Review by ATotalMelvin
"Duke Nukem Forever is dreadful, and should never have been released."
(I never ended up playing the multiplayer - this is a review of the single player campaign only)
I begrudgingly starting playing this game after a friend suggested it. After stating that I had no interest in playing it, I was eventually convinced into at least trying it. So I nabbed a copy. I hadn't heard great things, but I've been mislead before - perhaps Duke Nukem Forever held some kind of hidden charm or beauty that I was unaware of? Starting it up, the first level was reminiscent of the ending in Duke Nukem 3D. The visuals weren't the prettiest, but it certainly captured the "look" of a Duke Nukem game, especially when you looked at yourself in a washroom mirror and took the time to "admire" yourself. Harmless joke, no doubt. Unfortunately, everything went downhill from there. The whole start of the game involved some pretty juvenile humour that was an instant turn off, and this lasted throughout the entirety of the game. For example, having the ability to grab human feces and hurl it at people or objects. Not exactly my cup of tea. When the first level completes, there is a bit of a twist revealed - turns out the entire first bit of the game is just a video game that Duke Nukem himself is playing, while two women perform fellatio on him. Uh oh, I don't like where this is going...
Duke Nukem, the character, is one of the most unlikable people in video game history. He's a misogynist jerk who only knows how to shout one-liners and piss on things. His only emotions are "horny" and "angry." Beyond that, he's nothing. The world in which he resides reveres him despite his complete lack of character. He lives in absolute luxury. Men want to be him and women want to be with him. He is a role model to children who absolutely adore him and want to be just like him when they are older. This idea that the world loves a guy who only know how to speak in one-liner quotes from old movies (examples of movies he quotes are 300 and Team America: World Police), and punch things is absurd. If the developers wanted to keep Duke the way he way from 12 years ago, they would have been wise to make the whole world around him "grow up" while he kept the same awkward and silly action movie personality. This would have made for much better potential in the humour department, as Duke would be a bumbling boob of a hero lost in a past life he can't quite get to anymore. Instead you get a game that brings him up to the level of a remarkable hero. What a bizarre design choice. With regards the the plot of the game, there really isn't much to say. Aliens are attacking again and it's up to Duke to save the day. You won't get anything more than that, so there is no need to expect and twists or turns. It's as simple and dull as it gets. This would be more acceptable if the humour in the game worked, but as previously mentioned, the humour is just plain juvenile. It's usually pretty offensive too - more than once I actually gasped and felt uncomfortable with the jokes. But enough about the poor character development and the plot . Let's be honest - this is a first-person shooter, and these games are not exactly known for in depth character studies and deep meaningful stories, with very few exceptions.
When you start playing, something immediately becomes apparent - the ability to hold a large array of weapons at a time is eliminated. Instead, Duke may only carry two weapons at a time. This didn't bother me too at first - having two weapons at once is usually perfectly acceptable in many first-person shooter games. It is the standard for most titles these days. However, it became clear that it didn't work for this game. It's a great example of how Duke Nukem Forever is almost nothing like it's previous game. Rather than each level focusing on exploration and secret discoveries, while trying to hold on to as many weapons as possible, Forever focuses on the typical linear progression that most games of this genre focus on. You will be pushed down each level with little to no ability to stray off the beaten path and explore. There are no secrets to find - it's move into a room, kill some enemies, solve a lame puzzle, and repeat. Everything that made the series fun was swept under the rug for a more modern approach, and for Duke Nukem, that hurts. A lot. The weapons themselves are generally pretty decent, surprisingly. In fact they may be one of the highlights of the game. Weapons include the classic Devastator which pummels foes with a constant barrage of missiles, and the shrink ray which turns enemies into pint-sized versions of what they once were. Stomping on a shrunken baddie is just as satisfying as it has always been. Sometimes I noticed that I would run out of ammo, but it didn't happen often enough to become a huge issue.
One of the major issues with this game is how much it relies on you to platform. Platforming in a first person shooter is almost always bad news. It's very difficult to make the jumping precise or any enjoyable and it is an issue that has been honed over the years of developing FPS games. Typically, developers seem to be straying away from it. However, when a game in in development 12 years you never know what kind of surprises you will get. Duke Nukem surprises us with some of the worst platforming ever seen in the genre. Not only that, but it occurs way too much. Some sequences are nothing but long drawn out platforming sections where the player will often be wondering where in the hell to jump next, because nothing is ever clear. The sections are the most difficult parts of the game, simply because they are incredibly unfounded and unnecessarily stressful. When you are not platforming, you might be expected to take a turn behind the wheel of a truck so you can drive off ramps while plowing through foes. While this may be a lot more fun then the platforming, it still isn't great - and the controls for driving are simply much too loose. I never felt that I had control of the vehicle in any driving section. Oftentimes I would find myself driving straight off a cliff because I had no idea where to drive to next. In a game that is strictly linear, this is not a good sign.
So how does this train-wreck of a game look on the big screen? It might actually be one of the worst looking releases in the past couple years. Yes, in it's favour, I certainly felt that it captured the look of Duke Nukem when I first booted it up. However, the textures the game employs are often muddy and ugly. The game looks outdated with stiff animations and don't be surprised when you notice the frame rate dip. Sometimes it feels like some parts of the game had an added bloom just to hide how ugly some of the locations were. It's a bad looking game, bottom line - even on the highest settings. As far as audio is concerned, I never really noticed. I tried to make efforts to see how the tunes in the background complimented the game, yet I felt myself just ignoring them after awhile. The music was suitable background noise and nothing else.
Listen, don't play this game. Even the curious should stay away. It was a horrible experience almost the entire way through. Eventually the poor game play and offensive humour may get to you - you may start to go a little crazy, and nobody wants that. Duke Nukem Forever was in development so long that it had almost no chance of being a coherent or enjoyable game. Yet, I didn't think it could be this bad. Nothing about the game employs anything from the previous title that was so much damn fun. Please avoid, for your own sake.
Reviewer's Rating: 0.5 - Unplayable
Originally Posted: 09/08/11, Updated 11/06/13
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/13/11)
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