GDC 2009: Duke Nukem Trilogy: Critical Mass Hands-On

Duke is back. For real! This time on the PSP and DS with Critical Mass.

Believe it or not, there will be at least two Duke Nukem games coming out this year, not counting the perennially delayed Duke Nukem Forever. Apogee Software--which is now a completely separate entity from 3D Realms--has PSP and Nintendo DS adventures lined up for the tough-as-granite game icon, and we managed to get some hands-on time with both today.

Duke Nukem Trilogy: Critical Mass is the first of three planned games for the DS and PSP, and though they may share the same name and some story details, the two are completely different beasts. Although we know only a little of the story so far, we do know that Duke somehow finds himself responsible for the destruction of the entire world (with a little help from aliens, of course). The misogynistic tough guy now has to set things right, travelling back and forth in time throughout the course of his three new game adventures in an effort to foil the evil aliens' plans.

Apogee Software says that the PSP version of Critical Mass will be the more adult-oriented of the two, although both will still carry Duke's typical tough-guy quips (albeit with lesser blood spray and violence on the DS version). The PSP version is a third-person shooter, with the default view perched a couple of meters behind Duke's back. However, a press of the PSP's D pad will switch you to a closer over-the-shoulder position if you want a more intimate view. Holding down the left shoulder button puts you in aim mode, whereas pressing the right shoulder button fires Duke's weapon. During our hands-on, we noticed some autotargeting kick in, switching from one foe to another as you progressively fill them with hot, burning justice. You can also make Duke take cover behind certain objects by pressing the circle button in the PSP version. From here, Duke could fire blindly around corners, laying waste to the hordes of pig cops (yes, they're back!) from relative safety. The level that we played took place in what looked like a ruined New York City, with plenty of abandoned cars that could be set on fire with a few well-placed bullets.

After this level, we took to the skies with Duke wearing a jet backpack. This section was on rails, automatically moving Duke through the city while jetpack-wearing pig cops flew in his path. This section was still rough-looking and felt more than a little restrictive, but an Apogee spokesman told us that the final game will also contain some free-roaming flying. Overall, the game looked decent on the PSP, although it lacked the graphical polish of other recent shooter games.

As for the DS version, the third-person view is ditched in favor of a 2D side-scrolling action platformer. The level that we saw was once again set in a ruined New York, with Duke travelling from street level to ruined buildings. The D pad is used for navigation, with the four face buttons mapped to jump, fire, and melee attack (in this case, Duke's big boot). The DS's touch screen can also be used to map some of these functions, letting you assign different weapons to different positions for ease of use.

Even though the action moves on a 2D plane, the environments themselves are in 3D; pressing the left or right shoulder buttons angles the camera left or right, letting Duke see upcoming enemies or obstacles. The action will also occasionally switch perspectives. For example, taking cover in front of certain objects will let Duke shoot at enemies in the background of the screen. Duke will also be able to use a sniper rifle in some areas. Doing so will change the screen to show the rifle's reticle, and you use the touch screen to move your aiming target.

From our brief time with Critical Mass, it certainly seems like the spirit of Duke is alive and well in these games, with the aforementioned pig cops and bikini-clad babes just two of the throwbacks to earlier games. We'll have more on Critical Mass in the next few months.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

16 comments
snova9308
snova9308

I bet this ones gona take at least 10 years in development

RTS____EX
RTS____EX

WTF HAPPENS WITH DS GAMES, i really need more violence, blood and action on nds, seriously... THAT will SELL, UNDERSTAND IT... (talkin generally) Anyways i was expecting a FPS on the DS... because i enjoyed gba duke nukem!

InsultToInjury_
InsultToInjury_

Like the sound of it on the PSP. But I had 3D for my PC & N64. I now have it from the LIVE arcade. But even though I like the sound of it from screens I have seen doesnt look upto much.

MontyPython4-r
MontyPython4-r

Never played a Duke Nukkem, but looking forward to this one.

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

Sounds like some really cool games coming out n the PSP!!! Im a pro handheld gamer, so this is great news to me. Handheld exclusives for both systems get my full support!

GatCloudX
GatCloudX

they should port an exact copy of duke nukem 3d onto those platforms i love that game......."I DONT HAVE TIME TO PLAY WITH MYSELF"

beny_pimpster
beny_pimpster

TheGunKnight::: haha nice comment haha lol reminds me of my pal saying duke nukem land of the babes was bad so bad he threw it away:D

beny_pimpster
beny_pimpster

make sure they have more babes like the old days!

poorisaac
poorisaac

All that I have to say is I had better be able to use a flamethrower like a jetpack like in the old windows versions. Or else!

kejigoto
kejigoto

@ dark_being Wow you really have no idea what you are talking about do you? If you think Nintendo has to tone everything down that comes to their console, just go look at Chinatown Wars on the DS and that should be proof enough that Mature games are on Nintendo's platforms. I was excited for this at first, but now seeing its either third person shooter or 2-D side scrolling, I'm not too hip on this since Duke needs to be an FPS game and if either of these 2 platforms are capable of pulling off an FPS game its the DS.

riou7
riou7 moderator moderator

third person shooter! cool!

TheGunKnight
TheGunKnight

No matter how good these games are, until Duke Nukem: Forever releases (a really slim chance of that happening), Duke will be a laughingstock.

dark_being
dark_being

I think I perfer the DS version, since it's more like the original Duke Nukem, with the 2D graphics and all. Too bad Nintendo has to "kidify" everything they touch.

casket56
casket56

why is there less gore on the DS version? the game isn't for kids just because its Nintendo.

blangenakker
blangenakker

Doesn't sound to good to me, i'd rather a FPS just look DN3D