Monthly Archives: June 2011

Title for Duke Nukem Forever, a video game by Gearbox

Come Get Some, Finally

After 14 years of development, Duke Nukem Forever has finally materialized. Considered one of the greatest pieces of vapourware in gaming history, it’s a bit surreal to actually hold the finished product in one’s hands.

Critics have not been kind to the King, with Metacritic’s critic reviews at 54/100, and their users score even lower at 4.4/10.  Most reviews lament about how DNF seems mired in the FPS genre’s past, and it is disconcerting to play a shooter nowadays that completely lacks a dynamic cover system. There is no Mass Effect-type strategy at work here with the combat, no ducking between cover angling for a flanking manoeuvre on your enemies.  You just load up on ammo and run at your targets with guns blazing.

In a strange way, this fits in with the blustery bravado that Duke exudes.  He isn’t some pussy who hides behind crates. He prefers a straight-up fight.  There is a bit of strategy available with the various power-ups that Duke picks up, as well.

The toilet humour (literally, in some cases) that punctuated the original is ramped up to ridiculous levels here, with some jokes causing a chuckle or two, and others a sneer of disgust.  As well, the graphics and character animations are dramatically dated.

There seems to be an attitude in a lot of reviews that after a 14 year development cycle, the ultimate result is disappointing. This is an unfair assessment; it’s not like this was one game continually worked on for all that time. There were many stops and starts as technology advanced past the developers, and the game’s graphic engine was rebooted at least a few times. Once game developer Gearbox (Borderlands) picked up the property from the ashes of original maker 3DRealms, you can be sure things were re-tooled once again.

It would have been nice to have had Duke return to redefine the shooter genre that he helped popularize. In coming back as a balls-to-the-wall brick shithouse of bullet spewing mayhem, however, at least he has stayed true to his roots.

The Visual Cortex: Beautiful Skye

Where I flip through my image archive and ruminate on what pops up.

This time we land on Lady Deirdre Skye, leader of Gaia’s Stepdaughters. She is one of the faction leaders of Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, the stunning turn-based strategy game that also served as the first product from Firaxis, the development house that was formed by game legend Sid Meier, along with Brian Reynolds and Jeff Briggs. Meier and company had created gaming history (literally and figuratively) with the towering Civilization TBS games for Microprose; when that company changed management, Meier and his crew vacated to greener pastures.

The Lovely Lady Skye

One of the victory conditions of Civ was the colonization of Alpha Centauri by the players’ civilization, so it was a natural fit that Firaxis follow up on how mankind was fairing in its new home. It’s been awhile since I’ve played SMAC, so I can’t talk much about the game, beside the fact that it had a truly massive tech tree. Also, that it was a tonne of fun to play. I don’t think I ever played as Lady Skye, but Gaia’s Stepdaughters were tree-hugging environmentalists whose weapons usually consisted of marshalling the semi-sentient planet’s wildlife against the enemy.

In the tradition of the excellent research Firaxis puts into its games, Gaia was the ancient Greek personification of Mother Nature.

Gameplay image of Asteroids, an arcade video game by Atari 1979

Asteroids to Crash Into Big Screen?

According to New York Magazine, there was a heated battle to purchase the movie rights for the seminal Atari arcade game Asteroids that helped solidify the industry back in 1979.

Universal has come out on top, and has tapped disaster movie meister Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, ad infinitum) to direct.

Emmerich assures that only the latest 3D technology will be used to create the A-shaped spaceship, to be rendered in outline graphics and presented in a process known as Black and White.

Okay, just kidding about that part. As per usual with these things, the storyline will be bloated up, this time into a tale of the remnants of humankind living in an asteroid belt alongside an alien race, who are not as benevolent as first surmised.

Emmerich will be assisted by Transformers: Dark of the Moon producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and scriptwriter Matt Lopez, of Disney’s The Race to Witch Mountain. All involved are no doubt hoping rocks aren’t the only things the movie breaks when it collides with audiences in 2014.

Link to New York Magazine article

Choplifter, a video game by Broderbund

Choplifter Takes Off Again

Anyone who was into computers in the early 80’s and had even a tiny interest in gaming had to have tried the classic side scroller Choplifter, made by Dan Gorlin and published by Brøderbund Software in 1982. It was absolutely a seminal game for the Apple II, and was converted to countless other platforms. In it you piloted a helicopter into enemy territory, destroying tanks and fighter jets, and blowing up prison camps to release your comrades. As they milled around waving, you landed and loaded them up into your ride and headed back to HQ. After releasing them, back you went for more.

It definitely took its lead from the classic arcade game Defender by Williams, while putting its own clever twist on the premise. Developer inExile Entertainment has picked up the gauntlet to update the game as Choplifter HD. From the previews, it looks like a great remaking of the original, keeping the 2D scrolling feel while adding some new mechanics.

Look for Choplifter HD to land for PC, PSN and XBL sometime this fall. Below is a video featuring the original, followed by a trailer for the updated version.

Screen from Paperboy, a video game by Atari

Paperboy Delivers to the iPhone

If you hung around video game arcades in 1984, you most likely gave Atari Game’s Paperboy a spin. In it, you are the titular newsie, given a route on a street with certain houses that are your customers. Then you pedal madly down the street throwing newspapers as close to people’s stoops as possible, all the while avoiding speeding cars, angry dogs and bullies fighting in the streets.

Well, Paperboy has hit the iPhone in a very faithful adaptation. While it may lack the astonishing handle-bar controller that made the game in the arcade so unique and enjoyable, developer Glu Games tries its best to recreate the feel with tilt controls that take advantage of the iPhone’s positional sensors.

It’s 99 cents on the app store. Spread the news.