Review by Phange
It's impossible to begin a review of Duke Nukem Forever without acknowledging its tumultuous 13-year development. So there. I acknowledged it. What is most surprising, however, is how the game reflects the various eras of development through its distinct intricacies. Forever is most definitely not up to par with modern shooters (or even shooters of the last decade, to be honest) but it is incredibly fascinating to play as it seems to have been created in an era of gaming that simply didn't exist - it's as if the Duke Nukem 3D and Half-Life 2 eras merged and produced progeny. The end result is a very unusual, practically inexplicable experience that adventurous old-school gamers would find amusing and perplexing, if nothing else.
It's very clear that DNF is the product of many, many years of protracted development across many ranges of computer graphics. The final product is a very odd mix of Doom 3-style graphics and lighting, with more modern shaders and effects. It's best to say DNF looks like a cross between Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, using Unreal Engine shaders. Very odd, to say the least. Ultimately, this does not look like a game made the '90s or even early 2000's, but it does not hold a candle to the graphics engines used in more modern games.
On PC, the framerate is unstable even on high-end rigs, perhaps due to poor optimization. Overall, the game looks decent enough to not be distracting, but most definitely does not reach the standards of modern gaming.
This is where DNF really takes you for a loop. It isn't quite correct to label DNF a "throwback" nor is it any more valid to label it a "Halo clone"; instead, it plays almost as if the 2004 era of first person shooter games were never upstaged by faster, more visceral Call of Duty clones. Depending on the gamer, this is either good or bad news. Like Half-Life 2, Doom 3 (and to some extent, even early FPSes like Duke Nukem 3D) DNF has a degree of exploration and puzzle solving (and set battles) that have all but been abandoned in modern shooting games. This results in a game that is much slower and more deliberate than newer gamers may be used to.
However, Duke Nukem Forever attempts to mix up the monotony with relatively interesting changes of scenery, though exploration begins to wear thin in non-urban areas that lack interactive objects.
As far as actual combat goes, DNF is by no means a great shooter but it gets the job done in a Doom 3-fashion. Enemies barely respond to being shot, and the lack of enemy variety makes the game a bit boring once you've experienced most of what it has to offer. DNF's only major mistake is its stubborn insistence on the Halo-inspired "two weapon system" and recharging health. Half-Life 2 proved that the old school "health kit" and "carry all weapons" philosophy still holds up, so it's disappointing to see DNF choose a gameplay style that doesn't fit Duke Nukem.
Ultimately, the gameplay would be best enjoyed by fans of the brief 2004 to 2006 era of first person shooters, with plodding gameplay littered with set pieces and variety.
Duke Nukem Forever does not hold up to modern gameplay standards, but few expected it to. It exists in a strange 2004-ish bubble of game design that a small group of gamers will find exciting and fun, while all other gamers will scratch their heads in confusion.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 06/27/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/14/11)
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