Saturday, June 4, 2011

IMPRESSIONS - The Duke Nukem Forever demo.


I have mixed feelings about this demo. Well, not really mixed. Lopsided. On the one hand, I think it's mostly awful. On the other, I must admit that it precisely captures the attitude and gameplay of now-classic FPS Duke Nukem 3D.

It has the most one-note shooting gameplay I have ever seen on the current gen. Enemies will shoot at and rush you, with what one could easily take for ten-year-old AI routines. The enemies themselves look flat, lifeless and uninteresting.

The world is flat, sparse, lifeless and uninteresting. The weapons are FPS standbyes that don't feel particularly powerful or vital in the hand.

There are a few first-person animation sequences of falling/pulling yourself up that looks fine, and nothing more.

If this were any other game, the demo would be an unmitigated disaster. But it's not any other game - it's a... I'm sorry, I should say the. It's The Duke Nukem game - and that allows it one saving grace, which makes it an occasionally entertaining jaunt through ancient design tropes and mechanics.


It's Duke himself. Yesterday, I challenged Blue to name a single FPS protagonist.

"Master Chief," he said, almost instantly.

"And how much personality does he have?"

The answer is not much. Duke, on the other hand, like the hipster mathematician in Jurassic Park, suffers from (and enjoys) an excess of personality. He's funny! He regularly breaks the 4th wall, he's constantly going just over the top enough to surprise you, and - like us - he is so steeped in popular and gaming culture that references are liberally tossed out which elicit a sly smile or a full-on chuckle from his audience.

It's fun, for that reason alone. Beyond the comedy - beyond the player-character - there is nothing to exalt in this demo.

Now, let's hold on to our hats. This is the demo they showed at PAX last year - it's almost ten months old. They've had nearly a year to bang together a game that looks and plays much better than this.

Let's hope Gearbox has done just that.

* * *

I feel I should mention, despite my almost-complete loathing of the way the demo plays, looks and feels, I'm still going to pick this up on release day. It just pushes my nostalgia buttons, and I am powerless against that.

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