In today’s guest article, Connor Smith shares his thoughts on one of gaming’s greatest treasures, Duke Nukem Forever. In vivid detail, he explains how this game’s revolutionary design and fastidious commitment to quality turned the FPS genre on its side, then came back for seconds.
Duke Nukem Forever: what can be said? Besides marvelous, outlandish, and titillating, the game delicately weaves the deep character development inherent to the FPS genre with the frenetic action sequences that litter the puzzle-game landscape.
The first impression that we get of the new Duke is that he has matured from an aged video game icon to a modern contrariety of the video game status-quo; from the womanizing, cocaine snorting Charlie Sheen of the nineties to the modern, more reined in Charlie Sheen that currently haunts the image boards of the internet.
The visuals have been aged like a fine wine. You can see the nigh-Stradivari craftsmanship that went into each texture, and an equal amount of effort appears to have been put into re-vamping those same textures to run on a level more relevant to modern video game audiences. The movements of the characters, especially in multiplayer, are seamless; the animation is easily comparable to Assassins Creed Brotherhood’s quality, while the actual character models and game play mechanics would streak Valve as amateurs.
The game play for Duke Nukem forever is a veritable overture for the entire FPS genre. Duke pushes the envelope from the familiar, “shoot at it until it stops moving,” to a much more mature “fire rockets at it until it stops moving, and then punch it in the balls.” The weapons are unique amongst the FPS genus, and you’ll totally not just use the shotgun for the majority of the game, then change to the rocket launcher sheerly by the virtue of it being the only non-turret, non-grenade weapon with the ability to rupture the growth-hormones that the leaders of the alien incursion seem to be so fond of.
Among the many ground breaking achievements that this oeuvre of programming genius includes, the gravity puzzles deserve a standing ovation. Not a single gravity puzzle goes to waste; each thrilling sequence has a real effect on the gameplay environment, often creating new and unique situations that evoke feelings of wonder and accomplishment.
There isn’t a single mindless quandary that involves moving barrels of an unknown material ten feet in order to tilt a shipping container at an acute angle, just to use it as a makeshift ramp that leads to a nearly identical area with similar taste in gravitational conundrums.
Additionally, at no point does this eventually lead into a never ending cycle of frivolous enigmas that eventually leave the player a half-crazed Cthulu worshipping cultist, conducting old-one indoctrinations through the paranormal board of some unnamed image forum.
The AI is no less than Machiavelli, re-incarnated into digital form, elegantly conjoined with Steven Hawking, then re-textured to look like a pig-man with a hint of bear (for flavor). Unfortunately, the brain seems to have been taken from the man-bear-pig retexture, while the legs and torso have been taken from the quadriplegic mathematician and the 15th century philosopher. However, the AI is still admirable in their ability to cogitate; in one example, the stunning abilities of the really shine through, as they use their exemplary programming to hit duke, suspended from a separate battery powered crane, in a large barrel.
The graphics of this simulated tour de force are a puissant show of the latest in visual technology; they hearken back to the good old days, The Pepperidge Farms days, the days when Direct X 7 was the norm, and single cell processors where the pinnacle of technological innovation. The game makes players rethink what they expect from the entire video game industry. Instead of paying good money for the latest in gooey graphical goodness, we should undercut these technological enhancements just to make allow lazy video game designers to continue making sub-par shooters with iconic figures from recent history acting as little more than a marketing strategy.
Throughout this virtual opera, we see the blood and sweat poured into the craftsmanship of these digital stages. One example of the prodigious level design is in the construction area, where Duke is faced with the insurmountable obstacle of powering a battery-powered crane. The question that comes to the minds of many people when confronted with this situation is this: “what engineering madman would use battery power to perform their constructive and destructive duties?” Dear readers, this is a telling sign that the world has been led astray without the guidance of our one and only Duke. With what I can only assume as untold man-hours placed into where one stores batteries for a battery powered crane, 3D realms decided to position them on the opposite side of the map, next to the very building that the crane was using its attached wrecking ball to demolish. I become giddy with excitement when I see studios such as 3D realms putting so much research into level development. If a lesser studio were in charge of this map, I have no doubt that the batteries would have been placed in a haphazard location that would have been an obvious ploy to lure Duke into a pointless mini-boss fight.
Overall, Duke Nukem is a marvel of interactive digital media. The graphics are top-notch, the game play totally justifies 10+ years of being in development, and nothing about this modern day magnum opus is a faded specter of an antiquated era in video game history. I only hope that the upcoming sequel, Paris Hilton: Boobs of Steel can match the finesse and nostalgia displayed in this work of genius.