Why DNF Will Be Cool

It’s time to ship games and write paperwork… and I’m all outta work. Next time on DisCONNECT! – Civ5 review. For now, here’s an editorial (or a rant, if you’re not buying that one).

I’ve been following Duke Nukem since… well, forever. Most kids were brought up with consoles but I was brought up with computers, so while kids where jumping Goombas and playing as a barely literate Italian plumber in need of a weight loss program, I was blasting sprites and looking at blood in Wolf3D (Haha, got you that time, SNES!). I’ve played the Duke games from Duke Nukum (no, really, that’s what it was called initially) through to some of the console ports and Manhattan Project. It never ceased to amaze me that 3D Realms could work from 1997 until 2009, when it all came crashing down, on a single goddamn Duke game while countless other versions went on around them. Duke’s had plenty of playtime since 1997 but nobody should have been able to do it better than 3D Realms. Except 3D Realms suddenly realised that a game doesn’t ship unless you actually… I dunno… finish it. As a result the DNF team was dismissed in 2009 due to lack of funding, as all of us will recall.

At the time it looked as though DNF was really dead and gone, and we’d be looking for another vapourware champion. Then again, we’d all decided that Team Fortress 2 had been left for dead (GEDDIT?! Haha!) and suddenly it appeared out of nowhere. With the rather suspicious leak of what looked like near-completed gameplay sequences and animations, I suppose a number of us were left thinking “This looked like progress was actually being made, why did it suddenly fall?” The rest of us were thinking “AHAHAHA LOL U DESERVE IT FAIL” but hey, welcome to the Internet.

Recently it was announced that DNF was actually still in development at Gearbox Software, which prompted a few cheers and a few groans. In the interests of developing even more hype… actually no, I don’t think anybody can hype this game anymore. It’s been too long for anyone to have their hopes up. But anyway, in the interests of writing more content, here’s a list of 5 reasons why Gearbox can do the job, and 5 reasons why they can’t. Hey, I’m being diplomatic.

REASONS WHY:

1 – Allen Blum and Randy Pitchford.
Technically two groups are working on DNF; Triptych Games and Gearbox Software, though if I’m reading this right, Triptych is a part of Gearbox. Anyway, these two guys worked on Duke Nukem 3D or the Atomic edition in the case of Pitchford, so they actually know Duke. It’s not like the game was thrown to someone who didn’t remember gaming before that piece of shit called Halo. Nine of the people working on DNF formed Triptych games and worked on DNF from home throughout 2009, which (along with the collection of assets that they probably made off with when 3D Realms fired them) probably helped accelerate development. The team aren’t complete retards. Mind you if this was Rebellion, I’d be giving up right now.

2 – Opposing Force and friends
Some people hate it, personally I really enjoyed it. Despite being slightly non-canon, Opposing Force was a pretty good commercial expansion pack for Half Life, and it added a fair chunk of gameplay. The whole “Race X” thing was stretching it a bit, but you can’t blame Gearbox for trying to work their own stuff into the game, and new content is almost always welcomed. Since then Gearbox have had a lot of experience with developing games, including Brothers in Arms and Borderlands. Personally Borderlands isn’t a big selling point in my book, but it’s not like these guys are total rookies.

3 – It’s Playable
I’m sure that we all pulled a confused face when footage of DNF leaked onto Youtube shortly after they’d announced that the team behind DNF had been fired. The kind of content we were seeing looked way too close to completion. Granted bits of it looked a bit dated, which probably had more to do with the fact that it was unfinished, and a lot of it was animations shown in some 3D modelling app (Maya?), but what we were seeing looked a hell of a lot different to what we’d seen in the past. And now we find out that what we saw was real and was still being worked on at the time. It’s still being worked on as you read this! Incredible! Even better is that it’s actually been shown to be playable to the (restricted) public. It isn’t actually a dream. It’s really being worked on.

4 – One Liners
From what I’ve heard the one-liners that Duke spits are all in the game just like they were in DN3D. DN3D was pretty cool in that respect; the majority of characters up until that point were either silent, or spit out blocks of text in an RPG. Duke delivered lines like a total asshole at random moments, and famously said that he’d rip the head off an alien boss and shit down its neck. And he did. Duke’s a total dickhead but that’s what’s so funny and ultimately it’s while you play the game. Who really cares about the story so long as Duke destroys everything in sight and says something like “You’re an inspiration for birth control”, preferably while standing outside an abortion clinic. Also DN3D had a lot of references to pop culture, so if DNF is littered with them as well, it’ll be a hell of a ride.

5 – It’s Duke
I saw a comment on a YouTube video about DNF. It basically went along the lines of “I started saving for this game when I was 10. I’m 22 now, and I’ll buy it on day one. Not because I’ll like it or because I think it’ll be awesome, but because I owe it to that 10 year old kid to play the game he’s been waiting for.” And damned if I don’t feel the same, except I was never saving up for it, I was just going to dragoon my mum into buying it for me or something. By the time I was financially independent (which wasn’t that long afterwards) I’d stopped caring. Face it, if you were around in the Duke Nukem 3D days and you enjoyed it, you will play this game. You’ll pirate it, or you’ll purchase it, or you’ll play it at a friend’s house, but whatever happens, you’ll play it. Admit it. Stop the bravado of “I waited a lifetime for this and now you release it? No way man, stick it!” and acting like an Internet Tough Guy, because you want to play it. I know you do. It’s okay, we’re not judging you.

REASONS AGAINST:

1 – Blue Shift
A lot of people believe that Blue Shift is the weakest addon Half Life experience. They might be right; really Blue Shift didn’t do anything new, but in saying that, it really didn’t do anything wrong either. It’s what I’d like to call a “competent” expansion pack which just goes to show that even an expansion pack can be harshly reviewed if it doesn’t add enough new content, despite people saying that they’d just be happy with new maps and not much else. Still, I suppose there’s always a big risk that DNF will end up stuck in the past without much in the way to keep the series up with the new gaming revoltuion… actually what am I saying, FPS games are pretty much all the same these days with only a few notable exceptions, and almost all of them have come from Valve.

2 – Halo PC Port
If there’s a cardinal sin in cross-platform games, it’s making a shitty PC port. If there’s one that will put you in the same circle of digital Hell as Daikatana, it’s releasing said port ages after the original. Seriously the Halo port for PC (and the Halo 2 port) was shit. It had shit performance, shit mouse controls, and it even looked like shit for the time. Given the hardware on the Xbox, and given that the Xbox was from Microsoft who live in the world of Intel, AMD and nVidia, you’d hope that it wouldn’t be that hard to make a half-way decent port. But Gearbox’s port of Halo was shit from a performance perspective (the game was shit too, but console fanboys lap it up regardless, and that’s not Gearbox’s fault), which makes me wonder if they can successfully run a multiplatform release. To their credit the ties between the 360 and PC are much closer than the xbox and the PC back then, but they’ve got the PS3 to handle too which is the odd console out.

3 – Consolitis
In general I don’t mind multiplatform releases or console ports provided they’re done right. And PC gamers don’t ask for much; remappable controls and a WORKING MOUSE POINTER WITHOUT ACCELERATION are all we want. We’d give you bonus points for not forcing us to use a shitty console menu where every button takes up half the screen (Oblivion, I’m looking at you…) but so long as the mouse actually clicks things properly as opposed to just dragging a menu select cursor around that should have been mapped to a keyboard key, we can cope. Can Gearbox get it right? Hell if I know, but plenty of others get it wrong, so somehow I doubt it. Also, Duke’s home is on the PC; if they make a mess of the PC version, we’ll be extremely unforgiving. The PC gamers have been waiting for over a decade for this game, so we’re going to be pretty goddamn harsh on arrival.

4 – Borderlands
Some people love Borderlands. Some people don’t. I reviewed Borderlands last year, and said that it was pretty good except it’s pretty thin. After being dragged through it by my friend for hours on end, I’m sticking to that statement. Borderlands gets extremely repetitive and tiring after a while; it’s just a never-ending kill-a-thon punctuated by periods of travel. Now that might sound awesome, but games like that suffer from something called “battle fatigue”. Imagine playing HL2 if all you did was kill things without any cutscenes or breaks. You’d get sick of it, and arguably that’s why people disliked Doom 3. There wasn’t enough time to just sit and take in the game world, and there weren’t enough puzzle elements. I hope that Gearbox don’t fall into the trap of constant combat without any breaks or cool sequences. Otherwise we’ll get tired of it quickly.

5 – Time Factor
DNF has been kicking around since 1997. For perspective, that’s the year after DN3D was released. Every couple of years a set of new screenshots or information would leak out; most of them centred around something in what appeared to be Las Vegas and some sort of old Western mining town. Apparently the same environments are kicking around even in the latest build (or, at the very least, the mining area is), as well as the Earth Defence Force which have been around since forever (they were first shown to exist in DN3D but only really showed up in force in the first DNF trailers). After all this time, can they really keep us all interested? The idea that a lot of people are apathetic is wrong (face it, we’re all watching closely) but we’re going to be unforgiving with DNF. We’ve been waiting for something like 13 years for this game, and we’re going to pick it apart on release. DNF seems doomed to failure like Doom 3 (we’d been waiting for ages, and gamers were overly critical of it on release), but at the same time, it’s probably not going to get beaten to a pulp because it’s bad, but because we’re assholes. Like Duke Nukem.

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