Saturday, May 14, 2011

Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes - Land of Mediocrity

Continuing the string of side games in the Duke Nukem franchise made for satiating fans, n-Space was handed the reins once again for the release of Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes in the year 2000. I wasn't enthusiastic to play this game due to how dull Time to Kill was, but I gave it a try anyway. After playing, however, it seems that n-Space still couldn't get the formula right to create an enjoyable game.

According to the manual, the story goes as follows: In Earth's future, aliens have taken over the planet and have killed off every male, afterwards enslaving all of the females. The reason for this is so they can breed with them to create a hybrid race that would be more worthy to rule. However, some of the enslaved women have escaped, froming an alliance known as the Unified Babe Resistance (UBR). Soon, the UBR is strong enough to resist the aliens and gain access to the Earth Defense Force Base, where they discover the one thing that will give them hope: an old time machine. They plan to use the machine to gain the assistance of the only man known to have defeated several aliens invasions. However, an alien named Silverback has managed to figure out what the UBR is doing and has one mission: to wipe them out. Enter Duke Nukem, who is minding his own business at the Bootylicious, until he is rudely interrupted.

The opening cutscene more or less shows what was just described, but actually does a slightly better job of setting the ball in motion, accompanied very well with Push It by indsutrial metal group Static-X. While this is the fourth Duke Nukem game to involve time travel (with Duke Nukem, Time to Kill, and Zero Hour), there does seem to be more of a plot this time around than with Time to Kill. I could get into the story to a degree, but I couldn't shake the feeling that the time travel formula wasn't really original for the series anymore. It seemed more like a game built around the fact that Duke is a ladies man and nothing else.

The control scheme is lifted directly from Time to Kill, complete with all of its weaknesses. Jumping is still akward and the tank controls continue to bog down the gameplay. However, there is one new addition in the form of Auto-Aim. By holding down L1, Duke will automatically target an enemy's head, allowing for easier aim. While aiming is easier, there is nothing the enemies do to compensate for this. You could literally stand there and kill an enemy with ease, especially if you have the sniper rifle. It just seems a little more hollow than just fixing the slow aiming from before.

Duke's arsenal is also lifted straight from Time to Kill, with some minor tweaks in design. Without the unique weaponry from n-Space's previous game, it does offer a better selection of guns. However, you may find yourself running out of ammo pretty quickly, even when using the Auto-Aim function. While this does make you use more guns, it feels wrong to have to depend on that happening, and it happens frequently.

The graphics are near identical to Time to Kill, mainly because the game appears to use the same engine. This includes all of the somewhat blocky textures and see-through graphics. All of the cutscenes rendered with these graphics are a little odd to look at, but I was able to tolerate them. I can note that Duke Nukem actually looks more like Duke Nukem in this game, which was very welcome compared to his feminine model before. The enemies also look better than before and have more variety, but the AI hasn't changed very much from Time to Kill. I would say that the level design is good, but it's actually more confusing. Not just with exploration, although you get used to it, but also with the size of some of the rooms. Enemies can sometimes be too tightly packed in one spot, but they can be thinned out easily provided you're not still in the hallway or have to climb up a ladder.

Duke's dialogue, thankfully, has a bigger pool than in Time to Kill to draw from. This helped make his one-liners more humorous, as he doesn't repeat the same grating lines as often. There is also a bigger voice cast here, a lot of it casted fairly well. But there are some moments that are just annoying, like when you talk to Jane through comlink and her dialogue has a lot of uneccessary static added to it. Silverback's voice was also tolerable, but it could have helped for him to have a voice that was less obviously evil.

Once again, the game utilizes an arcade-style continue system. While I was initially annoyed by this, it didn't really get in the way, mainly because I could get through a level a little easier. But the checkpoints are still placed far apart, which can be frustrating if you die just once. I had less trouble losing continues, but there seems to be a maximum of four, which is pretty flexible if you're careful.

It is also worth noting that this game is the first in the Duke Nukem series to use a new health system known as Ego. Getting hit causes Duke to lose Ego, but it can be regained by killing enemies and collecting Ego-boosting items. This system made it easier to navigate through the levels, making the game overall less painful than Time to Kill if only because you can heal your wounds easier.

After playing a couple of rounds of the Dukematch multiplayer with my brother, we agree that it wasn't implemented very well. It is possible to have a "Diagonal" screen cut, but it's very clumsy to work with. Even when you pick the right screen cut you want, the guns are very imbalanced and the spawn points are easy to camp at since the levels are too small. I wouldn't recommend trying this mode at all, as there are much better offerings out there for local multiplayer.

Land of the Babes takes a couple steps forward, but also a couple steps back. New ways of utilizing Duke fall flat due to the overall poor design of the game. I can only recommend this game to people who are really into Duke Nukem or have had experience with an n-Space game before. There are much better TPS offerings out there, so I would suggest others to look harder.

No comments:

Post a Comment