The Darkness, Duke Nukem Forever, and XCOM Declassified are the latest Xbox 360 titles to gain Xbox One backward-compatibility support, which will be available from today.
Duke Nukem Forever is, of course, the most notorious entry on that list, given its colourful development history. 3D Realms initially announced the game back in 1997, as the follow-up to its well-received first-person shooter, Duke Nukem 3D. Soon after, though, Forever entered development purgatory, going through numerous iterations across numerous engines, and becoming a thing of legend as the years ticked by.
Indeed, most people had given up on ever seeing the game when, in 2010, it was revealed that Borderlands developer Gearbox was working to complete Duke Nukem Forever. It was finally released a year later, some 15 years after its initial reveal, to less-than-favourable reviews.
“This is a game that only works when considered in isolation,” said Dan Whitehead in Eurogamer’s 3/10 review, “and even then any praise must come laden with caveats. But Duke Nukem Forever does not exist in a bubble. It shares shelf space with far more worthy rivals, and competes for our affections with games that have done far more in far less time. Nostalgia only gets you so far, and in Duke’s case, it’s not far enough.”
Still, it’s a fascinating curio, particularly if you’re old enough to have spanned its announcement and eventual release, and pondered what might be during the years in-between.
Far, far better is Starbreeze Studios’ The Darkness, a gritty, memorably-plotted FPS based on the comic book of the same name. Released in 2007, The Darkness casts players as mafia hitman Jackie Estacado, who, on his 21st birthday, is somewhat surprised to find that he now shares his body with an ancient demonic force.
It’s a set-up that Starbreeze employs to the fullest, incorporating Jackie’s newfound demonic powers alongside more traditional gunplay. It is, for instance, possible to summon tentacles to impale enemies or stealthily scout out environments by wriggling on the floor in unlit areas. The Darkness’ NYC setting is memorably used too, with Jackie’s neighbourhood functioning as a hub, linked to other visitable areas via the subway.
“In a year absolutely crammed with interesting-looking first-person shooters,” wrote Kristan Reed in his 8/10 review of The Darkness, “you’ve got to come up with a game of extraordinary quality to rise above the competition…any fan of first-person shooters needs to play this game, even though the occasional duff level, and the slightly pedestrian AI disrupts the quality at times. Once The Darkness gets its tentacles around you, resistance is futile.”
As for XCOM Declassified (also known as The Bureau: XCOM Declassified), it’s pretty enjoyable, if something of an unexpected departure for the traditionally overhead, turn-based franchise. Publisher 2K opted to do away with the series’ familiar staples in Declassified, mutating the experience into a squad-based, tactical third-person shooter.
Given the game’s troubled history – it went through three studios before it was eventually released – it’s no surprise that Declassified ultimately suffered from a bit of an identity crisis. But as Dan Whitehead put it in his 7/10 review, “When you’re hunkered down on the roof of some remote hunting lodge, assailed on all sides by alien foes and frantically juggling the cooldown timers of your life-saving abilities, The Bureau can be a really enjoyable tactical shooter.
“In those moments, it springs to life. It’s just a pity that it lacks the confidence to sustain that energy, to remake the modern action game in X-COM’s unique image, rather than submerging the brand in borrowed blockbuster clothing.”
If you still have the original Xbox 360 discs of any of the above, just stick them in your Xbox One and away you go. Otherwise, all are available to purchase digitally via the Xbox Store, and there are big discounts right now for Xbox Gold subscribers. Duke Nukem Forever is 3.99 down from 19.99, while The Darkness and XCOM Declassified are 2.99 instead of 14.99.