I was a tiny bit hasty and unobservant in writing my DNF review. I’d like to issue a few corrections and updates. Nothing ground-breaking. Updated 11/06
Firstly I completely neglected to mention a few things, namely the utility items. There are three of them: beer, steroids, and the Holoduke. Beer simply reduces the amount of damage Duke takes by a significant amount. Steroids are functionally similar to the old DN3D steroids except that they provide a major damage boost and kick Duke into melee mode. Beer makes the screen go all blurry, steroids puts a big translucent radioactive symbol shader effect on the screen. The Holoduke is actually worth using. In DN3D the Holoduke did nothing in single player mode. Literally nothing. The AI ignored it. Players were never fooled because it just stood there doing nothing. In DNF the Holoduke does work and it works well; it moves around and shoots, while Duke becomes cloaked. Monsters will focus on the Holoduke and allow Duke several free shots at the enemy until the effect wears off.
Secondly I’d like to go back over some of the weapons and enemies. The Shrink Ray isn’t actually quite as useless as I initially thought. It seems that it does render many enemies combat ineffective. Some however will still shoot and hurt you. The Shrink Ray is useless against large numbers of enemies but it’s extremely effective against some of the tougher enemies like Enforcers and Assault Commanders. Enforcers are ineffective once shrunk and it’s a hell of a lot easier to deal with them with the Shrink Ray than conventional weapons. Assault Commanders can still shoot rockets, but a single pistol round will kill them once they’re shrunk. It’s not as bad as it first seems. The other two new weapons are the Enforcer Gun and the Assault Trooper/Captain weapons.
Enforcers had Rippers in DN3D and would spit occasionally, as well as jump around a lot. In DNF they look very, very similar but are quite different in behaviour. They aren’t quite as fast, they don’t jump all over the place, and they don’t carry Rippers. Instead they carry these guns that shoot player-seeking minirockets, and they take a lot of hits to go down. They’re very tough.
The Freeze Ray makes a comeback in DNF as well. For those wondering, it’s styled as a utility device which can be used as a weapon. Interestingly it actually has ultimited ammo; firing it depletes the charge, which slowly recovers over time. It’s reasonably effective but sometimes it looks like the ray has absolutely no effect. I don’t know if this is a bug or not, but it seems to happen most often when the beam is closely trained on an enemy. If I rake the beam across an enemy it seems to freeze them faster.
The Jetpack is only available in multiplayer (so I’ve been told).
In terms of gameplay time, it’s about 8 hours on normal difficulty. Some sections of the game can be quite tough, even with regenreating health.
Now let’s talk about the history of DNF. At the end of the game you’ll unlock a bunch of extras, including a number of screenshots from various points in the game’s development, some of which I’ve never seen, which probably means they’re either ultra uncommon or were never released to the public. Some of the screenshots are things that we’ve seen before from 1998 and 2001, but others are from intermediate times in development where nothing seemed to be happening, like 2003 or 2005. This paints an interesting picture of DNF’s development. In addition to this you get an interesting timeline that more closely explains DNF’s release, and it helps pinpoint why some of the issues exist in the game.
Firstly, know that the SP portion of DNF was actually completed and “locked down” back in late 2009/early 2010. If assets look dated it’s probably because they might have been left in a “finished” state since way back then, and with that said the actual date that some assets may have last been modified may stretch back even further. Some of the screenshots which show in-game effects not too dissimilar to the finished product seem to date back to 2008. Is it possible that some assets were last touched back in 2008? I guess it might be, but I don’t know.
The uncommon screenshots show a few interesting things. Firstly, the concept of Ego was around well before Gearbox was involved. Screenshots from when it was still 3D Realms’ baby show Ego, as well as odd things like a bar for shields. These things go all the way back to 2001, and Ego remains in place over development. It seems that these kinds of things were kicking around well before Gearbox came along to help deliver the final product. Triptych games ended up finishing the SP part of the game with direction from 3D Realms, so if you don’t like the direction that the game took, you can probably blame them instead of Gearbox, who seem mostly involved in publishing and console porting.
Secondly, DNF has remained remarkably focused in some respects over the years. The game has always had Vegas with hero (god?) worship of Duke visible in plenty of screenshots. The expanded EDF presence has also always been there. In general it seems as though the basics of the game have remained fairly well consistent all the way through development (at least from what we can see). There are however numerous things that didn’t make the cut, as well as ideas for environments which never saw the light of day. Some of the screenshots from 2003 to 2006 show futuristic space-station-like areas, with some looking almost like they could pass for a Doom 3 screenshot. Plenty of enemies never made the cut. Others, like the apparently random Impregnator, have actually been kicking around for quite a few years.
No doubt the people who live for these kinds of things will tear apart the screenshots and analyse the hell of out them, but I just wanted to give a quick overview of some of the interesting bits of development histroy for DNF. DNF’s ridiculous timeline of development makes it one of the more entertaining stories to hear about, the same as Half Life 2’s plethora of cut content. Hopefully more things will come to light over the coming months, but it’s obvious from the screenshots that despite the extended silence from 2002 to 2006 things were still progessing on DNF. The game probably wouldn’t have been drastically different to what we got in the end. In any case, it’s an entertaining thought.