“After 15 years of development, Duke Nukem Forever is a worthy successor to PC classic Duke Nukem 3D. With its vast features, intricate level design, genre-defining physics, detailed graphics and excellently-executed sense of humour; 3D Realms has crafted one of the best FPS games of all time.”
Or that’s how it should have gone.
After the universally panned Forever re-defined the meaning of over-hyped disappointment and developer over-indulgence, we ask the question; what’s next for Duke Nukem? And look at what Borderlands developer Gearbox must do to return the series to past glories.
Back to Basics
When Duke arrived on the scene in 1996 (Yes, I know he first officially appeared in a series of early 90s 2D platformers) after a decade of piss-poor action flicks, gamers were gripped by the character’s macho-parody of the likes of Arnie and Stallone.
Heavy on popular culture references and memorable quotes, the shooter was driven by brilliant open 3D level-design and a playful originality the likes of Doom could only wish for.
Who could forget their first experience with a shrink-ray? And the inevitable crushing-to-death of a Pig Cop with Duke’s size 12s. Or the brilliant holo-Duke’s? Yes they were lifted straight from Total Recall, but nothing was more satisfying than watching enemies shoot at your hologram as you sneaked behind and lit rip with the rocket-propelling devastator.
These fun gameplay elements were central to what made Duke such a success; a larger than life character with larger-than-life weaponry. Duke Nukem Forever failed by rehashing ideas from the past and not moving forward with these principles. Combat was a clunky, drawn-out affair.
With their newly acquired license, Gearbox must introduce a fresh over-the-top arsenal rather than borrowing from the past. How about a shotgun which turns the wounded into monkeys? Giving Duke access to hallucinogenic drugs? X-Ray glasses which allow Duke to see enemies (and hopefully babes), completely starkers? The ability to build your own weapons, perhaps an SMG with a egg-firing barrel attached?
Gearbox must do to Duke what Saints Row has done for sand-box, in short; killing pig cops must be fun again.
With a 15 year development cycle, DNF‘s pop-culture references mocked everything from Halo (a rare funny moment) and World of Warcraft, all the way back to Pulp Fiction and Donkey Kong. In short; you could tell whole sections of the game had been developed over a decade ago and references felt a little out-of-date.
Future Duke has to maintain the sense of humour which made the series so great and to do so it must stay relevant to its time.
How about gags mocking Call of Duty’s tired, on-rails gameplay? Jokes about the current crop of torture porn horror; Duke could find a pig-cop hilariously caught up in one of Jigsaw’s traps. Or sections which make you laugh at Gears of War’s rubbish voice-acting; Duke could discover a hidden area with Dom and Marcus figurines made from wood.
Throwing poo may have been funny back in 1996, when the Farrelly brothers ruled comedy, but in 2011’s Forever it just didn’t work. Sharply written popular culture references are key for future titles.
Open-world level design
I always thought Duke Nukem 3D was more influential than Doom and that was largely down to the level design. The game was all about exploration and interaction with what you could see, whereas in DNF, a poorly-scripted boss battle never felt too far away.
I’m not suggesting the series should go all Skyrim on us but maintaining the open-world possibilities of the past is crucial.
Cleverly hidden secret passages, bonus items and the possibility of different routes would make the game great again. I’d also welcome a proper comeback for Duke’s jetpack, which brought tense air-combat scenarios to gaming way before Halo Reach.
Introduce a love-interest
Yes, I’m more than aware that Duke’s sexist undertones, petting of ‘babes’ and seedy strip club visits are central to the character’s macho-image, but adding a female storyline could do wonders in repairing the game’s politically incorrect associations.
After all, this is 2012 and the likes of Metroid have consistently proven FPS heroines are every bit as engaging as their male-counterparts.
A potential love-interest could poke fun at Duke’s dinosaur-testosterone and give the series a much needed opportunity to prove it’s clever enough to make us laugh at the stereotypes of more than one gender.
Arkham City’s Catwoman sections were a crucial addition to the franchise and Duke could improve with something similar. The thought of Duke finally meeting his match in a chain-smoking, feminist-hating chick in the mould of action-star Michelle Rodriguez, presents an endless list of comedic opportunities.
Come get some
In trying to keep up with its ever-changing rivals, Duke lost sight of what made it so great in the first place. If Gearbox can bring some of the clever RPG-touches of Boderlands and the sharp FPS elements of their upcoming Alien: Colonial Marines to the franchise, the combination would push Duke into the 21st century.
I’ve purposely not mentioned multiplayer despite Duke Nukem 3D’s memorable high-pace arenas and that’s because I think the series must get the basics right before focusing on online combat. 3D Realms put down the blueprints of a quality shooter back in 1996, Randy Pitchford (Gearbox CEO) & the boys must strike the fine balance of following them whilst moving things forward.
In an era of super-serious marine-based shooters, there is still a huge gap for an FPS caricature like Duke Nukem to fill. Call of Duty may let you kick ass with a headset but I just want to kick ass and chew bubble gum.
If anything, this year appears to be yet another blockbuster’ing year for Microsofts’ Xbox 360, with the arrival of Halo 4 and other promising Xbox only titles. However, of them all, the anticipated return of Master Chief has to top the lot.
Why you might ask? Well, two reasons I’d say. Firstly, this is 343 Industries’ first Master Chief outing so has a lot to live up to. Secondly, they have set out to create “a new standard for blockbuster interactive entertainment,” or so they have been quoted saying in Microsofts’ press release from Tuesday.
Either way, it has been confirmed that Halo 4 will have a worldwide launch on Tuesday, 6th November 2012. Try not to forget.
We’ll have more news in the coming days, but leave your thoughts below on what you make of yet another Halo title.
During this busy gaming news and rumour week, Crytek’s popular Crysis shooter has hit the third and was officially announced. Returning back to the streets of New York City around an expected release period of Spring 2013.
Early snippets of info provides us with an insight into weaponry, with the lead character fashioning a new bow in what appears to be the primary weapon against dangerous forest resistance in New Yorks’ new jungle environment. Crytek have promised to split up the desolate state of NYC into seven distinct environments, mixing both the best jungle aspects of Crysis and urban city streets from last years second instalment.
EA expects the title to hit the high streets in Spring 2013 as mentioned above, with special pre-order bonuses for those eager to get in on the act as early as today.
You can read all announcements in the official press release.
In 1996 Capcom made a bold statement with the original Resident Evil, and in an era of Super Mario and Crash Bandicoot, the Japanese developer had gamers too scared to pick up their dual shocks.
The survival-horror classic created its unique visceral fear through confrontations in narrow corridors, tense pacing and a lack of noticeable ammunition; experiences embedded into our subconscious. To this day, I still have dark memories of seeing a typewriter at primary school and shaking with fear as I mistook it for a save-point
After all, who could forget their first encounter with the horrifying ceiling-bound lickers? Watching poor Richard get eaten by a giant snake? Or catching the peripheral vision of THAT dog through the window?
When Capcom promised to switch-up their winning formula with 2005’s Resident Evil 4, many feared for the worst. In a complete overhaul of the franchise, the game was now more action than horror and its superb over-the-shoulder viewpoint would go on to influence everything from Arkham Asylum to Gears of War.
However, despite the changes, Resident Evil 4 still worked because Capcom maintained the series’ chilling atmosphere. Chainsaw-gripping zombies, scary religious undertones and villains with a napoleon complex would go on to make the game, arguably, Capcom’s finest hour.
But in their attempts to not go stale, Capcom would push the series too far in the opposite direction with Resi 5. With its gimmicky partner mechanic, massive monsters and a generous amount of ammunition, the game overdosed on Gears of War and seemed to finally leave the survival-horror genre, it had helped shape, behind.
With this week’s news of Resident Evil 6’s release date being pushed forward to October 2 and a brand new trailer Michael Bay would be proud of, a sense of fear hit me and not the kind developed from those infamous door loading screens.
The game is bigger than ever before with three inter-linked campaigns, spawning the US to China, and zombies intelligent enough to fire guns. Yes, the classic slow Romero-zombies of the past are officially dead and undead C-Virus victims can now run, jump and aim a weapon. Oh dear.
Capcom have once again overhauled the control scheme, this time allowing players to run whilst shooting (a series first), and the introduction of Jake Muller – the son of Albert Wesker, and a complete rip-off of Prototype’s Alex Mercer – promises a campaign of “escape and action,” according to director, Eiichiro Sasaki.
Whilst the game pledges at least one survival-horror based campaign with returning series favourite Leon Kennedy, I can’t help but feel Resi 6 will officially kill off my hopes of a return to the corridor-based gameplay of the past.
Recent spin-off Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City attempted to Call of Dutify the franchise with its team of mercs, fast pace and clear FPS influences. But with an abundance of glitches and a faulty control scheme, the game sucked hard. In many ways it was a prototype of what to expect from Resident Evil 6 and the prognosis isn’t good. The awful DLC multiplayer of Resident Evil 5 was Capcom’s attempt to compete with online shooters and further proof they should stick to what they know best; survival horror.
As a company Capcom have become all too familiar for lazily re-releasing games (think: Dead Rising 2: Off The Record) and charging for DLC already locked onto discs. And in an era of big, brash and uncreative multi-million dollar shooters, Resident Evil 6 seems to be their way of grabbing a slice of an already over-saturated pie.
The Dead Space series is concrete proof there is still a market for pants-filling survival horror and if Resident Evil 6 is another step into the FPS direction, we can only hope Capcom will wake up and smell the coffee. Yes, that was an obscure reference.
And if you want to read about horror games, or keep up with the latest trailers, we’ve now launched HotModGaming as the home for all general game coverage, alongside OnlineRaceDriver for racing games, and FPSPrestige.