Duke Nukem Forever: The first two hours

Oldschool or just old?

From what we’ve seen so far, fans of the original Duke Nukem 3D will be most pleased. The humor, the level design, the puzzles, and the pacing of the action will all make you feel like you’ve just come home after a long trip. The game looks great, visually, with excellent throwbacks to the oldschool shooters of yesteryear. Admire yourself in the mirror, and you’ll see the reflection of an almost laughably retro model of Duke Nukem. With his rigid posture and purposefully awkward jump animations, it almost looks like the model for Duke Nukem hasn’t changed at all since 1996. But walk through a bit of rain and see the water dripping down Duke’s badass shades, pan over the ruined landscape of Las Vegas in ruins, or take some time to poke at every object you cross, and you’ll find a level of attention to detail that goes a long way towards explaining why this game has been in development for so long.

Above: DNF has all the hallmarks of a modern shooter, with detailed set pieces and slick event sequences, but it always manages to feel more like a shooter from the late 90s than anything else

That being said, the oldschool-ness of Duke will be a bit of a double edged sword. In a way, backtracking to find that particular door you missed earlier or banging your head against simple puzzles brings back the kind of challenges we didn’t realize we’ve been missing after years of smooth, more linear campaigns that make us feel like action stars as we constantly just press forward and onward with minimal frustration. But it’s also a reminder of why we may not see games like this anymore these days.

Above: For some reason, pee pee humor pissed us off in the Postal games. But it feels great in DNF. What a relief!

Above: During firefights like these, there were times when DNF stumbled a bit with some jerky movements that made it hard to keep enemies in our sights

During one boss fight, we faced monstrously obese alien raining rockets on us from above. We tried fighting him the way we might approach a boss in a Halo game. Every time we tried to stand up to him face-to-face, dodging his attacks and blasting him whenever we had a free moment, we died. In the end, we kited him into a narrow hallway where we let the boss kill himself by crossing over a series of trip mines we laid out before him. It felt cheap, like we were cheating. But you know what? It also felt great at the same time. Because that’s exactly the kind of thing we used to do to beat old Doom bosses or to clear areas in a Serious Sam game, the kind of thing that fits perfectly in the world of Duke Nukem.

The action itself also felt rough at times. It should be noted that we were still playing an early build of the game, but there were times when firefights made Duke Nukem Forever feel more old than oldschool. Sometimes we found it hard to keep enemies in our sights as they bounced about the screen jerkily.

Above: Once you down this boss, you'll be able to properly humiliate him with a flurry of punches to the groin

Above: Duke Nukem Forever has some balls. Big, boss balls that you beat with your bare fists

Still, all nitpickery aside, we can’t help remaining utterly excited about Duke Nukem Forever. It seems like shooters lost their sense of humor somewhere along the line. Whether you have fond memories of Duke Nukem 3D or are a complete stranger to the series, mark our words: Duke Nukem Forever will leave its mark on this industry when it releases this May.

Let the haters hate. Our firsthonest to goodness lookat Duke Nukem Forever suggests that thiswill beexactly the kind of game we wanted to play years ago, today. The attitude, the toilet humor, the unaplogetic Al Bundy-ness of the lady loving Duke: it's all there. Red barrels will explode, steroid-powered punches will be thrown, and legions of pig cops will fall as you mow them down with heavy machine gun fire. Duke Nukem Foreveris finally coming, and it'sgoing to take you back tothe time when it was okay fora hero to have some balls, when taking cover was for pussies, and when strategy and tactics meant doing whatever it took to win. The Duke is back, and it’s about damn time.

Feb 9, 2011