E3 2008: Deep Silver

Duke Nukem Trilogy (DS, PSP)

We talked to Terry Nagy, chief operating officer at Apogee, who gave us some precious information about the return of Duke Nukem, in three brand new titles scheduled for the Summer of 2009. The trilogy will revolve around time travel and alternate realities, with all games being connected by the storyline.

The first title, Critical Mass, sends our hero to the future, where aliens are invading earth exactly because Duke wasn't there in the past to help defend Earth. Proving Grounds is the second title in the trilogy, taking lace during World War II, but in an alternative reality where Duke has managed to stop the Germans and was actually there raising the flag with American soldiers. As for the third and final title, Chain Reaction, we have no plot details yet.

You will control Duke in traditional over-the-shoulder third person action. Classic weapons will be available, as will plenty of new things. Making fun of pop culture and the usual "save the babe, save the world" attitude are already game trademarks, so they will remain untouched.

The games will be available for DS and PSP, both consisting of the same story but playing with the different system features for unique gameplay experience. They will also have different ESRB ratings. The DS was chosen because of its popularity and age range, so the language will be toned down to suit a Teen rating, while on the PSP, the game will hold a Mature rating. After all, this is the balls of steel guy we're talking about here...

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky (PC)

Although it comes a year after the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R. title was released, Clear Sky is actually a prequel to Shadow of Chernobyl. The game takes place in 2011, one year before the events in the first game. You play as a mercenary found by the Clear Sky faction after a nuclear blast, and one of your goals is to figure out how exactly you managed to survive that. The story ties in with the events of the previous game with your character finding out about Strelok (the main character in Shadow of Chernobyl) and discovering that you're actually on opposite factions.

In fact, factions are a major part of the game. They are all at war, fighting for power, and you will be able to associate with the different groups. You don't have to do so right away, but eventually it will prove beneficial, and it turns out to be like playing an RPG, doing small "favors" in order to earn their trust. Factions are so important that even your mini-map is able to track all stalkers within a 50m radius.

This is definitely a FPS with some RPG elements (the factions, the Diablo-style inventory system, the tech points you use to access better gear). The HUD is very simple, damage is shown by a red semi-circle appearing when you get hit, also indicating the way the shots are coming from. You have limited ammo, reload time and your weapons do jam on occasion. However, you can dual-weild weapons.

A neat detail that I really liked is that the map you see isn't exactly the map you can walk on. After the blast, several anomalies were left all over. You can throw objects to detect these spots and if you look closely, you can see a slight visual distortion where they are located. Your sensors can pick up the location of precious artifacts, items that all factions will be after since they provide a source of wealth. You will find sensor upgrades throughout the game.

Areas affected by radiation will also look different when you enter them, nearly black and white with a grainy look (similar to Silent Hill).

Graphically, the game looks really good. The textures are highly detailed (clothing and faces were pretty impressive), the lighting effects are fantastic, you can see the shadows move as the time of day goes by, there are dynamic day/night and weather cycles... it's worth it stopping just to look at little things like the stitching on someone's jacket or a fireplace illuminating a room.

While the demo was shown on DX9, the game is currently being optimized for DX10. As for console plans, those are still unknown. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky should be out at the end of August.