Duke Nukem Forever multiplayer preview
I initially felt a little uncomfortable about capturing and carrying a woman across a canyon for my own entertainment, but a few minutes into my Duke Nukem Forever "Capture the Babe" match it became clear that she was pretty damn aroused by the whole thing. Which makes it completely OK, right? All her dialogue was laced with innuendo – a bit like how real women speak, right?
Our team's babe is wearing a short skirt, white knee-high socks and a top that emphasises her breasts, just like all women do. But she needn't have bothered. The blue Dukes are on offence this round, and I'm on the red team.
“Do you guys do everything together?” enquires the babe as I carry her underneath a destroyed bypass and onto a jump pad that launches me back on the half-wrecked highway. I think she's implying that she's up for group sex when the match is over. I wish she wouldn't.
"We don't do anything together" I reply in my head, as my team-mates fight in their own skirmishes all over the map. A giant, feminine hand obscures my vision and flaps across the screen. A message prompts me to press E to initiate a slap on the ass, and when I do the hand is swiftly removed. It's a throwaway mechanic that adds nothing. It's also hard to be as angry about it as we once were, when it's just one objectionable thing in a game mired in sexism.
"That’s not fair. I can’t hit you back" says the babe. It’s a sentiment shared by all of the Dukes. Players spawn with a lame pistol, but every other gun in the game is so powerful as to make tactics pointless. Take the shrink ray: it requires you to wander over to your miniature prey to stomp on them, but it’s basically a one-hit kill. Determined mini-Dukes occasionally prolong their re-spawn by retreating into the cracks of the walls like miniature mice-men, but it almost never pays off. You shrink - you die.
The same can be said of the freeze ray, which requires you to smash your enemies post-hit to score a kill. Even the more standard weapons feel weighted towards providing extreme lols/frustration, depending on whether you’re shooter or target: a Railgun that shoots through walls, a double-barrelled RPG appropriately named the Devastator, and the Ripper Minigun are all as lethal as they sound. Firefights are over as soon as they've begun, before the person being shot has had a chance to do anything to defend themselves. At least Laser Trip Mines force some tactical decisions, and come with a bonus dose of nostalgia when first used. You’ll probably get the same sensation when you first throw Duke’s pipebombs, known in the modern day as "grenades."
Duke’s maps are littered with power weapons that lack finesse but succeed in creating chaos. To a degree, that’s part of the fun. As a flashback to a simpler, more imbalanced time, Duke Nukem Forever’s multiplayer delivers: Dukematch and Team Dukematch play exactly as you'd expect, as does Hail to the King (King of the Hill) and Capture the Babe (CTF).
Unlockable trinkets are probably the most obvious concession to modern day shooters. Don’t expect game-changers though. All are purely cosmetic, but at least they give some persistence to the multiplayer. Everyone loves developing a collection of hats and wigs, at least for a bit. Even Duke knows that.
Map diversity isn’t an issue. Morningwood is your standard Wild West affair with a sprinkling of bonus innuendo. Its tight layout, complete with raised walkways and wooden barns compliment Dukematch’s rapid respawns. Encounters are brief thanks to the powerful weapons, infinite ammo and pickups that boost your shields and power. Team Dukematch on the Duke Burger map was my favourite variant; there’s obvious satisfaction to be had as a mini-Duke in an industrial kitchen littered with jump pads, hiding in microwaves and sprinting over hot hobs to pick up RPGs.
But like the rest of my time with Duke's stubbornly crass and occasionally archaic multiplayer, it's short-term fun that eventually leaves you cold. Like rolling around in filth.