Thursday, June 23, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Demo Impressions

This past Tuesday the Duke Nukem Forever demo was made available to all Xbox LIVE Gold members, and since I've been waiting for the game since it was announced back in 1997, I gave it a download and fired it up last night.

Wow, just wow; and not in a good way. The demo consists of two levels, the first of which is essentially a more grandiose re-envisioning of the final level of the retail game, Duke Nukem 3D.

It begins with Duke taking a leak at a urinal in first person perspective, and you can essentially choose to keep pissing by holding "RT" or to stop and flush by pressing "X." You'll then notice that Duke is in the locker room of a stadium and you quickly come across some Earth Defence Forces troops who are planning on how to take out the Cycloid Emperor above. Of course, their plans are pretty poor and they're getting mulched.

Duke then traverses the halls of the stadium to get a Devastator and takes an elevator up to the boss fight. The Cycloid Emperor is pretty simple (on Normal), and by strafing you can pound him with Devastator rounds. You annoyingly run out of ammo fast and have to wait for re-supply drops while dodging the Cycloid Emperor's missiles and charges, all of which is no challenge.

The level ends by allowing you to punt his eyeball for a field goal which then transitions to a scene of Duke playing the game with a modified Xbox 360 Controller; this whole level was a video game in the game that he was playing while apparently getting head from the game's version of the Olsen twins.

Now, I personally don't mind such base humour as to me, it fits the character. It worked a lot better back in the mid-'90's since back then FPS characters simply didn't have personalities or dialogue which made Duke unique. It also turned him into an identifiable gaming icon and that's fine by me. My problem was with the lackluster gameplay.

Sure, the entire level was very interactive: You could flush toilets and urinals, turn on faucets and hand dryers, pick up poop and throw it, etc. and while this is all well and good it's nothing overly exciting and doesn't really contribute to the core gameplay. The one-liners from Duke, as I mentioned above, don't bother me and his humour fits him, but I expected better from the other characters in the game. The EDF Captain was an idiot, for example, and instead of laughing I'd just role my eyes at anything he said.

You can draw on the white board they have there to "lay down some plans," and I simply drew a straight line underlining a word already written. The EDF Captain was blown away by how amazing that was and even though he said he couldn't understand any it, he knew that Duke knew what he was doing. Right.

The scripted sequences you come across in the stadium's hallways were alright, but nothing we haven't seen done to better effect elsewhere, and the boss battle itself was very basic.

The second level of the demo was a vehicle and classic combat sequence. You start by driving the single worst vehicle I've ever touched. Yes, it's worse than the Mako. Duke's truck accelerates by pressing "RT" and reverses by pressing "LT" and can boost with "A," but its handling with the Left Stick is horrendous. I actually came close to quitting the demo right there, but decided to plod along complaining about how they've clearly never driven a Warthog before.

Of course, as a friend pointed out, they probably designed this level and vehicle before the Warthog was invented.

After doing a jump across a cavern you run out of gas and have to travel into a mine to locate some more. You get to sample a Rail Gun here, Duke's sniper weapon, while capping some Pig Cops in getting to the mine and then there's a mini-boss battle against an alien ship that can only be damaged with Rockets.

In the mine itself you get to handle some of the game's basic puzzles by pushing and using mining carts to traverse the environment. This is nothing horrible, but again, nothing special.

Having re-read this post, I can safely say that I'm not putting a lot of heart into it, and that's just because of how underwhelmed I was with the demo. It was disappointing and to a word, mediocre. The purpose of any demo is to motivate me to buy the retail product and to leave me wanting more. The Duke Nukem Forever demo did anything but, and after completing it I promptly removed it from my HDD.

I can deal with the older graphics, the humour, and the long load times that appear to be par for the course, but for any game the gameplay is what it's all about and the demo simply didn't demonstrate anything to write home about. It did feel sloppy, which is sad given how long the game was in development for, and based on the demo alone there's no way I can recommend the retail game at full price.

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