Being one of the people that had their first taste of Duke Nukem Forever
at the beginning of June when the demo was released, I would say that those of you that werenít in the First Access Club and had to wait are actually better off. I talked about this at length in the most recent Firing Points
, but the way that Gearbox handled this demo business was lazy and haphazard at best. Not only was it an old build of the game (the same one shown at PAX last year), the level choices were not good ones at all. I guess I can understand including the very first level of DNF, which is a remake of the final boss level in Duke 3D
, but the second was one of the dullest and poorly designed in the entire game. Despite that somewhat souring my expectations going in, I found myself enjoying the real thing immediately after beating that Cycloid boss for the umpteenth time. My suspicions of the demo not offering a fair glimpse into the game were confirmed and I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.
Unlike previous Duke Nukem
games that drop you straight into the action, thereís actually a rather lengthy introduction/tutorial sequence that you go through before you even receive your first weapon. Along the way, thereís a wide variety of things to play with, including light switches, food and drink, toilets, water coolers, eager fans and admirers, microwaves, rats, etc. Some of the more unique actions will serve to boost your Ego, which is a meter that represents how much damage you can take before actually being in danger of being injured and seeing blood haze on the screen. Basically, itís like a shield, so when your Ego is hurt, youíre supposed to take cover behind something and wait until it regenerates. If you do get injured, you will recover from that over time, too. There are no health packs in DNF.
There are a few mini-games of various depths throughout the game, such as a bona fide pinball machine and a dry erase whiteboard that you can draw on. Itís actually all of the random interactions sprinkled throughout the game that give DNF its unique flavor and really stick out in your mind when youíre done. Such attention to detail throughout the game and a plethora of easter eggs to stumble upon reward you for taking the time to explore the environment, which is definitely an element thatís missing from most games these days. Stopping to smell the roses may seem somewhat counter-intuitive for such a straightforward run-and-gun shooter, but thatís a part of the Duke charm.
The action itself is about what youíd expect from an old-school FPS: you run around, shoot bad guys that either stand around waiting for you or arrive in dropships and the like, and then kill a boss at the end of every level. Doing the latter automatically (and understandably) boosts your Ego, so you will become more durable over time, even if youíre not exploring. My favorite parts of the game are when Duke gets shrunken down to about the size of a G.I. Joe; one segment has you driving an R/C car through a ruined casino, then becoming full size and fighting your way back through the same area, but the best is when youíre tasked with traversing a fast-food kitchen above a flooded and electrified floor. Youíre having shoot-outs with shrunken pig cops among the jars of hilariously-branded condiments and canned goods, jumping across hamburger buns on a stove to avoid getting burnt, or even riding a waffle being ejected from a toaster like it was an elevator!
The two weapon limit has to be the most annoying thing about Duke Nukem Forever
, especially with the low ammo limit on some guns. There are only rare occasions that you are in danger of running dry though, with ammo crates and weapons lying around all over the place. Even if you do find yourself short on traditional munitions, you still have a whole range of objects in the environment that you can pick up and toss at a bad guy to do some decent damage. Overall, combat is rendered to be much too easy when you have a Halo
-esque recharging shield, even on the highest difficulty setting.