Review by SolidFantasy
"Finally, Duke has come BACK... to the gaming world!"
The King is indeed finally back! After 14 years of scrapping engines, lawsuits, and God knows what else, the good folks at Gearbox have acquired the rights to Duke Nukem Forever and the Duke Nukem label. They then polished up (supposedly anyway) the game 3D Realms had been working on since I was in 2nd grade and released it on June 14th of 2011. One could argue that this game should never have seen the light of day but I disagree. There are still some Duke fans out there that enjoy the crass and vulgar satire of 80's action film heroes that Duke embodies so well. The real question that I hope I can answer though is if someone who has no idea what Duke Nukem is can find any sort of enjoyment in this game.
Story: Well there's very little to the story at all. Duke is apparently a celebrity after sending the aliens back to wherever they came from. The aliens have returned for round 2 however it seems. Oh yeah, and this time it's personal! Duke will go on a journey under the Presidents' orders. Along the way you'll encounter a few soldiers, chicks, and other minor characters but that is all there really is to the story. It feels very retro-like and is literally just Duke cracking one liners and kicking alien ass. It's not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination either. I didn't go see The Expendables expecting anything resembling a plot in the same vein that I picked up Duke Nukem Forever solely to shoot alien scum and laugh my ass off at Duke. So while there is no story, there also isn't a need for one. Duke Nukem Forever simply sticks to what worked in the past and while technology has advanced as far as telling stories in video games, you simply only need Duke to enjoy the story. If Duke is funny (and he is) then the game has succeeded here.
Gameplay: I can't turn around without hearing someone call the game Call of Duke or Duke: Combat Evolved. Truthfully I also don't why. Yes, Duke has regenerating health and can only hold 2 weapons at once, but that is the only thing separating this game from a modernized First Person Shooter. Everything about this game plays like an old-school First Person Shooter. Everything from the shooting, to the boss battles, to the isolation of any real story, to hidden areas all over, to fighting waves of enemies, and to the tough as nails difficulty even on Normal; this game undoubtedly has the feel of a classic 90's FPS. That is not what makes this a subpar game though. First off the load times are embarrassing. Each level or death takes takes literally about 40 seconds to load. This is WITH the 4GB install too! Aiming on a console in this game is god-awful. I eventually just resorted to a cheap tactic of tapping L1 while shooting with R1 because aiming is so inaccurate and frustrating that if you value low blood pressure, it's easier just to spam Aim Assist (L1) while shooting. It is impossible to maintain aim manually when aliens are teleporting every 10 seconds. This isn't a total game breaker though, more so just an annoyance. The game does have some deep variety in its gameplay. Sure Duke's monster truck controlled like ass but I'd be lying if I said running down pigcops didn't get a chuckle out of me. There are some interesting platforming segments both when you're normal height and shrunk. It'd be nice if the game told you what your freaking objective was once in a while though. Some of these platforming moments are fun once you actually nail down where the hell you should be going, while some just drag on for far too long even though you know what you're doing. For 15 minutes I was in a shrunken section jumping across kitchen tables and other junk to reach a switch to stop the electrified water on the ground. This part wasn't hard or fun solely because like so many sections of the game they just drag on and on. Occasionally there is a stroke of brilliance though such as a shrunken part where you must lure normal sixed aliens into the shrink pads so you can defeat them at your size. The bad outweighs the good though, solely due to the underwater section. This underwater gameplay mechanics can only be described as stupid. I already have 1 health bar to watch but now I must watch two. I could forgive all of this if Duke didn't need oxygen every 15 seconds. Getting oxygen is done by hovering over bubble patches in the area. It doesn't stop here though. Some jackass brainstormed up an underwater boss battle. Here is the strategy to this battle
Go to bubble patch
Strafe left and right while holding R1, watching your ammo, health, and oxygen all at once
Grab ammo occasionally
That battle was literally the complete opposite of fun even though it only took two tries. The other boss battles in general are a good idea but the godawful gameplay mechanics kill the fun. Each boss does die in a cool Quick Time Event where Duke does something badass though.
It wouldn't be a Duke Nukem game without a pretty interactive environment. Duke Nukem Forever does some good here as interacting with the environment (punching a punching bag, tipping a stripper, etc) extend Duke's Ego bar. The Ego bar is literally just your armor health bar but the idea of it increasing from well being Duke is a nice touch. Now we descend into mind-numbing stupidity again. There are pinball machines and an Air Hockey table. Both of these mini-games have some of the worst physics ever. I got the trophy in Air Hockey for winning 7-0 but the only reason I failed 5 times prior is because someone had the brilliant idea of making the camera follow your hand. This results in you accidentally scoring against yourself frequently. There's also Pool which again doesn't follow the laws of physics. There are a few nifty d-pad items in the game. Beer and Steroids can be taken to improve your armor and strength temporarily. You can also find Holograms and throw them down for a distraction. And then there's Duke Vision which is literally just night vision. There is some decent enemy variety and a wide of array of weapons thankfully. To end things on a high note I will mention that the game has a handful of hilarious Easter Eggs. While Duke Nukem Forever may not be the most fun game it is one of the funniest games and atleast worth playing for that reason alone.
Graphics/Sound: There is no beating around the bush. This game is a technical disaster. I've already mentioned the 40 second load times but on top of all that this game looks like a PS2 game. The game sports some of the worst textures I've ever seen and is a blurry mess. The animations are absolutely ridiculous and if you don't believe me go up to a mirror and just move Duke around. What's even more baffling is that the goddamn demo looks better than the final build. What the f*** was going on during development!? The frame-rate is constantly choppy making aiming a pain in the ass. The sound effects sound ripped straight from Duke Nukem 3D. The only redeeming quality in this entire category is Jon St. John reprising his role as Duke. That's it and I'm dead serious.
Replayability: This may actually be a bad thing but the game can last around 15 hours and is one of the lengthier FPS's of this generation. It does have a bunch online modes Dukeified (Capture the Babe, Dukematch, etc) but it's seriously not worth anyone's time. Upon beating the game you unlock a bunch of cheats if you somehow have the willpower to play the game again. One cool thing is you unlock a ton of concept art and a project timeline of the game upon beating it. The Duke sound board is pretty neat too.
Duke is back and hilarious
Great gameplay variety
Lots of interacting with the environment
Hilarious Easter Eggs
Decent weapon variety
Decent enemy variety
The occasional awesome part
40 second load times
Game constantly leaves you in the dark on what to do
Poor level design
Some terrible physics
God-awful graphics and sound
Some horribly executed boss battle designs
Verdict: Duke Nukem Forever is a mediocre game no matter how you slice it but there is some enjoyment to be found, especially if you're a Duke fan. No one but dedicated Duke fans should buy this at $60 though- 5.5/10
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 06/21/11, Updated 06/28/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (Balls of Steel Edition) (US, 06/14/11)
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