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Duke Nukem Forever multiplayer preview

After 15 years of delay-induced baited breath, Duke Nukem Forever will finally be released on June 10th (June 14 in the US). Half a year on from our very first hands on, we got to play it again, this time checking out what multiplayer treats Duke Nukem Forever has in store for patient Duke fans. Read on for our multiplayer impressions…

The last time we came face-to-face with Duke, we were in the presence of developer Gearbox Software’s founder, Randy Pitchford. Back then he told us that “it’s hard to believe this is happening.” After one final delay a couple of months back, Duke Nukem Forever is ready for release next month. But enough of its 15-year delay – that’s old news. Let’s talk Duke Nukem Forever multiplayer.

Last week we were treated to play a few of its multiplayer modes – taking in Dukematch (Deathmatch), Team Dukematch (Team Deathmatch), Hail to the King (King of the Hill) and the controversial Capture the Babe mode.

In Capture the Babe, players make their way to a designated point on a map to grab the opposing team’s babe as in capture the flag, and carry her on Duke’s back to your own team’s drop-off zone to score, where she stands idle like a point-magnetising trophy.

Here’s the controversial part. During transportation the babes struggle, requiring Duke to give them a gentle smack, or slap, as Fox News in the US has been keen to publicise on the web with its “Video Game’s ‘Capture the Babe’ Mode Has Players Slapping Women” story.

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Harmless fun or not – that’s another debate, but it’s worth remembering that at the time, none of said commenters had neither played nor witnessed this Capture the babe mode in action. We now have and while we won’t delve into the moral choices of the developer here, we found Duke’s action to be more of a gentle smack than anything that looked even remotely violent. We may need more time with the game to take it in, but we at least didn’t feel as if we were taking part in a violent action, rather than gentle degradation.

The first-person viewpoint as you carry said babe means you don’t actually see what Duke is doing, just the hands of the babe as she flails her arms. As Duke smacks the babe, she remarked at how good it felt – many will construe that as women taking pleasure from being manhandled. Again, that’s a different topic. How is it to play?

In the desert-landscaped level we played babe drop-off points were situated at either end. A yellow arrow cursor above your head acts like a compass telling you where to collect the babe, and then make the drop. Get killed and you’ll respawn from where you started.

Playing locally with others  in the same room, the mode descended into a free-for-all rather than one with an emphasis on teamwork, but we imagine Capture the Babe to play exactly like the Capture the Flag mode that fans of shooters have already grown up with.

Dukematch and Team Dukematch are essentially deathmatch and team deathmatch. These play out as you’d expect: you either engage in a free-for-all out to notch the most kills, or work as a team to do so.

There’s a rather old school basic feel about both, and not just because it’s Duke. There appeared to be very few player gimmicks (though some features were out of bounds in this early preview). It’s kill or be killed.

The Duke Nukem Forever official website admits as much: ‘Duke re-envisions classic modes of play in his own hilarious and humiliating way.’

Some maps were multi-levelled, and feature bouncy pods to jump on to reach higher planes. Expect plenty of tight corners and right angles to peer from and players jumping up on high ledges to gain advantage, as we found in the Hail to the King mode, which is essentially King of the Hill, where players accrue points for standing their ground at a designated point of the map as one of two coloured teams.

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Weapons include a range of shotguns, pistols, rapid-fire machine guns, RPGs, lasers and the Shrink Ray that transforms opponents into ant-sized stamp fodder.

The final mode we played was a bare-knuckle sandwich-flavoured deathmatch. With no weapons players are left to run around like headless poultry aiming swings at each other.

Watching multiple players run towards an opponent, aim a swing, miss and then go full circle to try aim another haymaker will raise a smile. Sticks of dynamite located on high ledges add a long-range explosive twist to the close-quarter combat – usually resulting in a rush for the flammable death sticks. Its mayhem is almost slapstick in execution.

Our initial impression is that the multiplayer certainly feels competent. But is that enough, when trusty, faithful Call of Duty is sitting on the shelf, waiting to be returned to the disc tray?

Early indications are that Duke Nukem Forever’s online modes will be more about old-school shooter fun than redefining the genre with its own ideas. Some will say “This is Duke, it doesn’t need to be. Duke’s back, and that’s all that matters.” We’ll find out when Duke Nukem Forever finally ships next month.

Out June 10 (June 14 in US) | £TBC | Duke Nukem Forever

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