Review by GloryBound87
"Duke Nukem Forever - Fun game, now I want to see the next Duke Nukem title."
I've been a fan of Duke Nukem 3D from the first time I played a pirated copy of Duke 3D on my cousin's computer. Absolutely loved it. Not only was it fun to play and a great deviation from the gloominess of the Doom franchise, but Duke Nukem was funny. I enjoyed listening to his quips and playing as an actual character, not some faceless, mute hand with a gun.
Now Duke Nukem Forever, a game that's been in development for more than 12 years, is finally out. So what's in store for gamers, both Duke fans and newcomers?
I wanted to score this higher, but the gameplay is...uninspired. It captures the run-and-gun feel that made Duke 3D a thrill to play, but alters the level dynamic so it feels clumsy at best. There are three problems that I see that, had they been addressed, would have given the gameplay a higher rating.
First, the aiming mechanism for the game is unfriendly. Aiming is a task and is not intuitive at all. I spent almost half an hour trying to tweak the x- and y-axis sensitivity to give me something that would be more agreeable, but at the end of the day, aiming in this game makes the game more difficult, particularly when you're being swarmed by Pigcops and Octabrains. The power behind the shotgun tends to make up for this, as even a glancing blow at close range generally kills enemies in one shot, but like I said, when things get hectic, aiming at targets and prioritizing hinders the experience, rather than helps it. This may be an occasion where PC trumps console by a wide margin.
Second, the levels are subpar for a Duke Nukem sequel. With the exception of the strip club level, all of the levels are a point-a-to-point-b sequence, broken up by cutscenes and events. Sure, there a lot of enemies to kill, plenty of one-liners and fun to have, and there is a whole section where you drive a monster truck (which I found pretty fun, to be honest) and another with an RC car (not so much fun), but you're still moving from point a to point b in a very linear fashion. Doom 3 suffered from this fault even moreso than Duke Nukem Forever, but the environment of a cramped research outpost on Mars played on it as a strength. Duke Nukem Forever gave the illusion of being a wide open space, without ever delivering on that promise.
Third, loading times are horrendous. While the game doesn't punish you with having incredibly long periods of time without checkpoints, it might as well do that because it takes a comparatively long time to load the previous checkpoint when you die. Even in areas that are strictly boss battles, it takes far too long to load. The only portion that I felt had an acceptable load time was the boss battle with the Energy Leech, but that's only because the level consisted of some static elements and one boss enemy. Anything more and you'll do well to fix yourself a sandwich, eat it, and then pick up the controller to replay that portion.
All that being said, this game really shines when it comes to interactivity. An often overlooked facet in a first-person shooter (or most games, for that matter) there are any number of things in the game world that you can interact with, many with humorous results. There's something to be said about using a curling weight to bash in an alien's skull. Or playing pinball, losing, and hearing Duke say "I've got balls of FAIL."
Aside from those glaring issues with the gameplay, the game mechanics are fairly straightforward and enjoyable. Point and shoot. Kill a ton of alien bad guys. Listen to awesomely funny lines while doing it. Interact with everything just for kicks, like Duke 3D. Even the button press events for the bosses, while simple, are enjoyable and humorous. Like I said, had the aiming, the level design, and an alternative way of caching level information been given more thought and greater development, the gameplay would have been great.
One last thing, concerning gameplay, which no one seems to touch upon: the environments are amazingly destructible. Despite the aging engine and system it was built on, it succeeds in letting you blow away walls and pillars to kill enemies. Groovy.
I realize that, for many reviews, a lot has been said about how subpar the graphics for this game are. While they do not stack up to 2010 or 2011 releases, the thing that impressed me was how well it did stack up considering the entire game was built on a game engine that was new in 2007. Had Duke Nukem Forever come out at the same time as Doom 3 or even Wolfenstein, its graphics would have been up to par with both. That being said, for the date it was released, the graphics are behind the times. I understand why they are, but that doesn't constitute a free pass. Anti-aliasing is almost non-existent in most parts of the game, which hurts it, especially when trying to render naked strippers (I like my strippers smooth, not razor sharp). Some textures take a very long time to load, or simply don't load high-resolution textures at all.
All in all, however, I feel that the graphics gave an acceptable face-lift into real 3D graphics for the Duke Nukem franchise. The character and item designs are well-done, if not suffering from low-resolution textures on some objects. Especially the weapons; all of the weapons in Duke's arsenal look like upgraded versions of the Duke 3D classics.
I like the way the game sounds. Pigcops sound like pigcops. Octabrains sound like octabrains. Even Duke getting hurt sounds like...well, Duke experiencing pain. The gun sounds are also very well done. The Ripper has excellent firing and reloading sounds, as does the Shotgun, the 1911, and the Shrink Ray. The music works well with the game, though there are a number of points when you can tell that a whole bunch of enemies are about to enter the area and enemies will no longer spawn. That's alright though; I keep track of them and plan accordingly with pipe bombs and trip mines.
On the subject of sound design, you cannot overlook the exceptional amount of voice-work that's been done by Jon St. John. As the appointed voice of Duke Nukem since 1996, he has made an excellent comeback as the hero's voice. One-liners abound, and although some lines are dated (it tends to happen when lines were written and recorded over the last 5 years), they all contribute to the grand sense of fun Duke Nukem Forever puts forth. I think I'll redecorate my room in brain matter grey. Right after I make some porkchop sandwiches.
As far as I'm concerned, this technically shouldn't be a category as far as Duke Nukem is concerned. Duke 3D had a fleeting premise that practically disappeared in the first five minutes of gameplay: those alien bastards blew up Duke's ride, and it's time for some healthy servings of pain cake. The rest of Duke 3D was an awesome shooter with almost no mention of story at all. Duke Nukem Forever takes it a step further and builds a story about Duke's retirement, his glamorous casino, and his celebrity status. That's enough story for me. The Duke Nukem franchise has never been about introspection or contemplation. It's been about kicking ass and taking names, and that's exactly what the story lead-up for Duke Nukem Forever provides. Nothing fancy, and nothing involved. If you want story, play Mass Effect or Final Fantasy VII; now THOSE have incredible story and depth. If you want to blast away at alien scum trying to steal our women, play Duke Nukem Forever.
On a side note, as far as story is concerned, there's been a lot said in a number of other reviews concerning the writing and the humor of the game, as well as some story-related portions on one of the levels. Yes, women want to throw themselves at Duke. Yes, Duke starts the game with blonde twins performing fellatio. Yes, there are strippers in this game, working at a club owned and operated by Duke. Yes, Duke regularly proclaims how awesome he is when he kills another alien bad guy. I fail to see how any of these things are offensive. Duke Nukem is a symbol of machismo and manly-ness, and as such, enjoys scantily-clad/naked hot women and declaring how much ass he kicks. If this sensibility offends you, then the Duke Nukem franchise is not for you.
And no. Contrary to what some reviewers have written, there is no "alien rape" sequence in this game. There are women who have been implanted by facehuggers, and then have their chests burst open when the aliens mature. If that's rape, then the Aliens series is nothing but snuff films.
Before I write this portion, I want to put in a disclaimer that, due to my terrible ISP, I rarely have access to XBox LIVE, so I haven't played the multiplayer. That said, there isn't a whole lot of replayability to the single-player campaign. Finishing it grants the equivalent of cheat codes (invincibility, instagib, infinite ammo, etc.) which are fun to play through the game again, but it's not quite enough to warrant dealing with some of the technical issues of the game. I do like the Duke's Digs idea for multiplayer, which is an interactive penthouse showcasing trophies and multiplayer unlockables.
Was Duke Nukem Forever worth waiting 12 years for? Well, no, not really. I hate to say it, but it was a little disappointing to see what it eventually became after all the grand ideas that were to be implemented. Still, Duke Nukem Forever is a straight-forward, funny, action-oriented FPS that focuses on killing a whole bunch of alien bad guys and saving the world from destruction once again.
Duke Nukem Forever triumphs as a return of the King to the gameplay arena, but it falls short of being a truly excellent game. Granted, Triptych and Gearbox took what 3D Realms ended with, finished it, and polished it up, but the game was still lacking. Level design was uninspired, the aiming system was unintuitive, the loading times were too long, and the graphics showed their age. However, despite those problems, Duke Nukem Forever is a fun, enjoyable Duke experience.
If you're looking for the Duke, you've found him. Go get some. If you're new to the Duke Nukem franchise, I'd suggest looking for a pre-owned copy of the game or renting it first. It's a lot of fun to pick up and play, and if you're not squeamish or sensitive, you'll get a kick out of Duke's voice-acting. The game doesn't attempt to be serious or deep; it's designed to be fun, plain and simple. If you're looking for something like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or Black Ops, you might want to find a different game. Me? I'll stick to drinking out of water fountains, drinking beer to raise my damage tolerance, and taking a piss in a urinal if I feel like it. The Duke's back. Hail to the king, baby!
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 06/17/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/14/11)
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