Review by Galactus21

"Not as bad as the critics would have you believe."

Twelve Years in the Making.

During the development time of Duke Nukem Forever, Halo 1, 2, 3, spinoffs, and numerous Call of Duties have been released. Several console generations have gone and passed. Duke finally makes its reentry into a gaming industry dominated by first person shooters. It is quite obvious that comparing this game to many current shooters, Duke Nukem doesn't conform to some of the current standards. There are plenty of shooters out there that are certainly better if you judge these games by those standards. This fact has been reiterated by the countless critic reviews that have obliterated Duke in their reviews. Despite what the critics will have you believe, not all of the twelve years spent by the three development studios have been a waste. DNF has a lot of heart and shows moments of brilliance that makes this a solid title…a title that well felt like it took forever…and for moments in the game, it was worth it.

The concept of the game's story is simple. The aliens have returned and they are not here for peace. Explosions and destruction quickly ensue. Known for his outlandish one liner, overdone masculinity, and lewd behavior, Duke is quickly called into action where he reprises his role as the ultimate bad boy and alien killer. Short scenes spread throughout the game give you direction to the simplistic plot, such as where your destination is. The plot serves its purpose, as the meat of the game is to channel your one man army and destroy everything with style.

Taking the bad with the good…

The King's return is certainly a tale of two stories. On one hand, the frantic action, one liner, and lewd content shape and reinforce a fictitious universe of invading pigs and ridiculous protagonists. On the other, clunky controls, horrendous load times, inconsistent chapter quality, and predictable puzzles plague the game. Not to mention the avoidance of some of the basic fundamentals, it would seem that DNF would lead to quick returns of the game. It was quite the opposite however. Despite such flaws to its foundations, Duke Nukem Forever is pure fun. It must be something about ripping pig cops a new one and watching Duke do it nonchalantly. In fact though, when DNF is at its best it is nearly amazing.

Take for instance, the Duke Burger chapter. This chapter was freakishly brilliant. Shrinking Duke down to size and having him scale shelves and jump over burger patties brings back the good ol' days of level design. Most importantly, despite the shortcomings of the game's platforming, the mix of action and ingenious level design lead to a short while of fantastic gaming. On the other end of the spectrum, when DNF is bad, it can bottom out with the worse. The Blowing the Dam chapter is one such case. Duke spends the majority of the time underwater, where he battles enemies and eventually a boss. The horrific underwater controls make it a difficult chapter to swallow. The quality of each chapter is inconsistent throughout the course of the game.

The game's inconsistent nature rears its ugly head in other areas as well. The brightest points within the game are the frantic action, where it throws tons of enemies at you. Mowing down and dismembering aliens was a sadistic, yet gratifying experience. That is why whenever the game presents another puzzle or driving sequence, it felt like an absolute chore to go through before returning to the bright spots. I understand the need for variety, but in this case, the elements that were going to provide that variance was poorly implemented.

The game's biggest drawbacks are its controls. These issues are painstakingly obvious in driving and swimming situations. Controlling Duke's massive truck, the Mighty Foot, is one such experience that highlight the troubles of the controls. With Duke needing oxygen from air bubbles during underwater sequences, the clunky controls make it a frustrating experience as you try to maneuver through the level. The aiming in DNF is also a bit problematic. The controls during firefights didn't feel fluid as I tried to aim between enemies. To make matters worse, platforming isn't very good either. Trying to get Duke to jump from one place to another can be problematic and frustrating at times.

Hail to the King, baby

When looking at all the problems outlined earlier, it is hard to find a way to justify how DNF was an enjoyable game. The bad far outweighed the good. Many of its core elements violated the important rules that make first person shooters good. It's hard to sit here and explain why I enjoyed it, except that I enjoyed it. The moments of brilliance were enough over the course of the game to nullify the plethora of holes to a certain extent.

The expectations after a long development cycle were lowered. This helped soften my expectations and also placed a soft spot in my heart for the game. It wasn't just a journey that took ten to fifteen hours to complete. It was a journey that spanned more than a decade. This journey was also backed by the outlandish and lewd behavior that made Duke such an awesome character. You put all of this together and it's simply a game that has too much heart for me to hate. This plus the moments of brilliance were enough for me find the game enjoyable despite having to dig deep to get to those moments.

Take me back to the old days…literally

From the onset, the visuals are atrocious and underwhelming. Character models and the environment were blurry and ugly. It is quite obvious when first starting up the game that Duke Nukem Forever looks quite dated. Despite efforts made by Gearbox, the game still shows signs of being in development for so long as the graphics looked several generations back. Additionally, the load times were atrocious. The frequent times that you die during Duke Nukem Forever made this difficult to stomach. At certain situations the frame rate dips a bit as well, but for the most part it holds up rather well. The voice acting was fairly solid for the most part, as Duke was quite entertaining. Other characters were quite solid as well. The musical soundtrack wasn't spectacular, but it wasn't too bad either.

Like the Mighty Foot

From both a development and gaming perspective, Duke Nukem Forever was a rough ride. Some of the bright ideas that originated from all those countless years and bright minds are apparent. The lack of direction within this game can also be seen throughout the game with ease. At the surface, Duke Nukem Forever has many reasons why one would hate it. But if you're patient and willing to dig deep into what DNF has to offer, there are moments to be had that you'll relish years from now. Perhaps I just can't believe that it is finally here, or that I actually finished Duke Nukem Forever. Perhaps a part of me wanted this game to excel so much, I couldn't help but enjoy it. Whichever is the case, despite its shortcomings, there are enough moments of fun and excellence that make Duke Nukem Forever an enjoyable experience. Duke Nukem Forever, a piece of gaming history.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/27/11

Game Release: Duke Nukem Forever (US, 06/14/11)

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