an immersive story but rather someone listed a bunch of neat places Duke could be thrown into. In the game’s defense, it does feel like a Duke Nukem game, Crude, corky and plenty of T&A. Nothing innovative will be featured in Duke Nukem Forever but the real question is, will the game end up play like REAL sequel and a parody of itself? Or will it play like unfinished cash grab?