Wake up at 6am, drive from Orange County to San Francisco, eat Little Luccas Sandwiches, play Duke Nukem Forever, drive home, eat some Asa Ramen and Taco Sinaloa. For most, this would be a crazy awesome day. For me… it was Thursday. Yesterday’s Thursday in fact, and as a crazy Duke3D fan who has been waiting for Duke Nukem Forever since high school, it was totally worth it.
A little background about me: I’ve been playing PC games since ~1993 with Doom 1 Shareware. Duke3D was my favorite game in high school. I used to make maps for it and play 1v1 dukematches via dialup modem late at night before school. Currently I play fighting games competitively with Starcraft 2/Black Ops on the side, but over the years I’ve also kept up with most modern FPS games (competitive TF2, casual CS1.6/CS:S/HL/HL2/Prey/Quake3/Quake4/UT2k4/UT2k7/UT3/Crysis/SeriousSam/MW/MW2/BlackOps/BFBC2 etc). Enough about me, back to my trip.
We got our invites on Monday, so we didn’t have a lot of time to get flights at any decent rate etc so the only option left was to drive. We arrived about an hour early, went in to the 2K Games headquarters and were greeted by Duke’s throne:
Wait around for awhile, and a few of the other invitees come in. I didn’t know whether it was going to be a huge 100 fan thing or what, but it turns out there were less than 8 of us invited! Feeling pretty special at this point. We get to talking, and most of us have a fear that the preview was going to be on console (as most of us prefer PC!) Soon after, 2K’s Elizabeth came in and invited us back where they had 8 PC’s all setup for us =O They figured since we were the hardcore fan that we’d probably prefer PC! (They had 360 controllers hooked up if anyone wanted to use them (I dont think anyone did)).
They had pizza, chips, and soda for us but everyone just wanted to get playing already. I ended up on the system that didn’t have headphones because it was also being sent to the big screen + sound system. The idea was that they were going to let us play through each map twice and that we’d run through the different modes available. I looked through the controls, fairly straightforward, except that there were two mouse settings. One for sensitivity, and I believe the other was called ‘Mouse Dampening.’ I left both at default since it wasn’t my mouse and I didn’t know what to expect anyway. First up, straight up 8 person DukeMatch on a western theme stage. Loading screen, then the countdown before the match started… It was this point that I realized “OH @#$, I’m about to play Duke Nukem Forever!” During the countdown, I wanted to look around, but you can’t! Then 3..2…1… and all hell broke loose! While trying to play/figure things out/realize whats changed from Duke3D, there were some big obvious changes.
First thing I noticed was that all the weapons/pickups are gold. Literally glowing gold. As a Duke3D diehard, this bothered the crap out of me for some reason. Then I noticed that you don’t get weapons by running over them, you have to actually hit a key when running over it. Thats when I realized that you don’t have unlimited weapons anymore, you have to choose which ones you’re going to keep (deep disappointment here). This was already known for single player, but the realization that this is also in multiplayer sucks. As the match played on though, I rarely was alive long enough to USE more than 3 weapons. So for 8 man DukeMatch this is probably fine, however, for smaller DukeMatches I feel that having multiple weapons and the option at any given second to switch things up is going to be missed. The only good news is that I’m pretty sure pipebombs and trip mines don’t count as part of your weapon count. The next thing I noticed was that.. uh..theres no health meter! Health regens similar to Modern Warfare (red edges around screen when you get hit/hurt that fade out over time). At first I didn’t think this was too bad, however part of the strategy in Duke3D used to be guarding medpacks or using your knowledge of other health pickups around the map to track/trap your opponent.
After those initial ‘what the hell are these changes’ moments, I started paying more attention to the weapons themselves. Shrinker is still cool and works the same way except I feel like the shrunken opponents can hurt you a lot more than they used to be able to! IIRC, in Duke3D when you were shrunk you only had a pistol? In this game, you still have whatever you were carrying, so when I was shrunk with an RPG, I could still shoot little RPGs and I killed someone with it while he was trying to step on me! Shotgun feels exactly like Duke3D (which is a good thing!). The closer you are the more its going to hurt them and its much less effective over distance. Ripper Chaingun is also very similar. RPG now has a lock-on feature if you can keep your cursor on the opponent long enough however it locks-off very quickly as well so its not easy to use. Devastator seems overpowered right now, especially in 8 man DukeMatch because its too easy to spray and get tons of kills. If anything I’d suggest a minor damage nerf on it. Freeze gun, I’m not a fan of its updated particle effects, but its still satisfying to freeze someone then shatter them. You now have an option to hold a button to “execute” them which was the equivalent of Duke3D’s running up and using mighty foot (and omg I’m now realizing that I didn’t try to use the mightyfoot! (Nor do I remember seeing it in the command list though…)) But back to the freeze gun, its quicker to just run up and weapon melee them to shatter them than use the execute option.
One of the new guns was the AT Laser Gun which shoots like 3 blue lasers kind of around what you’re aiming at? Felt a little difficult to use but I wanted to use it more. Reminded me of a laser shotgun with longer range potential. The other new gun was a railgun, which is just like any other rail gun. I didn’t spend much time with it so I can’t confirm if people’s heads balloon up in Multiplayer, but I didn’t see anyone elses head balloon up either.
Overall, weapons feel good and are fun to use. My only gripes about them were graphical with the RPG and Devastator; ie explosion effects, the actual rockets that come out. Feels like they’re lacking some polish on that. I also didn’t like the kill cam (or the view when you get killed). Now its just a top-down view where its like 5 foot above the ground so you really don’t see much of anything going around or blood splatter/gibbing when you die. Duke3D’s lying on the floor slanted view was much better imo. Definitely wish they had Quake 3 style gibs when people get killed by RPG/Devastator though. (I’m big on rockets!)
Movement-wise, the game is a lot closer to classic FPS deathmatch games than the current war based games. Duke still moves fast and sprints in bursts now. Jumping doesn’t penalize your momentum as much as war based games. In general, I would describe it as loose, however in some instances, I found it too loose (when trying to jump into a window for example.) This is probably why that second mouse option is there, however I didn’t have enough time to experiment with it to be sure. I tried Quake 3 style strafe-jumping/bunny hopping and it didn’t work. I expect you’ll still see a lot of people jumping around though. I know some people view that as a bad thing, however in a game like this you’re supposed to use their jump to plant your shots where they’re going to land so I’m totally fine with it. Jumppads are also in the game as are shrink/expand pads. Using the shrink pad you can shrink yourself on purpose to gain access to other areas of the map.
Next up, Team Deathmatch. Pretty straightforward, one team is blue, one team is red. The map we played on though.. was Hollywood Holocaust. I’m going to be honest here.. the nostalgia factor was ridiculous. Running around, and knowing where to go to get weapons, jetpacks, secret areas etc was too good. As awesome as that was though, and as good as the graphics generally are in Duke Nukem Forever, I was disappointed with the art direction in this map. They decided to follow the storyline and have the entire thing be a paintball zone. So basically, there is paintball splatter EVERYWHERE. On one hand, okay, its feasible to decide that using this storyline you can keep the outdated map design EXACTLY as it were (even the explosion shape in the theater screen looks like Duke3D! They didn’t update it to look like an actual blown up movie screen). On the other hand, having an updated, modern looking version of the same map would have been SO SO SO much better. I have to believe this was a last minute decision and that they were short on time in getting this out and did it this way just to give the fans some version of the map.
This map was the first time I ran into a holoduke though! And let me tell you, they are SO much better now! They move and shoot and you go semi-invisible ala Predator when using one! Holodukes ftw! Also, I went into the bathroom… went to the toilet… no poop in there =( Was totally looking forward to hitting someone in the face with it!
After that we played some HAIL TO THE KING (King of the Hill mode) on the Duke Burger level. Everyone is shrunk and you’re running around an industrial kitchen. In this mode, there is a nuke symbol that appears on the map in random areas, and your team scores by having people on that nuke symbol with no opposing team members on it at the same time. After x amount of time, the symbol moves to a different part of the map. The more team members on it the more you score. Really fun mode actually! There is a usable microwave and dish washer in the level as well. While scoring, having a teammate rail from a distance is a pretty good strategy. Pistol works well enough long distance though to force the person with the railgun to move. Map also has jetpacks, holodukes, etc. Not much more to say about the mode except that its really fun.
Next up we played Capture The Babe! Slightly different from traditional Capture the Flag in that your babe does not have to be at your base when you bring the other teams babe back to score. We played on a desert/broken highway stage where the high road is broken, but below it there is desert with strategically placed jump pads to get topside. The babes do a fair bit of humorous commentary that really gives the mode that Duke feel. When carrying a babe, she will freak out and wave her hand in your face occasionally and you have to tap her to settle her down. Although we’ve heard about it and the controversy it caused, you don’t even see Duke doing anything, and the hand in your face is hilariously distracting. Also, you move slower and can only use your pistol when carrying a babe. If you die when carrying the babe, the babe cowers on the floor where your teammate can pick her up or the enemy can tag her to teleport her back to their base. I tried jumping off the bridge while carrying the babe, and Duke gibs but the babe lands safely! Sounds like a high level team strategy! I didn’t try shooting the babes, but I assume they can’t be shot!
We ended the day with another round of DukeMatch in a construction zone map. Overall, the multiplayer in Duke Nukem Forever was a LOT of FUN. I had more fun with the team modes than the hectic DukeMatch. Team modes are very well done actually and should give the multiplayer some longevity. Hopefully there are a good number of maps for each mode. With the changes they made, it definitely is not Duke3D again however it is a new fps multiplayer game that has that good ole Duke vibe to it. Only a few more weeks before everyone can get their hands on it!
Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid to do this writeup or anything like that, but 2K did give us some awesome swag! Thanks for the invite 2K!