In just a few short days, 2K Games and Gearbox Software will release a game that has been in development for a staggering 14 years. I’ve never waited 14 years for anything, ever, and Duke Nukem Forever’s protracted development has dragged it kicking and screaming through so many engine changes, wiped slates and legal disputes that I genuinely gave up hope that it would ever see the light of day. So imagine my surprise when back in September last year, Gearbox shocked the gaming press, myself and anyone else who still cared with a surprise showing of Duke Nukem Forever at the Penny Arcade Expo.
Now even as a die-hard Duke Nukem fan, I have been quietly anxious about how the long-awaited follow-up to my favourite FPS ever would actually turn out, despite my outspoken adamant claims that it would be the best thing ever. Having just played through a short demo of the game, most of my fears have been alleviated. The demo kicked off with Duke, well, relieving his bladder in the gents’ toilets at a stadium. But there’s no time for “peeing around” (I’ve had to censor myself here) because there’s an alien invasion afoot and, obviously, Duke’s the only one who can save us. So after zipping up and a quick rendezvous with some Earth Defence Force soldiers – during which you’re able to add your two pence to a whiteboard depicting “Operation Cockblock”, provided you can cope with the inhuman positions in which you’ll need to bend your fingers and thumbs – it’s time to tackle the problem head-on. I made my way through the stadium sans weapon while aliens and the EDF battled in the corridors until I came across a classic Duke Nukem weapon: the Devastator, a twin-barrelled rocket launcher that would come in handy against the gargantuan Cycloid I had to take down.
After an extremely easy fight against the Cycloid and the revelation that the entire stadium scene was simply Duke playing a game starring himself, the demo fast-forwarded to the Nevada Desert, which saw Duke trundling over rough terrain in a huge monster truck. The truck subsequently runs out of gas and from then on in the demo takes place in the desert and within an abandoned mineshaft as Duke attempts to hunt down some more gas so he can keep on moving. The demo showcased a great variety of guns; most of them classic weapons that long-time Duke fans will instantly recognise. There was a pistol, a shotgun, the triple-barrelled Ripper machine gun, a RPG launcher and the Shrink Ray, along with the new Railgun. Overall it felt like a good selection of firearms – although you can only carry two at a time – and it was immediately apparent that a good grasp of which weapon worked best in each situation was the key to staying alive. The Shrink Ray for example, while comical in its ability to shrink enemies down so that you can stomp on them, is highly impractical when faced with large groups of enemies. Likewise, the Railgun is nigh-on useless in close-quarters combat, however, zooming in on distant enemies, pulling the trigger and watching their heads expand and explode is great fun.
Going on my time with the demo, Duke Nukem Forever looks to me like it’s shaping up to be a fun FPS that will definitely stand out from other games in the genre thanks to its outlandish weaponry and Duke’s famous one-liners coupled with some solid – if unspectacular – shooting action. However, a few problems did crop up in my time with the demo; first and foremost, the framerate was rather inconsistent. During my fight with the Cycloid and during combat against handfuls of enemies it was adequately smooth but when things got a bit too hectic it would take a slight dip, while the driving section was choppy as hell. How large an impact this will have on the finished product remains to be seen; although I can’t imagine that much of the game will revolve around driving so hopefully the more sizeable dips in framerate will be few and far between. Another slight sore spot I had was with the visuals. It’s not graphically poor by any means – the visuals were sharp and the textures sufficiently detailed, while the enemy character models looked great – but there are far better looking games on the Xbox 360 and the fact that Duke Nukem Forever is running on Unreal Engine 2 really shows after having played Unreal Engine 3-powered show-stoppers such as Gears of War.
Overall, while Duke Nukem Forever probably won’t set the world alight, I’m still positive that Duke Nukem Forever will at the very least provide that kind of fun that you can only get when you switch your brain off and spend ten hours or so shooting at alien scum with entertainingly over-the-top guns while your character makes amusing quips. Whether or not that is actually the case will be revealed upon the game’s release on 10th June, and rest assured that we’ll have a full review of Duke Nukem Forever soon after.
Platform Played – 360
Duke Nukem: Forever will be released 10/06/11 on 360, PS3 and PC