Review by yamikarasu13
"So Wrong Yet So Right!"
Let's address the elephant in the room right now. Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996. The sequel, Duke Nukem Forever was released in 2011. Over time the development staff and finances dwindled to a short list of enthusiasts working on the game at home. The game was never truly finished but when 3D Realms was shut down it was the closest they were ever going to get. Gearbox took a year to consolidate the progress and tie up some loose ends but only so much could be done with what was there.
Duke Nukem Forever's gameplay is reminiscent of Half-Life crossed with corridor shooters and a B-movie flair. Some levels require problem solving and exploration. Most levels are narrow in scope with a heavy emphasis on combating waves of enemies. Both complement each other well and the whole experience is refreshing. Tying the game together is a thin narrative, again similar to Half-Life, where aliens invade Earth to kill a lot of people and impregnate women. The plot is about what you'd expect in a B-movie and serves as a parody of other video game shooters. The connotation would be funnier if the sad reality wasn't that most video game plots are B-movie level at best. With that in mind the plot in Duke Nukem Forever is not so bad.
So what sets Duke Nukem Forever apart from other shooters? Boobs, lots and lots of boobs. Duke Nukem revels in his immaturity because otherwise it wouldn't work. I'm restating the obvious here but Duke Nukem is an amalgamation of tough guy' movie characters from the 80s and 90s like those played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. While those characters were intended to be cool Duke is not. Duke was created by geeky action movie fans to be the man they all, nay, we all want to be. We want to be the sole savior of the human race from aliens. We want every woman we meet to cream their pants. We want to have a body of steel and bench press over 600lbs. We want to be rich, famous and own our own strip club, casino and chain of burger joints. Duke is witty, no doubt, but he comes off as more geeky than cool because of all the movie references and the over the top dispositions other people have towards him. I'm cool with him being a geek though because it's relatable, funny and entertaining.
Duke Nukem Forever is the most inconsistent game I've ever played. I don't mean the plot either, I mean everything else. Some of the games' textures are good but a lot of them are terribly flat, like 10 years old flat. From some angles the Mighty Foot, Duke's bigfoot truck, looks fair enough but closer inspection you can see inside the truck and notice there's no engine or anything inside. It's just a plastic shell with big ass wheels. Call it an oversight that doesn't affect gameplay, no big deal right? Well, here's another odd one. Stacks of crates are fairly common and I noticed that if I broke crates they didn't affect the others so floating crates! For a game with physics puzzles you would think the physics would be fairly consistent.
There are several technological short comings to be addressed. Old shooters let you carry all the weapons you found and lots of ammo each but you needed to pick your fights wisely because of limited health pickups. Modern shooters either let you carry all weapons with a little ammo each or only two weapons with a lot of ammo each to encourage variety but without restricting abilities. Duke Nukem Forever, however, only lets you carry two at a time with a relatively low amount of ammo a piece. Most of the weapons become impractical to use at all because of this. The aliens also have a lot of health so nothing but a shotgun is likely to last longer than a few aliens even if your aim is good. You're left with only the weapons that are commonly used by the aliens as your primary equipment as everything else runs out of ammo quickly. That amounts to the Shotgun which you should always be carrying, the Ripper which is a triple barrel assault rifle with a lot of ammo but low damage, the pistol which is fairly weak, and the AT Laser rifle which is terrible due to slow projectiles and a three fire burst. Most of the other weapons are procedurally placed at key spots, like the Rail Gun (a sniper rifle) and Shrink Ray, where they can be of use for a few enemies then you need to discard them. My favorite weapon, the Devastator, is like dual wielding SMGs that shoot rockets. I got to use the Devastator only three times in the whole game against bosses which is a bit disappointing. I spent the majority of the game with the Ripper and Shotgun and I expect most players will do the same.
The animations are all laughably poor. For instance, you can see Duke in a mirror fairly frequently and witness his jump animation. It's an extraordinarily stiff animation that puts Fallout 3 NPCs to shame. Not every animation is that bad but the animations that stick out they're all hilariously bad. Also, there are usually only three enemies on the screen at any given time. You'll kill one and another will respawn until you've finished with the waves in a room. It's only noticeable if you're paying attention. Since most of the game takes place in tight corridors where three enemies fill a room nicely it's not that big of a deal for the most part. Plus, the game gets brutally difficult at some parts so I can live with just three enemies at once especially given how many bullets it takes to bring any one of them down. Octobrains are especially annoying because they usually hover at long range, constantly sway back and forth and deal massive damage with thrown objects that are very difficult to dodge. A couple of underwater levels towards the end of the game are completely broken because this difficulty is compounded by the water hindering your movement and improving theirs. You'll end up dying a lot of times in this game which means you'll be seeing a long loading screen each time as the game reloads the entire level. On PC the loading screens aren't so bad, no more than 20-30 seconds a piece and sometimes much shorter. Since the game is broken up into well over 30 stages you'll be seeing a lot of downtime.
So is this game great? No, but it doesn't have to be. In a time where AAA games are released every week there's no more room for the B-games to find their niche. Even the bargain bins now are filled with games like Bioshock and Grand Theft Auto 4 which blow B-games out of the water. Although blowing up aliens never gets tired, there's something about Duke Nukem Forever that's inexplicably fun even if there's nothing particularly interesting about the game. This is the ultimate B-movie in video game form with a crude charm to it I've never seen in other games. The machismo of Duke has soaked the game itself and feels genuinely manly in a strip club, steak and beer, Spike TV sort of way. Where most video games take themselves too seriously it's refreshing to play one that so adamantly doesn't. I can appreciate where it's coming from but I'm even more excited to see where it's going.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 07/08/11
Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/13/11)
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