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Too late to matter

Too late to matter
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First Published: Fri, Jul 08 2011. 10 25 PM IST

Hail the king: Duke returns after 14 years.
Hail the king: Duke returns after 14 years.
Updated: Fri, Jul 08 2011. 10 25 PM IST
Duke Nukem Forever (DNF), which just released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, is the sequel to 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D. DNF has spent the last 14 years in development and with every delay, the problems just piled up. It shows in the final version.
In 1996 the foul-mouthed, misogynistic and immature Duke was a good mascot for video games. The game had over-the-top weaponry that lent as much of a voice to the game as Duke himself. There was the shrink ray, which allowed you to squash enemies with a kick, or the freeze gun, with which you could shatter frozen enemies with a kick.
Hail the king: Duke returns after 14 years.
DNF tries to maintain that tone but it loses track of the fact that Duke Nukem 3D was also a polished shooter, and would be fun no matter what. DNF holds promise but never really shines, trying too hard to emulate the games that followed in Duke Nukem 3D’s footsteps.
The story is so mindless that it can be told in three sentences: You saved the world and have popstar girlfriends, but the aliens want revenge. They kidnap the girls and by the time you rescue them, they are dead, having given birth to alien babies. A roaring rampage of revenge follows, with monster trucks on the Hoover dam, and the game ends with Duke saying he will run for president of the US.
Insert a dozen expletives and you’ve got the original script.
The game play shines in the run-and-gun sequences, but there aren’t enough of those around. Instead, you’re treated to a game that looks and sounds dated and has far too many glitches for such a high-profile release.
The checkpoint system for save games is simply thoughtless, and the regenerating health shabbily implemented. The game began at a time when health was measured, and death meant that the game ended. Halo changed that, and DNF tries to imitate it, but half-heartedly.
Instead of the large halls where you ran with a shotgun shooting Pig Cops in the face, you get scripted sequences, a la Call of Duty, so Duke looks like a poor imitation instead of standing proud as the real deal that started it all.
There are many scenes where you must shrink or drive, which would work a lot better if the controls made sense. Because of the terrible controls, you die a lot, and the loading screen is also endless.
When Gearbox announced last year that they’re going to revive the franchise and actually release DNF, millions swooned in delight.
Today it’s clear that Gearbox decided to do what Duke’s original creators at 3D Realms wouldn’t. Finish the game and release it. For gamers, the name Duke itself is enough to make this a best-selling game, which might have been the company’s plan all along.
Duke Nukem Forever— for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360,Rs2,299.
******
Digital doom
Other video games with high expectations and low returns
‘Duke Nukem Forever’ is the latest in a long line of delayed digital disasters, a trend that has dogged the video-game industry since the 1990s. Here are other games that have been lost in development:
Prince of Persia 3D
The game transitioned the franchise from 2D to 3D and from excellent to excruciating. A game that took 10 years to make nearly destroyed the series’ reputation overnight.
Daikatana
The oft-delayed ‘Daikatana’ was built on the name of its star designer John Romero. After it released, Romero has not worked on any big league project again. ‘Daikatana’ combined idiotic artificial intelligence and poor design.
Too Human
‘Too Human’ took 10 years to make, and went in development through three consoles. The result was an indifferent game that couldn’t live up to the reputation of its designer. But unlike Romero, Denis Dyack still gets work.
Prey
‘Prey’ took a decade to make and went across multiple platforms as 3D Realms struggled to create something ahead of an ever- accelerating curve. Here, unlike with Duke, they mostly got it right, but it was to be their last hurrah.
Beyond Good & Evil 2
Eight years in development and still not ready, this game will now release on the next generation of consoles, having started life on the last. That’s an ominous trend considering that every game in this list has a similar tale to tell.
gopal.s@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jul 08 2011. 10 25 PM IST