Call of Duty: Ghosts provided the climactic ending to the Xbox One reveal event, with Eric Hirschberg (Activision CEO) introducing a video featuring interview clips with the Infinity Ward development team and a trailer.
Despite the lack of promised gameplay in the video, there were some details revealed about the game:
- Call of Duty: Ghosts DLC will be a time-limited Xbox One exclusive.
- Ghosts features a new game engine, and new characters.
- Ghosts is a collaboration with Stephen Gagham, who wrote the film Traffic, and wrote/directed Syriana
- The story features the aftermath of a massive, world-changing event. The destruction of America means that you are part of a team of underdogs, fighting against superior forces. Your allies will be the remnants of the various elite fighting forces, including an actual canine member of the squad.
- There’s a new mantle system for getting over low walls without losing momentum.
- You can now lean out around corners.
- There’s a new slide move.
- The game engine includes more impressive graphics, but also fluid dynamics, interactive smoke, and AI elements such as fish moving away from you if you enter a river.
- Multiplayer changes so far include dynamic maps, which will include floods, explosions and player-operated dynamics such as doors.
Much of the comparison during the video was made with the graphics of Modern Warfare 3, which may explain why they didn’t reference the player-operated doors in Stockpile of Call of Duty Black Ops, or the flooding in Hydro, recently released for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Both developed by Treyarch).
But that was better than the scant Halo news, which was solely concerned with a new live action television series to involved Steven Spielberg as Executive Producer. Spielberg was obviously too busy to attend the event, but was beamed in to give a quick reference to how he played Pong back in the 1970s.
Non-FPS specific news was really limited to the Xbox One architecture, and the fact that currently the Xbox 360 Live service is supported by around 15,000 servers, but the plans for Xbox One are for 300,000 servers. How many of those will remain for games rather than TV apps is open to debate.
Duke Nukem Forever took 14 years to arrive between the time it was originally announced in April 1997 by 3D Realms, and was finally released in 2011 by Gearbox Software.
It finally put years of message board speculation to rest, for which we’ll be grateful, but you have to seriously question whether all the time, effort and money invested by 3D Realms, Gearbox, publishers Take Two and anyone on the internet was worth it at all. Duke Nukem Forever has two core problems which mean it’s a joyless, unpleasant experience which is only really interesting as a historical document rather than an actual game.
The first problem is the game design, which appears to have been unchanged since 1997. The lengthy campaign levels involve platforming sections, awkward underwater controls, and seemingly endless identical corridors which make you rethink Halo’s Library levels as a thrilling roller-coaster ride.
You get a range of weapons, including the still-satisfying shotgun and shrink rays, plus a shield-meter titled Ego, which is expanded by interacting with various items and mini games in the game world. But the ‘old school’ design means that you essentially wander along endless identical levels with mindless enemies charging straight at you, with no consideration for tactics or cover. Every so often, you’re rewarded with a boss fight, which requires turrets,RPGs or Grenades, but these beats aren’t graphically impressive enough, or tactically interesting enough, to break the monotony – for instance, bouncing your rockets off trampolines to hit them rather than firing straight at them.
The range of Ego-building opportunities is pretty big, from playing pool and pinball, to lifting weights, shooting basketball hoops and smearing poo on a toilet wall. Unfortunately the variety of mini-games doesn’t make up for the fact some of them aren’t particularly great, and it almost suggests more time was spent on them than the main game itself. There’s no shortage of decent pool and pinball games just a click away on any platform.
The second major problem is the plot and humour. When Duke Nukem 3D originally arrived in 1996, the FPS genre was pretty new and multiplayer gaming often meant putting your 486PC in the back of your car to set up a LAN party at a friends house. Doom has arrived 3 years earlier with a nameless hero in a space prison which is overwhelmed by demons. So the mixture of decent gameplay, pop-culture references and macho humour was pretty impressive, particularly when Duke (voiced by Jon St. John) was constantly wisecracking.
But to put it into context, I was a teenager back in 1996. In 2011 my life has moved on pretty significantly, and even the briefest look at FPS games in the intervening years shows how life has changed. Goldeneye appears in 1997, Half-Life in 1998, Halo in 2001. The 14 year development hell of Duke Nukem Forever took as long as Call of Duty (2003), Call of Duty 2 (2005), Call of Duty 3 (2006), Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007), Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009), Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010) and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 (2011).
I’m not suggesting that Take Two and 3D Realms/Gearbox could or should have tried to match the CoD or Halo juggernauts, but it’s plenty of time to absorb how things have moved on.
Which is what makes the plot and humour of Duke Nukem Forever marginally more depressing than even offensive. The idea of Duke as a worldwide icon could have made for great self-aware humour, but instead makes him sound like a sad, pathetic one-dimensional character that needs to constantly tell everyone how great he is.
That doesn’t make for a great hero to identify with, and the contempt you feel for Duke is only magnified by the macho sexism that goes from lame jokes to slapping boobs and killing babes.
The creepiest parts of the game take place in the alien hive area, where Duke comes across as some deranged sociopath. First you discover some human-looking boobs sticking out of a wall, which you can then slap while Duke chuckles to himself. Then you’re required to kill babes who are already impregnated by the alien hive, while Duke continues to make wisecracks all the way through. It feels weird enough typing it, let alone playing it. That level also probably best shows the use of identical corridors which stretch almost to infinity, leaving you trying to remember which identical alien sex organ door you’ve already forced your way through.
Even the pop culture gags are so old that they can easily pass you by, and if not, then it’s nothing you won’t have already seen parodied on TV or in a million Youtube videos (which also launched while Duke Nukem was in development – in 2005 in fact).
There’s multi-player. It’s up to 8 players and features Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Capture The Babe (Capture the Flag). And it feels as dated as the rest of the game, without the map design of the original which encouraged trip mine and pipe bomb traps.
Duke Nukem Forever is summed up by the fact it’s taken us so long to get around to reviewing it, as every time I planned to insert the disc in the Xbox I kept accidentally finding more entertaining things to play.
The Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me DLC did expand the game with new weapons, enemies and bosses, plus 4 new multiplayer maps, and the villain from the original 2D Duke Nukem game, Dr Proton, which turned out slightly better than the core game, but still isn’t enough to redeem it overall.
It’s hard to think of any reasons to justify time with Duke Nukem Forever, besides as a games history lessons showing how much better FPS games are today. If you happen to spot it for sale for a couple of pounds or less, then you’ll probably get some value for money, but it’s best viewed as finally bringing an end to debates and arguments on message boards around the world.
Level up your Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 weaponry this weekend with the first Double Weapons XP event. It starts Friday, February 1st at 10am PST, and lasts until the same time on Monday, February 4th, 2013.
This will allow you to rank up guns and unlock attachments at twice the usual rate, which is great news if you’re struggling with particularly firearms. The Chicom CQB submachine gun appears to be one of the trickier weapons to level up with burst fire and a slow reload time. But we also bet you’ll see a lot of the new Peacekeeper SMG.
The event is to celebrate the release of Revolution, the first DLC Map Pack for Call of Duty Black Ops, which included 4 new maps (Grind, Hydro, Downhill and Mirage, along with the Die Reise zombie map and Peacekeeper gun. It’s only available for the Xbox at the moment, with the PC and PS3 release date not announced. It costs 1200 Microsoft Points, and is included in the Call of Duty Black Ops 2 season pass which is 4000 MS Points.
The weekend prior to the release saw a Double XP weekend – one reason for the focus on weapons this time is the new Peacekeeper, which attempts to combine some of the benefits of both the SMG and Assault Rifle classes. Another reason may be the large number of players who have already reached the top Prestige Master level or other high rankings – ranking each weapon takes a fair while longer!
This leaked image reveals some details of the first downloadable content for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, with the Revolution DLC apparently set to contain 4 new multiplayer maps, a new Zombie map, and a new SMG named the Peacemaker.
The almost traditional pre-release leak of Call of Duty DLC hasn’t been officially confirmed or denied, but the Treyarch twitter account did say this on December 31, 2012:
No matter what you’ve got planned for New Year’s Eve, make sure to stay safe. We’ll see you in the new year with some news about DLC.
So assuming that the leaked image is accurate we have:
- Hydro – Based around a Hydro Dam
- Grind – Based in an urban skate park
- Downhill – Snowy resort and finally bringing the required snow level to Black Ops 2 multiplayer
- Mirage – Chinese Pagoda level
- Die Rise – Zombie-filled skyrise.
We’re pretty excited about the prospect of new maps, as the level design in Black Ops 2 is probably one of the weakest in the Call of Duty series, and it would be good to get some larger maps into the rotation. There’s only so much Hijack anyone can play after all.
A new gun will be interesting, although the SMG class is already pretty effectively represented. But we’ll wait and see if it can topple the Scorpion Evo as our SMG of choice.
Prices are obviously unannounced, but if you haven’t got the Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Season Pass, we’d guess it’ll be around the 1200 MS Points mark (Although obviously we hope it’ll be less). And it’ll probably arrive on PS3 a little later in the year. Either way, it’ll be more fun than running around another version of Nuketown.
My friends all think I’ve finally gone mad. Call of Duty Black Ops 2 has been out for a month, but I’ve only put a few evenings into it. Battlefield 3 has just dropped a new DLC content update, but I’ve barely glanced at it for more than a couple of hours. Instead, I’ve been playing a game which has been out since 2010.
While the rest of the world has moved onto either Modern Warfare 3 or Black Ops 2, I’ve been revisiting the original Call of Duty Black Ops to the exclusion of almost any other game. For the last month or so, it’s been about all that’s been in my Xbox, and there’s a simple reason.
Reaching the final prestige:
I’ve played every Call of Duty game released, but I’ve never had the time and motivation to reach the final level until now. I’ve either got distracted by other games, or frustrated by the endless grind against campers. But in October, I realised I’d reached Prestige 9 in Black Ops, which meant I was the nearest I’d ever been to reaching the top level.
And I also presumed that the number of people playing the original Black Ops would still be reasonably high until Christmas, when the final move over to the sequel would happen, giving me 2 months to try and get through 6 Prestige levels.
Somehow I made it:
I haven’t quite maxed out the 15th level yet, and might not make it before Christmas, but I’ll have unlocked all my favoured guns and perks – the AK74U, the Galil, Slight of Hand Pro, Ghost Pro etc.
And although some might question why I bothered, I have to admit I’m enjoying the knowledge that I’ll never, ever, be stuck with the M16 and MP5K and no perks again. Grinding out the 15 CTF captures for Marathon Pro is a lot more manageable when it’s the final time I’ll ever do it, and the same is true of bomb plants in Demolition.
Obviously a huge number of people reached that level long ago, and some are still playing Black Ops obsessively, presumably waiting for Santa to bring the new game – which I fear may be a disappointment to them in some ways.
For one thing, regardless of the actual game play, Black Ops 1 has the best Loadout and Killstreak management of any Call of Duty game. It’s quick to set up classes and make changes, with a clear menu system. And the experience for each gun, perk and gametype is easy to see, constantly showing you that something is about to reward you, if only you play a couple more games.
Black Ops 2 obscures that a lot in the way the information is displayed, making it hard to see at a glance which gun or Scorestreak will net you some XP to Prestige more quickly, and that’s a real shame in my opinion.
It might not deliver any achievements, or make me at all unique, but I’m quite satisfied with reaching the final Prestige without boosting or doing anything other than playing the game (Mainly Domination, Demolition and CTF to level up and unlock the perks).
It’s also fitting that it’s Black Ops in which I achieved it – it’s been the most fun CoD game I’ve played due to the fact my entire social group seemed to have the time to play it pretty obsessively until Modern Warfare 3, so it’s been the most social and team-based shooter that I’ve played yet…
And I still can’t quite figure out the gamers I’ve seen who halted at Prestige 14 weeks ago, scared to lose their unlocks for the final level – if you stopped as some friends did at Prestige 1-10 I can understand it, but with 1 or 2 left? Strange!
Still, I’ve already resigned myself to the fact I’ll be straight over to Black Ops 2, especially as many of the old crew appear to have returned after the disappointment that was Modern Warfare 3. So it looks like the cycle of prestiging will happen all over again, and hopefully it’ll take me a lot less than 2 years this time!
Homefront was released by THQ early in 2011, with a much-publicised script by John Millius, the co-writer of Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry, and director of Red Dawn. And it’s a good time to catch up on the interesting but flawed original as not only is a sequel due shortly, but a lower price point certainly helps to justify trying it.
Despite mixed reviews at launch, it sold 375,000 copies in the first 24 hours and went on to record 1 million plus sales, so it must have done something right, but was it just all advertising hype?
Homefront Single Player:
The year is 2027 and North Korea has taken over much of the globe including occupying North America, as relayed in various video clips in the introduction. Some anticipation is built with the use of real news events and clips featuring the likes of Hilary Clinton before the game kicks in.
You take on the role of Robert Jacobs, a former Marine helicopter pilot living in Montrose, Colorado, and after a lengthy opening section which sees you placed on a bus for re-education in Alaska, you’re rescued by American Resistance fighters to join their cause by shooting bad guys. The eventual aim is the slightly underwhelming quest to secure jet fuel to help the remnants of the American military to retake San Francisco.
It’s a short campaign, clocking in around 5 hours or so for completion on even the hardest difficulty settings. But although short, it’s got some moments which stand out, including during the opening bus ride when Montrose residents are being rounded up by the Korean army, the discovery of some of the horrors committed by the occupying army, and sections of the final battle for San Francisco. The idyllic base of the resistance fighters in Montrose also promises something slightly different to most FPS games as you wander around chatting to homesteaders tending their garden or milking goats behind boarded houses.
But the problem is that the game doesn’t live up to the promise of these moments. There were rumours that Millius didn’t do as much work on the script as advertised, and since release developer Kaos Studios has been shut down by THQ – the sequel is being handled by Nottingham-based Crytek.
Certainly much of the attempts at cinematic drama fall a little short – the supporting characters don’t prompt much emotion, particularly as they’re invulnerable in battle and only meet their maker at heavily sign-posted moments. The prospect of the hidden homebase is obviously wiped out early on to make way for plot progression in such a short space of time, for example. One memorable moment is sparked by an ill-advised mortar round fired by an American-Korean character in the main cast, but even this only accounts for a minute of action before everything moves on relentlessly.
Besides the need to move relentlessly onwards, the game mechanics don’t lend themselves to a memorable experience. It’s very much pull left trigger, aim, pull right trigger, fire, and repeat. Occasionally you’re given control of the automated Colossus vehicle, in which case it becomes a case of using your targetting goggles, firing and repeating.
It’s not a particularly bad experience – there are certainly worse FPS games mechanically, and everything has a reasonable level of polish and action. But it’s just not great, and doesn’t help lift the story or the action. There’s the odd choice to relegate climbing ladders and certain moments to a button press, and the clunky controls for a helicopter section which undermine the supposed skill of your Marine helicopter pilot as he careers around aimlessly.
Graphically it looks pretty good – particularly with the ruined scenery of suburban America in a subdued palette. But again, game mechanics undermine this as you can’t go off the beaten path, even when searching for the obligatory and heavily highlighted collectible newspaper articles. Every time I started to sink into the game a little I found myself stuck on an invisible wall, or occasionally waiting for a scripted AI moment which left me unable to open a door or do anything.
The audio is pretty good with some rousing orchestral themes, and the voice acting isn’t bad – just average. Occasionally it’s slightly muffled, and I ended up putting the optional subtitles on to avoid missing anything useful. But there’s always a mission target icon shouting loudly at you to get to the objective, so it’s never a problem.
Inevitably you’re led into various big set-piece bottlenecks which rely on you moving up through cover to allow your invincible team-mates to wipe out the Korean (or at one stage survivalist) enemies, whilst you pop out occasionally to give them a hand. But even the prospect of killing fellow Americans doesn’t phase the AI characters for more than split second.
Overall I actually enjoyed the single player campaign. Although much of the game feels workmanlike, it had enough atmosphere and story to keep me interested in how everything turns out, and the short campaign meant it didn’t outstay its welcome (Although it came close on one particular stage). If each area of the game had just been a little better, the whole experience would have been very highly rated, but as it is, I’d suggest it as a rental or cheap purchase to run through quickly for a break from the CoD and Battlefield worlds.
The good news is that early launch problems were rectified pretty quickly, and Homefront has a pretty solid and enjoyable multiplayer experience. The bad news is a rental or secondhand copy requires an online pass to be purchased for 800 MS Points before you can proceed past Level 5 with your character – considering the age of the game and the downloadable alternatives, that really, really needs to be dropped to something more accessible asap.
Multiplayer itself can be a little tricky to find games, but once you’re in it’s good fun. You get standard team deathmatch or ground control (capture the base) game types, along with Battle Commander which assigns special objectives and highlights enemy players with killstreaks to dish out bonus points.
One unusual feature is that the game’s Battle Points can be spent on the fly during a game – you have an available selection for each class, and you can also buy vehicles. So during a game you can save and spend your points on a rocket launcher or a helicopter depending on how well you do.
There’s a small selection of maps, along with later DLC releases for Alcatraz and a couple more. Again, it’s hard to justify investing in maps and online access when there are a number of other notable shooters available, but if you decide you prefer the Homefront approach, I can understand that.
Homefront verdict: 6/10
I do think Homefront is worth experiencing. The story may not achieve all it was set up to do, but if you approach it as an attempt to set a different scene and world, it’s easy to see a number of good moments and ways it could be spun out for the second game. Certainly the familiar mechanics and gameplay mean the short campaign can be gone through quickly to let you see everything and make up your own mind.
It feels much like the Millius script was always the unique selling point for this game, and the rest of development was more of a box ticking exercise, which results in a decent-enough multiplayer, a decent-enough single player, and a decent-enough game, hence why it gets a decent-enough score. I’m really keen to see how the story side of the game might be expanded for the sequel, as Homefront could develop into a very interesting franchise with the right emphasis on the emotions and struggles of resistance fighters. But if you’re looking for something to amaze you, it’s probably better to wait for the next installment of the big FPS franchises for the time being.
Version tested: Xbox 360.
The build-up to the release of Halo4 on November 6th, 2012 is well underway with the news that a new live-action digital series will be released.
The five episodes will be distributed online and followed cadets at the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) military academy as they train to fight against insurrectionists in the outer colonial planets. One cadet, Thomas Lasky, struggles with doubts about the war and the weight of expectation on him, but when the Covenant turn up, he’s inspired by the Master Chief to decide what it means to be a hero.
It’s directed by Stewart Hendler (“H+,” “Sorority Row”) and written by Todd Helbing and Aaron Helbing (“Smallville,” “Spartacus”), “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn” features a cast of established and up-and-coming Hollywood talent, including Tom Green (“Dance Academy”) as Thomas Lasky, Anna Popplewell (“The Chronicles of Narnia”) as Chyler Silva, Daniel Cudmore (“X2,” “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “The Twilight Saga”) as the Master Chief, Ayelet Zurer (“Angels & Demons,” “Munich”) as Mehaffey, Mike Dopud (“Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) as General Black, Enisha Brewster (“Footloose”) as April Orenski, Masam Holden (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Elizabethtown”) as Michael “Sully” Sullivan, Osric Chau (“2012”) as JJ Chen, Iain Belcher (“Supernatural”) as Vickers, and Kat De Lieva as Dimah.
An extended, 90-minute Special Edition featuring additional footage and bonus content will be shipped in the Halo 4 Limited Edition bundle for £69.99, along with fiction content expanding the characters, a special featurette and ‘making of’. It’s being distributed online via Halo Waypoint and Machinima (And as a result, even the trailer is blocked from being uploaded to our own Youtube channel), so if you want to check it out visit http://halo.xbox.com/ForwardUntoDawn.
Respawn Entertainment, the studio established by Infinity Ward co-founders Jason West and Vince Zampella, will not reveal their long-awaited FPS at E3 next month.
“Some of us will be present at E3, but we won’t be showing anything or doing any press related to the game,” says Respawn’s community boss Abbie Heppe.
The studio made up of ex-Call of Duty developers had previously teased a blurred image from the secret FPS onto their website (see below).
The studio’s first project has received plenty of hype and is set to take place in the future with EA president Frank Gibeau describing it as a “sci-fi shooter.” Respawn Entertainment is a partner studio of EA Games.
During a recent controversial court settlement, in which Activision claimed EA stole many ex-Call of Duty developers to form Respawn whilst they were still under contract, more details were revealed about the title.
According to reports by the L.A. Times: “Activision claimed the pair (West and Zampella) had discussed creating a science-fiction shooter intended to challenge the Halo franchise.”
The game is expected to be released on the next-generation of Microsoft and Sony consoles.
Will Respawn’s sci-fi shooter rival the Call of Duty and Halo franchises? Or does this latest delay of fresh details make it seem more like Duke Nukem Forever? Let us know in the comments section below.
With a decade of online combat under its belt, the Call of Duty series has provided millions of us with unforgettable memories and more importantly; that one special map.
I have set myself the formidable task of searching through the series’ back-catalogue to select its greatest ever multiplayer maps. Taking into consideration the likes of creativity, symmetry, spacial awareness, tactical balance and outright fun; these are the top 10.
With the exciting new trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops II (even though its voiceover is slightly cheesy) and promises of hi-tech robot warfare in the battlefields of 2025, it seems the next Call of Duty will receive a much needed creative injection. But Treyarch won’t go far wrong if they maintain the excellent level design of the following gems. So let’s crack on with the Top 10 Call of Duty Multiplayer Maps:
Railyard was one of the original Call of Duty‘s finest maps. Based around a railyard caught up in the battle of Stalingrad, the map’s many vacant trains provide plenty of places to hide. Gaining control of the tank depot presents a fluid rush opportunity and the interconnected building block, overlooking the trainyard, gives the attacking team a crucial sniper spot. Tip: there is always an easy kill if you pummel the central rubble with grenades.
The aptly titled Cliffside gives teams the perfect mixture of combat scenarios. Whether you choose to move rock-to-rock and battle it out with SMGs on the clifftop edge or to make a sucidical dash through the map’s sniper-infested open fields; Cliffside provides a sparse but dense experience. Full of opportunities for creative quick shots through low-visiblity bushes, Cliffside was one of the strong points of World at War‘s inconsistent map selection.
ST. MERE EGLISE
Originally ‘Dawnville’ on Call of Duty 1, St. Mere Eglise was the superior COD2 interpretation. A dramatisation of the idyllic French town of Sainte Mere Eglise – which was at the heart of the Allied forces famous Operation Overlord – the map is a brilliantly balanced affair. The narrow buildings make jumpy face-to-face combat a formality and the decaying ruins of the medieval church provide multiple views; with snipers approaching at the end of the street, and plucky rushers ducking in the mazy graveyard.
The sheer size of Overgrown makes it quite daunting on first play but the map’s ambition helped prove Battlefield-sized maps could work for Call of Duty. Haystacks and grassy routes make it a haven for camouflaged snipers and cleverly hidden claymores. With its parallel bridges, cover-golden vegetation and multiple control points; you really do have to work as a team to win on Overgrown. Call of Duty continues to experiment with larger maps but none can match the spacious variety of Overgrown.
Summit, much like WAW‘s Cliffside, takes place on the edge of a mountaintop. Full of surprises (entry to the cable car is pointlessly fun), the snowy terrain is high on adrenaline with every area exposed to multiple angles. The wintry sound effects echo on as you battle for supremacy of the satellite tower’s tightly packed computer room. First showed off as a multiplayer teaser in 2010, the rapid layers of Summit’s design make it frozen in time.
Set among an abandoned Russian train station, Pipeline is all about successfully navigating between two large warehouses. With its grassy attack spawn, quick shot opportunities come in abundance for both sides whilst defending teams need eyes in the back of their heads, thanks to the underground tunnels. Pipeline’s tight spaces and endless opportunities for cover make it a great map for tactical encounters. Tip: equip Deep Impact if you want to rip through the warehouse’s aluminium sides.
Terminal’s airport setting makes you feel like you’re an extra in Die Hard 2. With grenades showering through glass roofs, claymores hidden behind abandoned luggage and the cowering of machine gunners at a McDonald’s style cafe; Terminal is a hectic affair. The map has real character with the Boeing jet providing taut combat situations and the map’s many tourist shops leaving each team only metres apart. Modern Warfare 2‘s finest moment.
Looking like a scene from Black Hawk Down, Crash’s favela style buildings are set around a downed US helicopter. With a great balance between attack and defence, Crash has been the scene of many tense encounters. Whether choosing to brave the open alleyway on the left side or taking a cautionary route with an M16, the key is to control the three-storey tower. Tip: climb the helicopter’s rotor blades to jump over the tower’s fence and surprise unsuspecting campers from behind.
Based upon the French village made famous by the Battle of Normandy, Carentan really does have something for every type of player. You can surprise the opposition at close-range through the rustic wine cellar, conduct long distance sprays towards the archway or pick off enemies as they unwittingly wonder past each building’s many windows; Carentan is ageless. A veteran of the series, the map was featured on the first two games and also successfully re-imagined on Call of Duty 4 as the colorful DLC-map Chinatown.
One of the series most underrated maps, Skidrow stood out amongst MW2‘s average map selection and its balanced corridor-based gameplay leave it feeling more like a COD4 map. The dilapidated urban environment makes controlling the two main building blocks essential to victory. Narrow corners perfect for claymores are a useful antidote to rushers and, it’s safe to say, the map is best experienced with an assault rifle. Tip: after planting a bomb in Search & Destroy lie down in the kids playground (pictured above), it’s so obvious no one will expect it!
Is your favourite map missing from our selection? Let us know in the comments section below.
“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.