The King is Dead

Long live The King?

So I got my beer, my gum, and the Last.fm games room to myself (complete with wall projector and sound system) – Let’s rock!

Hmm… as demos go, I kind think Doom 3 and Prey were better. It wasn’t terrible or anything, and the graphics are acceptable, I just found it a bit bland, I guess. :(

As you know, the first level is a kind of fun throwback to the original game’s final boss.  You don’t really get much of a taste of the combat proper — all you have to do is circle strafe the monster, blast him with the Devastator, avoid his charging attacks, and pickup the ammo drops.   It’s a good but straightforward introduction to the game – the shaders look great in the rain though.

The other level is in the desert (meh) – there’s a driving section, which is better than I was expecting (not as terrible as Alan Wake’s) and you fight a few pig enemies, which is ok, but nothing you haven’t done 100 times before. I died 3 times here (trying to get the shrink ray) and loading times are pretty long on the xbox — probably not as bad as some say (on par with ME2), but irritating mid combat.  It’s perhaps more obvious because the loading screens are static (except for bizarre messages about slapping wall boobs – wtf?) and you can die really easily. Then you go into a cave system where you have to deal with some boring mine-cart puzzle. It was quite cool to see the bug enemies from the 2001 trailer, but otherwise it’s your usual tedious filler puzzle (I wish developers would stop wasting our time with these).   The demo ends shortly after you escape the mines, and reunite with your truck.

I guess I’m biased, because from the very beginning I was never keen on Vegas being the setting for this game, and the Nevada desert scenario doesn’t really do anything for me.  What made Duke Nukem 3d special for me was the fact that it was one of the first FPS games to be set in a gritty, urban, real world setting (unlike Doom and other games at the time set in space or fantasy worlds) – cinemas, red light district, prisons, hotels, and so on.  So as demos go, I’d have much preferred to have played a level in the city, rather than the wilderness.

Crucially though, DNF seems to lack the key gameplay hooks that 3D Realms productions are known for – where Max Payne has Bullet-time; Prey has portals & wall walking; DNF has… well, Duke’s “personality” I guess (a subject worthy of comment, but I’m not up to it today).  Yes there’s the interaction, but most of those aren’t so much gameplay hooks as fun distractions — in Half Life 2, you can use the gravity gun to blast bricks, barrels, saw blades, and anything else nearby at enemies, or use that stuff to block doors.  These are clever and practical ways to interact with the environment and use it to your advantage in combat.  Whereas the interaction in DNF feels gimmicky.  As far as the demo is concerned, it feels like a fairly standard shooter (although to be fair, these days anything that isn’t a military shooter has got to have something going for it).

There are some nice touches (e.g. when you fall over, the camera moves realistically), but overall, I don’t think the demo shows the game off that well.  Again, it wasn’t terrible like some reviews suggested, but there were just no ‘wow’ moments in the demo (except for the giant boss at the start).  Compare that with the Prey demo which was 1 hour packed with loads of cool scenes, clever ideas, and plenty of combat.

Would I buy it? Probably – I grew up with Duke and 3D Realms’ games, and the trailer suggests that the game has it’s moments – sadly they’re just not present in the demo.

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