Duke Nukem Forever Review
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On 06/14/2011 at 09:50 PM by Nick DiMola
After well over a decade in development, this game has to be great. Right?
Everyone needs to play it, if only because of what it is. I don’t recommend a purchase, however, and it should only be bothered with if it can be experienced on the cheap.
Let’s hop right into it – rather than bestow upon you some longwinded story about the timeline of Duke Nukem Forever, I’ll start with a bold statement about the finished product. It’s a complete mess. After well over a decade of development, the game shows the absolute turmoil it lived in for a great many years. Rooted in old shooter design, but grafted to a modern shooter system, Duke Nukem Forever feels like the worst of both, with a hefty dose of potty humor thrown in that so often falls flat. Duke Nukem Forever has already been a joke for years, and even now that it’s finally released, a joke it will remain.
Set years after Duke Nukem 3D, Duke is truly a master of his universe. He lives in a hotel mansion, owns an inordinate amount of stuff, and has his name branded on just about everything. He’s living the high life – but all of it is about to end as the aliens have made their way back to ruin his day. They’re stealing the babes and killing people in droves. Thankfully, Duke is available to once again save the day.
The game starts off extremely well. It blends humor and old school shooter elements to make for the exact experience I was looking for out of Duke’s long-awaited adventure. The point where Duke’s adventure gets into full swing, it swiftly becomes the disaster alluded to earlier.
Its biggest issue is the seeming indecisiveness over whether it should maintain its old school roots or shed them for a more modern experience. The compromise is a recharging health system, lots of corridor shooting, a two-weapon carry restriction, and lots of overpowered, aggressive enemies.
Typically, if a game introduces recharging health and corridor shooting, a cover mechanic is put in place to make it possible to recover. Oddly, no such mechanic exists, and with rapidly depleting health, players are forced to retreat when things get a bit too hairy.
And things will get hairy. The enemies are extremely aggressive, which quite frankly is a nice change from the more blasé attitude of opponents in most modern shooters. However, the forced two-weapon carry restriction only serves to force a conservation of ammo, prompting players to only shoot if they can pull off an accurate shot.
It seems that every core mechanic works against a quickly paced experience, which is what this game so badly needed in order to remain interesting. Modern shooters have skirted the necessity of brisk pacing by making the level designs elaborate and exciting. The level designs found throughout the game are just barely passable, which could’ve been excused if the action was actually interesting.
Many areas don’t give players a clear path for progression and the blandly designed landscape doesn’t make it any easier to navigate. Even playing the game with a group of four, we often got stuck because it wasn’t clear where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do next.
The enemy designs are equally boring and extremely overused. Aside from the more elaborate bosses, the general baddies are simply a chore to plow through, requiring nothing more than a ton of bullets and a steady shot. The bosses are far more interesting, which is quite welcome, but in general, they take a bit too long to dispense with, wearing the endeavor thin.
Duke Nukem Forever is no one-trick pony, though. Rather than just offering up your standard shooting fare, players are able to interact with the world in unique ways. Tons of mini-games exist, including, but not limited to, lifting weights, hitting a punching bag, pinball, air hockey, driving a monster truck, and whack-a-mole. The problem with all of these activities is that they’re mostly awkward to control and when it comes down to it, not much fun in execution.
If anything, the game earns its only points on some of the more interesting weapons and accompanying gameplay during the quest. Shrink rays that turn you into a mini-Duke enabling some unique platforming, as well as for miniaturizing enemies, is a nice feature. Heavy weapons of all sorts, complete with alien weaponry, are fun to use when they become available, and the on-rails sections are occasionally interesting.
The humor, which could’ve really made up for all of the shortcomings, is nearly absent after the first hour or so. Slapping alien titty plants and throwing turds feels pretty lame, as the outlandishness of it is lost completely on the semi-serious tone that the game establishes. Playing up the super-ego of Duke and all of the potential potty humor would’ve made for a much better and enjoyable game.
Rounding out the poor overall experience are horrendous load times (on the Xbox 360, at least), unappealing graphics, and a variety of other issues that include texture pop in and slowed frame rate.
I’m glad they finally dropped this Duke, because the series can now finally be moved forward. It’s just too bad that the final product after all of these years of effort isn’t compelling in the least.