For a supposedly Mini title, WTF?! is certainly generously stacked.
Kay about Who's that flying?
14 years is a long time. Way back in 1997, I was still at college doing my A-Levels, the UK won the Eurovision song contest and Labour won the General Election making Tony Blair Prime Minster. More significantly than any of these was the announcement by 3D Realms that they were working on a sequel to their highly successful FPS – Duke Nukem 3D. Only in hindsight could they have known how prophetic the title of this new game – Duke Nukem Forever – would be.
So here we have a game, which has supposedly been in development hell for the past 14 years. Passing through a multitude of different publishers and developers; most of us have assumed that it’s been cancelled or wondered whether it actually ever existed. However, this all changed when it was announced in late 2010 that Gearbox had picked up this poisoned chalice of a game, with release planned for May 2011.
While that release date has now been and gone, I can confirm that not only does Duke Nukem Forever exist and is finished, but that I have been fortunate enough to actually play it!
I have only had the chance to sample the multiplayer modes within Duke Nukem Forever (DNF), so am not in a position to comment on the single player campaign.
Multiplayer appears to be a fairly standard affair – with modes including Team, and every-man-for-himself deathmatch, although we are promised a few surprises. One of the initially more intriguing prospects is Duke’s take on Capture the Flag. Instead if fighting over a coloured piece of cloth on a stick, Capture the Babe, sees two teams trying to capture the aforementioned female, and returning her to their base. The slight twist on the theme is that as you carry her back, she’ll place her hand over your face, restricting your vision. This is easily solved, however, by a quick slap of her arse. Subtle DNF is not.
Deathmatch is a fast paced, frantic affair. Maps are compact and fairly simple, although they need to be with the number of players capped at 8. This simplicity also extends to the feel of the game – it’s easy to pick up and get to grips with and it feels like there’s a level playing field between novice and experienced players. Furthermore, the weapons are well balanced (and familiar to anyone who still remembers Duke Nukem 3D), with there being no single ‘best weapon’, thus avoiding the initial dash to the more powerful hardware seen in some other online shooters.
My initial impressions from what I’ve seen are pretty positive – I like the accessibility, meaning that I was not left defenceless against some of the more hardened game journalists and was able to hold my own. I like the tongue-in-cheek humour which pervades the game. I like the focus on fun and that DNF never takes itself too seriously.
But, and there is a pretty big but(t): DNF has the feel of a game which has been in development for the past 14 years – it has an ‘Old Skool’ feel to it; that despite the huge leaps forward in the genre over the past decade, DNF doesn’t appear to offer anything genuinely new or innovative. Furthermore, while the accessibility is great, it does raise concerns over the longevity and depth of this aspect of the game. There is no real sense of progression within the multiplayer modes; while you do ‘level up’; doing so only unlocks character skins and accessories. There are no additional weapons, health or armour on offer to reward those who sink their life into the online mode and as such, I wonder if anyone will still be playing it years after release.
For those of us who’re simply glad to have Duke back in our lives, there’s plenty to be pleased about: The game ‘feels’ like a Duke Nukem game - it’s still full of juvenile humour and smutty innuendo (one of the maps we played included a giant green vagina, surrounded by phallic tentacles). Furthermore, I am informed that the game remains true to 3D Realms’ vision for Duke. Apparently Gearbox received a fundamentally complete game, and have spent the past months balancing, polishing and optimising for the current hardware.
My limited time with DNF leaves me with a mixed view – it’s great that the game is on the verge of being released after so long in purgatory, and what I’ve played of the game is fun, frantic and left me wanting more. Yet at the same time, I have to question the longevity and depth of multiplayer, and crucially whether the Single Player game matches the current genre benchmarks.
And what’s the shit-flinging all about?!