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Review: Duke Nukem Forever 2013 (Mod for Duke Nukem 3D)
Developer: Mikko Sandt & Gambini
Genre: First person shooter
Released: April 29, 2013
It was on April Fool’s Day this year, when it was announced that a Duke Nukem 3D mod would be released soon: it’s name was Duke Nukem Forever, also referred to as Duke Nukem Forever 2013, to avoid confusion with the poorly received commercial release a couple of years ago.
April Fool’s Day, and in fact the month of April as a whole, has always been associated in some way with DNF. It was in April 1997 that we learned that 3D Realms was developing a new Duke Nukem game after the immense critical and commercial success of Duke Nukem 3D, released the year before.
April Fools Day in 2010 was revealed by Jason Bergman, former Take-Two Interactive producer, to be the day that DNF was supposed to go gold – as in it was the day the master copy was to be sent for printing (whether we all believe that is another story).
Of course the lawsuit from Take Two and the subsequent downsizing of 3DR squashed those plans. DNF was also the subject of many April Fool’s Day jokes over the years, with people claiming it had been released, mock reviews of the game popping up, or news about yet another game engine switch infuriating fans.
You'll need this game to run the mod.
So you can imagine the scepticism when this mod was announced on this significant day, in this significant month. People didn’t believe a word of it. There were a few screenshots and a trailer that were released, and the trailer was quite amusing in the way that it emulated the E3 2001 trailer almost exactly – except it was accomplished using the Build or DN3D engine. But as we’ve learned in the past with the original DNF, it can all be faked quite easily by those with the knowledge and the right tools.
It was originally planned for an April 15, 2013 release, but in true DNF fashion, the mod’s release date kept being pushed back. First to April 20, then April 27. People started getting anxious and not to mention angry, thinking that the developers of this mod were just having them on, or possibly succumbing to the crippling perfectionism on George Broussard’s part that brought 3DR to its knees. Then on April 30, 2013, it actually came out. A couple of websites including PC Gamer ran stories about it, and yet still people weren’t convinced, claiming it was all a hoax and a conspiracy, with several key people in the Duke Nukem fan and modding communities as well as a couple of gaming blogs in on the whole thing. It turns out that 14 years of waiting for a game’s release tends to make a person very cynical and paranoid indeed.
I decided to take the plunge and download the mod. After setting it all up, I launched EDuke32, the sourceport bundled with the game (note that DNF 2013 is not standalone – you need a registered copy of DN3D for it to work), and got to the main menu. I started a new game and opened up “Forever” – the lone episode that appeared in the list.
Nothing happened. It went straight back to the main menu, and the episode didn't load. Maybe they were right after all. It was a hoax. First I felt pissed off, and then gradually sunk in to a slight depression. Of all the games out there to be released this quarter, this was the one I was looking forward to most. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.
I played through “Hollywood Holocaust”, which is a great pick up and play level, while I wallowed in self-pity. Then I decided to try again, and after reading the readme that came with the mod, I realised that I had indeed run the wrong file. After my second attempt, I managed to get through to the real main menu of DNF 2013, and from there the first level.
In November 2013, the first "DLC" for Duke Nukem Forever 2013 was released. It features three large new levels which take place in varied environments, showcasing some rather good level design in places. This is mainly because a professional level designer was on board. There's also a new shotgun to play with, and some new, if a bit (okay, a lot) repetitive music to listen to while blasting away those alien maggots. There are also a few hilarious satirical references to downloadable content in the same vein as "If Quake was Done Today", or the "If Doom was Done Today" series. See if you can spot them all!
You start off in a suite inside the LadyKiller casino, much like in the original DNF from 2011. You quickly find out though that there isn’t much to keep you occupied here – with no sign of the Holsom twins anywhere for a start. Heading down the elevator to the lower levels, in the actual casino, you are thrust straight in to the action, with no adoring fans, autograph signing, snot-nosed kids, cancelled TV shows or other hold ups. The casino will be instantly recognisable to anyone who played the other DNF. The strip is surprisingly alive, and I’m not just talking about the fact that there are hundreds of aliens around looking to exterminate you. Civilians run around panicking, and there are some wonderfully done effects, such as a huge holographic type image of an exotic dancer; fountains; and of course a huge fire-breathing dragon, which uses recycled sound effects originally used for the freeze ray in DN3D. Just showing off my powers of perception there.
After some obligatory keycard finding antics on the strip and indeed in a strip club, you happen across a motorbike and zip at high speed up a ramp and over a stationary bus to the other side of the strip, eventually finding your way on to a winding road that passes through a mountainous area, complete with a highway battle with some aliens and a toll booth, with the ultimate goal of reaching the EDF base somewhere in Nevada. After the base itself is overrun with aliens, it’s off in to more mountainous areas out in the desert where you’ll come across a familiar ghost town, Morningwood, before heading off in to the Anderson Mine, and eventually arriving at Hoover Dam.
Overall, the game is short, only taking me a few sessions to complete, and that’s including looking around. Players with no interest in smelling the roses will complete it much quicker. But there are two sides to this. On one hand I feel that there is a lack of interactivity; small amusements that made Duke 3D and even DNF kind of fun, and prolonged play sessions. But on the other hand, it does away with a lot of the cheese and filler that plagued the original DNF, and is just a stripped out action fest – which is what I think the developers of this mod were going for in the end. There’s less obligatory scenes that you have to sit through which slow down the action, virtually no cutscenes, annoying puzzles that try to compete with other more intelligent shooters, and other stuff we probably all hated about DNF. I’d like to think this was by design and not due to technical limitations and/or time constraints. It's not too dissimilar, in my experience, from firing up any one of the many hundreds, maybe thousands of user-made maps for DN3D, except for the fact that the levels are strung along by some semblance of a plot.
This mod tries to recapture the sense of urgency and fast paced action that was seen in the E3 1998 and 2001 trailers – in fact they were used as reference material, along with limited screenshots from those eras of DNF history, in addition to tons of photos of Hoover Dam in order to recreate parts of it faithfully. Some things from DNF 2011 have been kept in, but the amount is very limited, mostly down to the locations, and maybe a few songs from the soundtrack, composed by Lee Jackson, to complement the small collection of unimpressive midis. And there's Jon st. John's voice-overs too. The level design therein was up to the developers – and while they had sufficient experience in mapping, I am surprised they were able to pull it all off in the end, seeing as there was little coding experience, with several people originally on the team dropping out before the final release version. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? That may be why I find it somewhat lacking, at least on a technical level. The readme file for this mod states that the game has features that would be present in modern titles, but it doesn't even have alt fire!
It made sense to use the Build engine and Mapster32 – EDuke32’s variation of the original Duke 3D level editing tool, because the people in the community have so much experience with it, and as we’ve seen with other Duke 3D mods, there is a hell of a lot of potential. Other homebrew remakes (or demakes as the case may be) of DNF using the Quake or Unreal engine have either ended up in experimental pre-production with only a few scenes recreated, let alone levels, or have just been plain abandoned – likely headed for a Cease and Desist notice from Gearbox Software anyway. I think that's likely the reason why the mod wasn't announced publicly for 5 out of the 6 months it was in development, and they pretty much finished it and released it in the last month.
It was also a wise decision to stick with 8-bit graphics and sprites, with some voxels chucked in for good measure, rather than overdo it with Polymer, the HRP, and other technologically superior developments that have all come in to being since the release of the DN3D source code ten years ago (On April Fools Day in 2003). As was pointed out by someone on the duke4.net forums, Polymer, with all its enhanced lighting effects, may look good, but it will result in a piss-poor framerate, seeing as in its present state of development, it's only really designed to work with smaller maps – and the maps here are quite large, no doubt even larger than maps created for the original DN3D. And the HRP, while making textures look great, does result in often hideous character graphics and animation that actually looks worse in several cases than vanilla DN3D. If you want all that, then you’re better off with something like Duke Nukem Eternity.
+ New character models and weapons
+ Familiar scenes
- Not very pretty
- Rather short
The other DNF may have better graphics and interactivity to bring to the table. but comparing that DNF with this one is like comparing apples and oranges. This is version 1.0 of DNF 2013, and I have no doubt that updates will be released for it. It has a few bugs that need to be sorted out, mainly involving clipping and exploding while riding the motorbike. It’s also my hope that the quality of the ripped audio from the E3 2001 trailer, used for character voice-overs, will be remedied. I also think in some areas, some more appropriate textures are in order (like using textures that seem to be from the Hollywood walk of fame on the Hoover Dam map). Those ugly skyboxes need replacing too. If it's one thing that I found with DNF 2013, it's that it's not particularly pretty. It's rather drab with an uninspired colour palette, that is only really interrupted occasionally by something more magnificent, like the striking rotating holographic EDF symbol in the EDF base.
No, this isn’t the best mod out there for Duke Nukem 3D. I can think of much better examples, having played through several more impressive ones. But it is one of the most interesting. If you have, like me, played through the original DNF trailers and looked through all the screenshots and design documents over and over, it will bring a smile to your face to play this. Because even though it looks different from what you're used to, this is fundamentally the DNF we were really meant to play.
What do you think of the DNF mod for DN3D?
- Duke Nukem Forever 2013 mod - Mod DB
The game that was meant to be. As the 2001 trailer showed us. Released. Check download sections, ladies!
© 2013 ANDR01D