I’ve seen a ton of people outraged at Duke Nukem Forever. It’s of course been in development for ~13 years, going through development hell as 3D Realms, in a quest to make the game perfect, kept messing with the engine it was using. It’s won a pile of vapourware awards for its constant date setbacks and rumoured cancellations.
But now, in a surreal twist, it’s almost here. As in, legitimately. The game is complete and is going to be out (in UK at least) in six days now. It’s an odd feeling. What’s odder is that, thanks to a preorder perk, I’ve just been able to play a demo of it now. Playing a game that’s been in development since I was 7. Jeez.
Now, I went into the demo with very low expectations. Games like Too Human have ruined my expectations of games that have been set back multiple years and are infamous for it, and a lot of people have reportedly cancelled preorders of the game thanks to their poor experience with the first access demo. I can only conclude these people a) have no ability to switch their brains off and just have fucking fun, b) were expecting a Call of Duty/Halo/Battlefield-beating FPS, or c) think they’ve outgrown Duke. The jokes are juvenile, the FPS aspect isn’t the strongest ever, but through this stuff, there was not one point in the demo when I didn’t have a big grin on my face.
Your first control of the game sees a lovely prompt on screen – Press L1 to Urinate. Yep, you’re looking down the hole of a urinal. One piss later, complete with Duke remarks, and you can… well, run into a nearly toilet cubicle, fish out a piece of soggy shit, and start hurling it around the room like a child. Then you can run into a debriefing room, rub all the tactical notes off a white board and draw a big dick with a nazi symbol on it. That’s literally all before you get your hands on a gun.
What can be noted is that you don’t have to do any of this. I’m sure a lot of faux-mature people will scoff, skip it all and be left with the run of the mill FPS. For anyone else, that just wants to have a laugh, they can pick that damn piece of crap up, enjoy Duke’s numerous wisecracks basically deriding himself for such a disgusting act, and watch the stains created from throwing it at things quite realistically deforms itself around whatever it lands on!
So, skipping all that, your first use of a gun comes in the form of a boss. Yep, no grunts yet, just a huge monster that can fire electric pulses at you and charge at you, on a huge American football field. It’s not a difficult boss once you realise where the stockpile of ammo is. Once he’s fallen, you can climb up him, rip off what seems to be some sort of breathing apparatus, then score a touch down by kicking his eyeball straight out of his body. Again, for anyone wanting a serious game, it’s stupid. But with your brain turned off, it’s silly and funny.
The second and demo-final mission sees you in Duke’s van. You drive for a little while, running over grunt enemies and turboing across a ramp (good feeling), but then the gas runs out. You walk to a very nearby mining facility, where some pig-alien-thing enemies shoot at you in a more stereotypical FPS action sequence. A little while in, a big-ass armed ship comes at you, which you can take down with several RPG rocket shots. You then wander through a tunnel area, using minecarts to bridge gaps and collecting pipe bombs, until you find some gas. A quick climb up a load of scaffolding and you can hop into a minecart, be carried rollercoaster-style back to your car (very fun), and fill it with the gas. The demo ends at that point.
Now, that was two goddamn levels. In two levels, I flung shit at a mirror, played on a whiteboard, played American football with a newly defeated boss’ eyeball, drove a truck into enemies and turboed it across ramps, used a shrink ray to kill shrunken enemies with a well-placed stamp, killed them long-distance with a sniper rifle, took out an airship with an RPG, performed acrobatics across scaffolding, used nightvision to navigate dark tunnels, rode a minecart through the majority of a level, and listened to silly but often hilarious Duke remarks throughout the whole process.
My top three games of the year so far, respectively Portal 2, LA Noire and LittleBigPlanet 2, are safe in their places. I get a strong feeling, howver, I’m still going to enjoy the full Duke Nukem Forever game.
But yeah, if you a) have no ability to switch your brain off and just have fun, b) are expecting a Call of Duty/Halo/Battlefield-beating FPS from DNF, or c) think you’re above a few silly, juvenile jokes, then don’t bother with it.