Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever Multiplayer Hands-On Preview – That’s a Bit of a Slap on the Arse!

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Bum-slapping, how do you feel about it? If you're a member of the press, then it's possible you're not a fan. When it was announced that Duke Nukem Forever would feature Capture the Babe, a multiplayer mode where you have to calm a frantic woman by giving her a pat on the arse, the reaction was largely outrage, or at least embarrassment. How terribly sexist, everyone cried.

Fans weren't quite so fussed, however. As stupid as it is, giving a blonde a slap on the behind is perfectly in keeping with Duke Nukem's over-the-top masculinity. They mostly recognised it as just a silly feature of a deliberately silly game. And they were right.

But after actually playing the mode recently, a different way of thinking about Capture the Babe is revealed. Yeah it's a bit sexist and very silly, and yeah you are required to slap a bimbo on the bum, but it's also the only notable thing about Duke Nukem Forever's multiplayer. The rest is entirely unremarkable.

It may have stirred up a touch of controversy, but developers Gearbox should consider themselves grateful. It's doubtful that the online aspect of DNF would have warranted much attention otherwise.

Capture the Babe then is a variant of Capture the Flag, where you have to grab a dumb blonde from a set point on the map, fling her over your shoulder and return her safely to your base without getting blasted.

The only difference here is that occasionally the babe will freak out and her grasping hand will obscure your view. To calm her down, and to get her hand out of the way, you'll have to hit a button. You won't see the slap, but it happens. And that's it. Not especially controversial for a medium that specialises in bloody face shooting.

Elsewhere, the game sticks pretty rigidly to the old-school multiplayer template. In addition to CTB, there's three other modes: Dukematch, Team Dukematch and Hail to the King, representing Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill respectively, where everyone plays as the Duke, with a maximum of just eight players. All in all, it's a pretty slight offering.

Of course, if any game can get away with reproducing just these classic modes, it's probably Duke Nukem. But in a world filled with far more sophisticated multiplayer components, it's safe to say DNF won't be competing with the big boys in the long run. Indeed, the only concession made to the last ten years of multiplayer evolution is the addition of an XP system, where kills earn points that can be spent on various unlockable goodies.

These goodies are largely zany character customisation bits and bobs. As you’re all playing as the Duke himself, in either a red or blue shirt, these play a fairly useful role. But, of course, they're utterly silly. I noticed “comedy” noses attached to thick-rimmed glasses and a few different hats. We're not talking about Brink levels of customisation here.

So that's as far as DNF goes to pandering to this millennium’s sensibilities. The rest is almost aggressively old-fashioned. That's not so much of a problem when you're knee-deep in body parts playing Team Deathmatch, of course. Shooting opponents with a Shrinker gun and stomping on them, or munching steroids to perform messy one-punch kills is fun in anyone's language, but it's an inescapable fact that visually, the game looks dated.

This is as a result of both the game's clearly ageing engine and its art style. It's not particularly technically accomplished, the textures are poor, the animations are a bit stunted and there's a lack of graphical grunt. We're talking Team Fortress 2-era Source Engine performance, but with a visual style that's even more retrogressive than that.

Remade from Duke Nukem 3D, the 'Dukeburger' map is probably best representative of this. It's a cartoon hamburger joint that towers up around miniaturised Dukes. Despite being stuffed with incidental details - posters advising how best to butcher dogs and Duke-branded condiments litter the environment – it's oddly lacking in character and surprisingly bland.

The smattering of other maps I played (there will be ten on the disk) suffered from similar problems. They're not poorly designed. Far from it. 'Highway Noon' was a highlight, all frenetic firefights and fast-paced carnage, but its destroyed roads and toppled vehicles are dull and uninvolving.

Perhaps it's a matter of perspective. DNF will be of most interest to those that remember Duke 3D as part of a golden age of multiplayer shooters, after all. This iteration sticks so closely to that design that it's bound to get some nostalgic juices flowing. But my brief demo left me cold. Maybe the Jet-packs and the invisibility cloak Holoduke, both features that I didn't get my hands on, will add something. But I doubt it . Duke Nukem Forever's most intriguing aspect continues to be the single-player campaign . That’s for sure.

Duke Nukem Forever is scheduled for a June 10th and June 14th release in Europe and North America respectively. Check out all 6 of the new multiplayer screens here.


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Game Info
Gearbox Software
2K Games


US June 14, 2011
Europe June 10, 2011

ESRB: Mature
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