Friday, June 24

The Man Vs The Fan: My First Impressions of Duke Nukem Forever

By now everyone has heard about Duke Nukem Forever – a game thought lost to the trials and tribulations of an industry gone mad, only to be revived, delayed and finally delivered after 12 years. Now it’s released and The Fan inside me is going nuts – an iconic childhood hero is returning to the lime light and life is exciting. Unfortunately The Man is keeping The Fan down, looking at the game like an adult, and, like a true 1950’s TV dad, is ready to shake his head in disapproval.

The game starts off with Duke having to dispose of a giant boss in a sports arena. Once destroyed, the camera pans out to reveal Duke playing his own game. As you head off to another TV interview, the same aliens from Duke Nukem 3D invade earth again and steal all the babes. Once your twin babes are taken, the kid gloves are off and Duke runs off to kick ass and chew bubble gum.

The Good
Duke Nukem Forever is actually quite funny. Sure you’ll laugh at bits that aren’t meant to be funny but for the most part, you’ll laugh for all the right reasons. Whether it be at Duke’s quips or the games’ nuances (such as his various awards, the name of the casino he calls home, signage etc) there are many entertaining moments.

Secondly, the game is so absurd that its’ unbelievable premise actually becomes sound. Being missing in action for a decade means that it hasn’t evolved like modern day first person shooters so it still plays like an early 90’s adventure platformer turned 3D shooter. It does things differently – who needs armour when you can drink beer to become less vulnerable to attacks? Rather than get a health boost, take steroids and become stronger than ever. Although a long way from the cola he drank in the first game, this different view on power ups and bonuses is refreshing.

Finally I also liked how the control setup options were labelled. After using the default for a while I got frustrated and needed to change it. Strangely enough, the setting named Duty Calls was quite comfortable and familiar. Gee, I wonder why.

Fan status: laughing out loud at jokes and loving the little things that make Duke, Duke. Childhood is returning and life is good.
Man status: the good is good and The Man is happy.

The Bad
This game is frustrating in two ways. Firstly, t he scripting and NPC voice acting isn’t all that great. Why do I care about the NPC acting? Because they are meant to tell me where to go or what to do! The sound is so low on these characters and I often found myself spending much more time on a puzzle or area than I should have. Sure I heard when the randy Mum suggestively said she would go down with me any time (selective hearing perhaps?), but the main reason I hit the guy behind the talk show was because my hands came up. The only time I can recall hearing any coherent conversation from the NPCs was when there was no action or music.

Secondly, the level direction is quite inconsistent. By this I mean some levels are simple to navigate with clear direction, while others are quite difficult to find your way around. A perfect example is an early level where Duke is running through his mansion, is shrunk down and drives around in a remote control car. Not only was this painfully long, I got lost way too often. Everything looks the same and is very confusing – at one stage I thought I was going backwards but as it turns out, I was going the right way.

In contrast, when running around the Las Vegas streets, some areas were quite easy to navigate. So easy in fact that I found a battery for a crane that I didn’t even know I had to get. I found it after following four arrows telling me to climb the crane. Why couldn’t the car level have this much signage?

Fan status: still happy with the game but the excitement is waning. Duke is still throwing out the odd funny line to keep me happy.
Man status: solitary disapproving head shakes are accompanied with tsk’s. The Man is not happy.

The Ugly
For a company that had 12 years to create a game, it sure seems rushed. I realise this comment is unfair (and written with reckless abandon around the Internet) but Duke 3D was a great game because it was something new that matched the graphic standard of other FPS’s of the time. Yes, the Pig Cops and mammoth bosses look great from a distance but up close they aren’t as  refined as they could be. The animation, particularly that of his twin babes and military sidekicks, is average at best and caused me to cringe at many stages through my session.

Finally, the load times on the 360 are shocking. I timed anywhere between 30 and 40 seconds each time I died. Because I died a lot, I worked out that during my six hour stint, I could have played an extra 20 minutes or so if the load was reduced to 5-8 seconds. NB The worst part of that sentence was admitting how much I died. As I re-read that statement, I’m shaking my head in disappointment.

Fan status: questioning how much of a fan I really am. Thankfully I’m still entertained by new interactions but I’m so glad I didn’t buy it new (or as a special edition).
Man status: the tsking has stopped but only to be replaced with unhappy grunts and oh’s. Thanks a lot load times and level design.

The Verdict
5.0 (even though it’s first thoughts, I felt like rating it). Ironically, Duke Nukem Forever can be reduced down to DNF - I did not finish the game and won’t likely see the conclusion any time soon. Despite only playing the first two chapters, I get the drift of DNF and see little value in it when priced at full retail. The game’s cheap animation and quite average FPS engine is no match for current shooters of today which is its main downfall. In addition, some levels are long and tedious which is why as The Man, I’m disappointed. As The Fan, I’m happy to see Duke return to something of substance (Manhattan Project doesn’t count as a game in my opinion) and enjoy a cheap laugh or two while throwing poo and slapping boobs on a wall. Had it not been for the fan element, DNF would’ve received a much lower score. Larger than life characters are rare in today’s world of realistic gaming and few can pull it off like Duke.

4 comments:

  1. I started playing last night, and my word it is horrible. The audio sounds like it was recorded in a dank basement. The textures are ugly and washed out. Also, I agree with your observations regarding navigation: I got lost in the studio for about 5 minutes

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  2. Did you notice how easy it is to earn achievements? They basically give them away. Whilst I predict it won't be long til DNF is reduced significantly it will be a while until I pick it up again. That hive section with the Octo brains is a pain in the bum

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  3. Yeah it was like a cheevo giveaway for the first hour. Only got to the bit where you drive around the mansion after massive shrinkage. Happy it was released, but it should have been a 360 launch title. Lord knows it looks like one!

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