Review by TrevM
"Hail to the King"
So many people are reviewing Duke Nukem Forever just going by the textbook definitions of what a good first person shooter is. This game lacks a lot of things that most gamers look for in a shooter: innovative game play, compelling plot, questioning the morality of taking life for the supposed greater good. These are things that this generation of gaming have really pushed the limits of. Duke doesn't offer any of these things. What the game does offer, however, is a lot of low-brow laughs and a bunch of mindless fun. It's not for everybody, especially those who are easily offended and/or lack a sense of irony and sarcasm. People are enamored with the ever-evolving concept of games as art, and when a game just tries to be a game, something to help entertain you and kill time, you can expect some backlash.
The premise of the game is simple: After having thwarted an alien invasion of earth 12 years ago, Duke is a lauded hero. Now those aliens are back for revenge against him, and they're hitting him where it hurts: They're stealing our women. There's not so much a story to be told in this game so much as a series of gags. The game makes fun of everyone and everything it can, including itself (with repeated jabs at the game's 12 year development cycle).
The graphics are good. They aren't brimming with cutting edge, gritty realism. They don't have a unique artistic flair. But they don't hurt to look at, and that's really all this game needs. Just like Duke Nukem 3D, its predecessor, this game manages to stay in the same league as current-era games, but without wowing you at all. There are games that look better and games that look worse, and this game is perfectly average, which is just what you want for this kind of game.
The soundtrack is unremarkable, but it fits. The only real iconic piece of music that might get stuck in your head is Duke's theme song. Voice acting is great, especially when it comes to the performance of the King himself, John St. John. Dialogue is funny and serves to emphasize that this game isn't to be taken seriously.
A lot of the mechanics that set this game apart from a lot of others are very centric to Duke's persona. He can take steroids to make himself stronger, he can drink beer to become more resilient against enemy attacks, and he can do a bevy of things to boost his ego, which serves as his health meter. Most of the things that boost your ego come in the form of mini-games. You can shoot pool or play pinball, for example, for a big boost in ego. There are also objects in your environment that you can interact with to build Duke's already inflated opinion of himself to new heights. You can admire yourself in the mirror, lift weights, or slap alien boobs growing on the wall, for example. All of it comes calling back to Duke's legendary overbearing machismo. Wrap Clint Eastwood, Chuck Norris and Mr. T together, and you essentially just have Duke's punching bag - he's that bad-ass.
Of course, since most of the effort went in to making this really feel like another big Duke outing, there are some major game play flaws. It's a solid shooter, it ought to stick to that. But unfortunately, you'll find a lot of over-extended scenes like driving around in a toy car after being shrunken, or first-person platforming as you try and scale a giant statue of yourself to get to a higher floor. And every time you either die or complete a section of a level, you're treated to a loading screen that seems just endless, with the same looping guitar and flashing lights for minutes at a time.
All said and done, whether this game is worth your time or not depends on your sense of humor and your tolerance for frustration. If you played Duke 3D back in the day, you should have a pretty good idea what this game is like. Duke Nukem Forever is definitely not for everyone, but for my money, it was worth every penny.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 06/20/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/14/11)
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