Previews

Duke Nukem Forever: First Access Demo thoughts by Allison James

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.

Demo Review - Skate 3 by Allison James

Having very much enjoyed, and still being an owner and player of, both Skate and Skate 2, I felt a level of excitement suddenly born inside myself when I heard a friend mention the existance of a demo of the third instalment being publically available. I've now managed to give it a play, to mixed feelings.My first impressions were good. It appears that they've completely dropped the grunge act they had going in the first two games. Skate had erosion abundantly, its sequel not quite so much but still a fair bit. It seems now to be shiny, good-looking interface-wise and definitely an improvement. Having said that, I'm surprised they dropped it - as cliché and boring as it's gotten over the last decade, it seems to be a staple for any game where its average player might refer to friends as "brothers" and anything that looks rather pleasant as "rad", "cool", "wicked", or any other buzzword that got boring years ago but remains in heavy usage.

Before I got into the game I was given a set of options. These included a new difficulty mode (I started with "Normal", more on this later), the choice between the two camera angles Skate 2 had (I chose the further-away, slightly-more-overhead one, the dynamic one makes me feel sick), and a choice between five characters (presumably a demo-only feature as the two before it had you make your own character).

So, into the game. I was greeted with some douche with an annoying face and a more annoying voice. I skipped his stuff as quickly as I could, completed the first task (with a rather pleasant 180 kickflip) then got away from the goals and went to spend my 20 minutes of demo time in the small allowed area.

I spent five minutes just trying out all my favourite, and all the generic, manoeuvres from Skate 2. The kickflips, the ollies, the twists, the grinds, the obligatory Hippie jumps etc. To be honest, it felt worse than 2. The Hippie jump in particular feels really floaty in comparison to the old version. Getting off your board and moving on foot, however, is much, much better. Skate 2's walking was as good as broken, with what must've been an attempt at dynamic running ending up as spasticated can't-turn-very-well running. With Skate 3, it's whichever-way-the-stick-is-pointed that's-the-direction-you-run-in. Lovely stuff. But the jumping (not really Hippie jumping because there's no skateboard involved) is just as broken as its boarded counterpart.

I noticed something else which I didn't like. The HUD is just as clean and beautiful as the menus, which is a positive. But the negative is that there's no colour coding for multipliers. With Skate 2, 1.5x resulted in green, 2x resulted in yellow and 3x red. Now, 1.5x is blue, 2x blue and 3x... well, a slightly shinier blue. But it's still blue so you have to physically glance down to see how many extra points you're getting.

So, with the disappointment of the controls and everything down, I decided to try out the other two difficulty modes to see if they made it better. They did nothing. I couldn't tell the difference between the three. All I know is that if I do get the game in the future I'll be playing it on Hardcore because it'll probably net me more trophies.

I can't comment a huge amount on the music because I'm sure that, being a demo, it's only partial. But the tracks the demo had were crap. I gave them the whole 20 minutes just to see if I started enjoying them after a while, I didn't. I wasn't a fan of Skate 2's soundtrack either though - I either played it muted and with my own music, or just listened to Money For Love's "For Kristoffer" on repeat. So, meh.

Overall though, it's not bad but it's not great. It'll be a future purchase, I'm sure, but there's no chance in hell it'll be a full-on £40 one. I'll likely wait until I can get hold of it for £10-15, maybe £20 - then it'll be more worthwhile. But for now, I'll get my skating-game kicks from Skate 2, while shedding the occasional tear at how badly Tony Hawk's games died. Tony Hawk's RIDE... you son of a bitch.