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Some Thoughts on Duke Nukem Forever - June 5, 2011

When I had a dream I was playing Duke Nukem Forever a few nights ago, I realized just how much I wanted to play this game, and I couldn’t help but resist pre-ordering it on Steam. I remember back in 2000, one of the sites I visited most frequently was the 3D Realms website so that I could see the latest information on the game. (The other site I visited frequently was Raven’s website because I was also looking forward to Soldier of Fortune.) Now, finally, over a decade later I’m going to be able to play this game.

Duke Nukem 3D was the first first-person-shooter I ever played. Before that, I had watched someone play Doom so I knew the genre existed, but the first time I ever got to sit down and play a shooter was with Duke. It was 1997, a friend of mine brought the disk over and installed the game, we were going to play over the modem. Being that Duke Nukem 3D didn’t have very good modem support that didn’t exactly work out, but the single-player game was what really impressed me.

As soon as I was playing this game I realized how much better this game was than Doom or anything else I’d seen. Duke Nukem actually had character. He wasn’t just some nameless guy shooting down hosts of baddies. He was a vulgar, crass, ill-mannered, choose-your-synonym guy with a vocal personality. Not only that, but the game was much more violent, and that was exciting. One of my favorite things about the game was that when you shot someone, blood splattered all over the wall behind them. Then of course there was the pipe-bomb. I don’t need to say anything more about that. I loved the game so much that I made a poster of Duke and put it up in my locker at school.

I also have some good memories about the Duke Nukem 3D disk. Along with the game it came with the full versions of Duke Nukem 1 and Duke Nukem 2, which are obscure side-scrolling games. I actually played through all the episodes of Duke Nukem 1. What I played the most, though, was the first episode of Duke Nukem 3D.

I had a lot of fun with that game. One time a friend of mine and I tried to make it through the very first level on the Damn, I’m Good difficulty setting. (Quite frankly, I got a kick out of the fact that the difficultly setting was called Damn, I’m Good.) Neither of us could do it. I thought it was the toughest difficulty setting ever. That is until years later when I discovered mouse aiming and I played through the first two campaigns on the Damn, I’m Good difficulty setting without trouble.

I also had fun with the map editor. Naturally as a teen I made levels exhibiting all the women in the game, and I even went a little further than level design and made a mod that is so embarrassing that I won’t describe it here.

I played the game again about two years ago. This time with the High Resolution Pack installed. It was still the same great game I remembered. This game was made in the days when you could walk into a room of monsters, blow every last one of them to bits, then walk out without a scratch. That is what Duke Nukem 3D offered, and that was what was so satisfying about the game.

In just over a week the sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, will finally be released. I’m very excited to play it. The game has been in development for twelve years, and for those who don’t know, it was originally developed by 3D Realms, but when they ran out of money the rights to the game were acquired by Take Two Interactive, who gave the project to Gearbox Software to finish. I’m happy that Gearbox took over. I think they have produced some really great games, especially Borderlands and Half-Life: Opposing Force. I’m confident that these guys know what they are doing.

I admit I’m a little worried, though. As a Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition owner, I was invited to the first access club for Duke Nukem Forever, and, with that, a brief demo of the game. The first part of the demo I’d seen before, it was the end boss fight of the original game, which was seen in the teaser video from a few years ago. That part of the demo was very cool, very fun, but something about it bothered me. I kept having to get more ammo to keep shooting. The way I remember that boss fight in the original game is that I was already stock full of ammo and it was just a matter of shooting like crazy. I didn’t really like having to run around to resupply. This part of the demo was only someone disconcerting, however.

What bothered me more, was the rest of the demo. First of all the game has checkpoint saves, which isn’t the worst thing I can think of, but it was a little irritating. Second, and more importantly, it didn’t feel like the original game. I ran into a group of baddies, and I didn’t walk away without a scratch. Instead, I got killed! I got killed by a group of baddies that I should have been able to take out. This happened on the medium difficult setting. I also found that I had to hide behind cover to regenerate my health. Duke had to hide?! I couldn’t believe it. Duke Nukem doesn’t take cover, he is the cover. That really bothered me.

I admit, I’m a little unsure. I feel like the game mechanics won’t be true to the original game, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to play as a seemingly invincible macho man. I’m not so sure that that is what I’m going to get. I’ll see, though, I guess. I’m just crossing my fingers that the demo level wasn’t a particularly great level. I should also say it was a wide open outdoor level, so that may have had some effect on the play, since there really weren’t any rooms to run into per se.

I do expect to have fun playing the game no matter what. I mean, there will be disappointments, but hopefully the fun aspects outweigh them. I think most people will be going into this game with expectations and a judgmental attitude, and they have every right. We waited for twelve ***bleeping*** years after all!


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