Review by horror_spooky
"FINALLY! The Duke has come BACK!"
12 years in the making...Duke Nukem Forever is always going to be remembered as the game that just never would die, and yet it would never come alive, either. Since the late 90s, fans of Duke Nukem 3D were excitedly awaiting the sequel. Each year, there was footage shown or gameplay details unveiled. However, despite being practically done many times, the game was repeatedly scrapped and revamped. Technology improved, forcing the developers to start over and try to craft the experience from the ground up. Taste would change, and people were clamoring for a more advanced FPS experience like games like Half-Life 2 and Halo: Combat Evolved were bringing to the table. Eventually, the entire idea of Duke Nukem Forever was canned. However, Gearbox Software, a developer company comprised of former 3D Realms devs (the people behind Duke Nukem 3D), decided to revive the project. Gearbox has built quite the reputation for quality software with gamers, having released the wildly popular Borderlands as well as the critically-acclaimed and long-running Brothers in Arms series of games. Duke Nukem Forever, however, would turn out to be their biggest challenge yet.
Duke Nukem Forever has been critically lambasted by other reviewers. Gamers from this site have posted low scores for the game, and professional critics have rated it so badly that Duke has below a 50% average on GameRankings and MetaCritic. I can't wrap my head around this. Playing through Duke Nukem Forever was a very enjoyable experience for me. The game is pure fun. I think a lot of people are forgetting that the FUN is the most important aspect about any video game. Gorgeous graphics and a compelling story don't necessarily equal entertainment.
Playing through Duke Nukem Forever's single-player campaign, I had fun. The game truly is an absolute blast from the beginning to the end. While there are a couple of bumps in the road along the way, it's more of a consistently good game than most blockbuster FPS titles that are raved about to no end these days.
At its core, Duke Nukem Forever is a typical FPS...from the 90s. The guns don't move in a realistic manner at all. It's all very floaty, fast, and hectic. It's wonderful. While I was playing Duke Nukem Forever, I truly felt like I was playing the Nintendo 64 Duke Nukem installment. The only thing missing was a group of my buddies blasting each other to death in the game's split-screen mode. I can't convey how much of an awesome thing this is. It's not just the nostalgia factor, either. Old first-person shooters are just more fun than modern FPS games, and I think that's because they aren't pre-occupied with crazy set-pieces and ridiculous plot twists.
Duke has plenty of guns at his disposal, too. The weaponry includes a Shrink Ray that makes enemies nearly microscopic, and Duke can then run over and squash them in a spatter of blood underneath his feet. There is an AT Laser, which is an alien-crafted laser machinegun that shoots in short, violent, effective bursts. Duke also has old-fashioned human-made weapons to use, like the FPS-mainstay, the shotgun, as well as a golden pistol with a laser sight. It's good to be the king, baby.
To keep the game from just being a classic corridor-FPS, there's a couple of elements built into the gameplay to keep the game from becoming too repetitive. Valve-esque puzzles that feel like they were ripped directly from a Half-Life game (and probably purposely so) are a welcome change of pace to keep the game interesting throughout. There are also vehicular segments that, while they are pretty cool at first, tend to get old as they seem to drag on forever. These driving segments are oftentimes the worst part of the game, but while they are very lengthy when they do occur, they are few and far between.
An area where Duke Nukem Forever truly shines is the platforming. Many FPS games try to tack on platforming elements to little success. Duke Nukem Forever embraces platforming and manages to craft pretty unique platforming experiences. For example, there are times throughout the campaign when Duke is shrunk to the size of an action figure, and players have to traverse through the rooms, Honey I Shrunk the Kids-style. It opens the door for original platforming elements.
While it's definitely an FPS game, Duke Nukem Forever also throws in elements of an adventure game as well. Players need to explore the environments, and there's even a fetch-quest thrown in the mix. It's not a generic, boring feth-quest either, let me assure you.
To accompany these adventure elements, Duke can interact with a ton of objects in the environment. It sounds extremely mundane to microwave a bag of popcorn on paper, but doing it in a video game just feels cool. The purpose of actions like microwaving popcorn is to boost Duke's Ego. Duke's Ego is the healthbar in this game, so it's wise for players to scour the enivronment to complete these simple tasks to permanently raise Duke's health bar. Besides throwing a bag of popcorn into the microwave, players also can play basketball, lift weights, watch pornography, make a photocopy of their ass, and play pinball, among other activities.
I've always liked how Duke Nukem games let you interact with everything in the environment. While other first-person shooters do this, Duke just does it the best. See a sink in the bathroom? Turn it on! Want to drain the main vein in the urinal? Go right ahead. It's the presentation factor swinging with full force. Duke Nukem Forever takes it to the next level by giving players the ability to write on whiteboards with markers, and sign their autograph in the pages of Duke's autobiography for a young Duke fan. While it seems like a rather simple addition to the gameplay, it really gives Duke Nukem Forever a ton of charm that just isn't present in many first-person shooters today or ever for that matter, and like I said, it really presents Duke Nukem Forever as a unique and clever game.
If there's one thing I could change about the game's presentation though, it would be the visual performance. Duke Nukem Forever does NOT look as good as it should. We've all seen what the current-gen consoles are capable of, and settling for less may be a bit difficult at first. Duke Nukem Forever has framerate issues as well as texture pop-in, but the character models and alien models are good. I just wish that the developers spent all the time they had while the game was getting delayed to beef up the graphics a bit more.
But where it falters visually, Duke Nukem Forever makes up for with the audio experience. Duke spews funny one-liners from the start of the game to the credits, and while there are a lot of hit-and-miss jokes, most of the jokes are "hits", at least for me. The developers also stuffed in a lot of obscure references to popular culture, which a lot of people will appreciate it.
Duke Nukem Forever is a parody in the purest sense of the word. Looking at it that way, the game is art. It's a parody of the first-person shooter genre and video games in general, and it's a breath of fresh air in an overwhelming wave of over-serious shooters and space marines blowing up buildings. The game takes jabs at films like Tombstone and Total Recall, and all the great video games, including Red Dead Redemption, Gears of War, Halo, Call of Duty, and itself. Duke Nukem Forever is one of the most self-aware video games ever created. It knows it's not truly a blockbuster title, but it also doesn't strive to be. It's main goal is one that it reaches, and that's by providing an immense fun factor that other developers should all try to reach.
On that point, the storyline in Duke Nukem Forever is a bit silly, and the levels have strange placement. The aliens that Duke defeated 15 years prior have returned to Earth. The president refuses to let Duke engage the hostiles because he believes he can make peace with them. However, the aliens start attacking, and Duke must once again save the world from the alien threat of three-boobed Alien Queens and shotgun-toting pig people. The setting tends to jump around like a Call of Duty game, and it can become a little bit disorienting for anyone seriously trying to follow the plot. There's even a level that just seems randomly thrown in there with for no rhyme or reason. It's a level where Duke is in a strip club, and in that level lies the fetch-quest I talked about earlier in the review. It just seems so random and out of place, like the developers desperately wanted a strip club level in the game, and didn't know where to put it, so they decided to just shove it in the middle of the adventure.
True to the genre, Duke Nukem Forever has a multiplayer component. The multiplayer features an XP system, leaderboards, and unlockable content, just
like all the other juggernaut FPS games do these days. Players can unlock new clothing items for Duke by completing special challenges to give themselves a more unique look. By leveling up, players unlock new items for Duke's apartment, which can be fully explored. Once again, the charm and presentation is what the multiplayer makes important with these special modes that really aren't found in other FPS games today.
The multiplayer itself is limited, but a blast nonetheless. The game doesn't try to be any different than the old Duke Nukem FPS games, and that's definitely a good thing. The multiplayer is chaotic, bloody, and wildly entertaining. There are different game modes, including standard deathmatches, as well as a King of the Hill-style mode and a unique take on Capture the Flag. Instead of capturing flags, players have to steal the opposing team's "babe", and return her to their base. If the babe tries to escape, players have to press X to spank her to get her to calm down and prevent her from getting away. It's juvenile, but I'll be damned if it isn't worth a chuckle or two.
The main issue with the multiplayer is the weapons. The game is horribly unbalanced. It's also pretty damn hard to actually shoot someone. While the fast-paced nature of the combat works fine for the single-player campaign while battling with the AI, it just doesn't translate well to the multiplayer experience.
Do you remember earlier in this review when I mentioned I felt like I was sitting around the N64 with a group of my buddies playing split-screen? Unfortunately, that experience can't be faithfully recreated with Duke Nukem Forever. For some ungodly reason, there is no split-screen mode. This makes zero sense to me, as the game only allows for eight players online anyway, and the maps really aren't even that big. Hell, the multiplayer mode also runs a lot smoother than the single-player campaign, and I just feel like the reason that there isn't split-screen is laziness on the part of the developers. Seriously, 12 years and you can't split the screen into four? Gimme a break. This is a big missed opportunity and it keeps Duke Nukem Forever from reaching its full potential.
Untrue to the genre, Duke Nukem Forever's campaign is considerably lengthy. The most popular FPS games these days can usually be completed in one-sitting. Duke Nukem Forever is a 10 to 15 hour game, easily, and there is a lot of extra content to seek one's teeth into. There are secrets to discover, achievements to unlock, multiple difficulty modes, tons of extra content including a very interesting development timeline, and the robust multiplayer offerings. Those looking for an FPS game that's considerably different from the competition and that has a lot to keep people coming back need look no further than Duke Nukem Forever.
The graphics? Pretty damn bad. The jokes? Hit and miss. The gameplay? Dated. The storyline? Inconceivably silly. The fun factor? Limitless. Duke Nukem Forever is going to be one of the most underrated video games ever created. The single-player campaign is a blast, and the multiplayer is more than solid. I fully admit that the game isn't without flaws, but to say that this game isn't a good game, that people won't pick it up and have tons of fun with it, is ludicrious. This game is definitely worth the money, and even if you're just curious, at LEAST give it a rent. Hail to the king, baby.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 06/21/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/14/11)
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