First thoughts: Duke Nukem: Forever demo

That’s right, I’m writing my thoughts about a demo. It’s been in development since the dawn of time, so I thought it was worth sharing my thoughts on it.

Despite the emails from Gearbox indicating that I was some sort of rabid fan, I was included in the Duke Nukem First Access club after buying the Borderlands: Game of the year edition. Still, despite my enthusiasm for the game waning over it’s 12 year development, it’s nice to be included.

My first thoughts? It doesn’t exactly look like a 12-year-old game, more like 6 or 7 years old – not exactly the best first impression. I was actually taken aback a little by how bad it looked in places; it’s obvious that it wasn’t ever going to look fantastic, unless it was released on got released on the first of many release dates,  but I expected an Xbox would be more than capable of running it without having jagged edges everywhere. I also wouldn’t have expected the minor performance issues while it looked as rough around the edges as it does.

Still, it’s essentially an old game being released on new platforms, so judging it on it’s graphics feels a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. Now, I remember seeing a preview for DN:F in the build up to it’s original release in a PC magazine and reading something about being able to shoot individual limbs off your enemies – quite a new idea at the time – and, as disturbing as that sounds, I was quite excited. I had fond memories of Duke Nukem 3D – I was probably 13 or 14 when I first played it, so it’s humour and crassness was perfectly pitched for me at the time – and this looked to be a great follow on.

Fifteen years have now passed since Duke Nukem 3D was released and I’m now 27, so I think it’s fair to say it’s not aimed at my age group anymore, and that’s where I think DN:F will struggle: If you played the original and there’s an element of nostalgia surrounding it, you probably aren’t going to be amused by being able to throw shit at the bathroom walls or topless women everywhere. If you were too young when the original was released and this sort of thing makes you “lol” and/or “rofl”, you’ll probably be put off by the graphics.

I expected to be disappointed, but I wanted to be wrong. It’s a brave move to take a game that’s been in development for so long – a game that’s become synonymous with delays in the gaming industry – and decide you’re going to release it after all, and you’d think that that was a sign of it’s underlying quality; It may be dated, but it’s still fun. Or not. The graphics in DN:F have clearly had some polish since it’s original development, but on the evidence of the demo, the gameplay hasn’t.

I was bored a few minutes in – there’s very little here to keep you interested, let alone excited about the full game. An early part of the demo level is, I assume, supposed to feel open, but it’s tiny by today’s standards and still feels sparse and sterile, and the AI consists of enemies running towards you and firing until you kill them. The controls don’t feel too bad, but then it’s very rare that an FPS will feel anything other than solid these days, so it doesn’t really stand out as anything other than average.

Amazingly, with my low, low expectations, I aimed too high. Yes, it’s only a demo, but what’s shown here just makes me want to brace myself for the bad reviews, and certainly doesn’t give me any cause for optimism; the groundwork for the game is here and it doesn’t look good. Still, at least you can still blow the limbs off your enemies, in a ‘shoot them until them disappear’ sort of way.

2 thoughts on “First thoughts: Duke Nukem: Forever demo

  1. Good review. Just saw your comment on Eurogamer and the negative votes added to it. (most of them coming from the Duke fanboys, I guess). I’m also a 27 year-old gamer who waited for this game for so long, and got disappointed after trying out the demo so I completely understand what you are saying. I hope you haven’t bought the full game because it doesn’t get better after the opening level.

    1. I thought it might have been voted down due to my shameless plugging, but it is a Eurogamer comments section.

      I didn’t buy it, no. I wanted it to be good, but didn’t really have much hope.

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