It turns out that, despite all the bombast and PR that went into the Duke Nukem Forever ‘First Access Club’, it only delivered an underwhelming demo a mere 7 days out from retail release. I guess I’ve already summed up the tone of my impressions right there.
My understanding is that this game uses a version of
the ‘Doom 3′ engine Unreal Engine 3 (so disregard my next few comments), retconned to be id Tech 4. The tech is old but none of the games using it, from Quake 4 to the more recent Brink have been ugly. My thoughts, sitting here in mid-2011 playing a AAA FPS release is that Duke Nukem Forever is plain ugly. Textures even on ‘ultra’ are muddy and nothing from animations to shaders had me very impressed either. In fact the running and strafing animations are so bad, especially on the gun you’re holding, that this looks like it was mo-capped on a shoestring budget 10 years ago. And even while I can hit 100s of frames it still chugged to mid-40s ever little while.
None of the guns had any impact either, really, even though you can still shrink pigs and put the boot in. Everything is hip fired, like the good old days, but even the shotgun lacked a punch. Bluntly, I didn’t get the fun vibe from the shooting and wasn’t amused by the ‘execution’ animations the second time I saw them, let alone the 100th or the 1000th time.
If I were to anticipate the general feelings amongst reviewers next week, I think the common line would be something like ‘who needs Duke in 2011?’ or ‘Duke should have stayed dead’. A game premised solely by bravado and one-liners isn’t enough today and honestly, given how much I adore Gearboxs, I expected more than an antiquated shooter released solely as if to prove something to everyone who said it would never go gold. Duke Nukem Forever seems like a bad joke that’s taken a decade to play out and I ultimately wish it hadn’t bothered.