Review by Dear_Watson
"Forever wasn't long enough."
When I initially saw the extensive ESRB rating list attached to the first official Duke Nukem Forever trailer, I was sold. I don't think I have to regale you with the story of this game's lengthy journey through development hell starting back when it was first announced back in 1997, so I'll just cut to the chase. The Duke's back, baby. Balls of steel and all that. Anyone easily offended by anything should probably steer clear of this title, lest it corrupt your soul and turn you into a misogynistic, egotistical, blood thirsty maniac. I'm left wondering why Jack Thompson isn't all over this. Is that guy still around? Anyhow
So, since the epic ass kicking he delivered upon the alien invaders twelve years prior, Duke has slipped into the retired lifestyle of fame, fortune and the ladies. Scattered throughout his penthouse are awards, artifacts, and framed photos from his achievements over the years. Being the gigantic silo of testosterone that he is, the game begins with Duke playing videos games and spending um Quality time with world famous, school-girl clad, pop stars The Holsom Twins. The time is cut short when he's reminded he's slated to make a guest appearance on the Damn It's Late! Show with Johnny O'Lenoman. While making his way to the set, a breaking news story comes your way about the recently returned alien mother ship sending a few of their pigcops down to the local Duke Burger for a bite. The guest spot is quickly cancelled when the alien menace starts causing trouble again in good old Las Vegas. Duke does what he can to help kick some ass among the chaos, even when he's told not to get involved by the president, but doesn't intend to take REAL action until the aliens did the unthinkable. That's right; they've started taking the babes the hot ones. Some plan that involves Hoover Dam and impregnating the women, insert some kicking ass and chewing bubblegum quotes and away we go.
Let's start with what the game does right, and that's Duke Nukem as a character. Duke may seem like a simple, cliched, underdeveloped character, but what he lacks in depth, he more than makes up for in his over-the-top personality and the presentation therein. Take all of the awesome action heroes you grew up with and put them into one all American badass. Duke doesn't need any fancy power armour or gimmicky sidekicks. All he needs are his brushcut, his shades and two tickets to the gun show! As mentioned before, during the opening of the game while touring Duke's penthouse, you can observe portraits of him in such manly situations as being atop Mount Everest, winning the UFC championship, holding a great white shark by the eyes, and posters of musicals and dancers based off of his life interspersed around the building. He's once again voiced by the ever talented Jon St. John, who does an excellent job bringing Duke to life with his delivery of tons upon tons of cheesy one-liners that are constantly referencing famous movies, television shows, and other video games. A Right in the jewels! after using a giant aliens crotch as a speed bag or Power Armour is for p******! when offered a familiar looking green suit and helmet by another soldier, will most definitely slap a smile on your face.
But the build-up of the character being a total badass is completely and utterly letdown with what the rest of the game has to offer. It's a, for lack of a better word, overwhelmingly generic first person shooter in that it does absolutely nothing new and everything that's presented had been done to death even ten years ago. You're provided with the usual FPS weapons with a few unique ones sprinkled in along the way. Any sense of power that these weapons have is immediately taken away when you realize the clunky, inaccurate aiming that's terrible even with the automatically enabled assisted aiming turned on. These issues aren't helped any by the frequent graphical and clipping glitches made by leaping and recently defeated enemies, some of which simply disappear immediately after being shot.
It's a shame how glitchy the enemies are because they're arguably the best looking part of the game, which is far more than what can be said of the actual environments and other human characters themselves, all of which don't even enter the uncanny valley. The level designs behind a ruined Las Vegas and Hoover Dam are both largely uninspired aesthetically and when it comes to the layout and puzzles, and will sometimes leave you wandering around wondering what to do next. The levels also suffer from excessive texture pop-ins even after the ridiculous load times. Loading screens come up after every single time you die and following small areas, and take upwards of 20-30 seconds each time, breaking up the action considerably.
Driving segments are drawn out and feel tacked on, acting as filler in between areas where your monster truck runs out of gas, prompting you to scour the area in search of more fuel. Portions of the game are dedicated to Duke being shrunk down to the size of an action figure, and forced to replay rooms from a different point of view. Interacting with certain objects such as urinals and exercise equipment throughout the levels warrant you with and increase to your EGO (Health bar), all of said interactions seem clever and entertaining at first until you realize halfway through the game that they just keep rehashing the same stuff. All of these gameplay elements give the feeling that they could have been truly memorable moments if they hadn't been repeated constantly. Instead of being a Hey, remember the part in Duke Nukem when... moments, they're stretched over the entire length of the game, giving the impression that the project was very rushed.
Speaking of rushed, I'm not even going delve into what they call the multiplayer thrown into this thing. Cut and paste modes from any other shooter you've ever seen. Teams, Free-for-all, king of the hill, and capture the babe (flag). I can't tell if this game is just bad, or if they're pulling something over on me. Duke Nukem is all about the parodies, so the fact that everything about the game is so generic makes me wonder if that in itself is the gag directed towards the FPS genre as a whole. A specific quote from the game stands out to me I hate valve puzzles! (Obviously a jab at Half-Life) he says, while I say to myself Yeah, me too...all while still making me go through with said puzzle. It's very reminiscent of other games such as The Simpsons Game (2007) and any Matt Hazard game, where they poke fun at certain gameplay mechanics but still continue to use them. Whether it's one big joke or not, something has gone catastrophically wrong. This is by far the biggest disappointment of the year, or even the last decade, I mean, I love Duke. He's the very embodiment of all that is The Man. The end result doesn't come anywhere near what the development time would dictate. Twelve years? Put it back, it ain't done yet!
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 06/22/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/14/11)
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