This is Duke Nukem. He likes Beer, strippers, and blowing off faces. If you come into Duke Nukem Forever expecting anything more from a guy who was made famous for ripping off an aliens head and then s******* on the corpse, you’re going to be disappointed. Honestly, you may be disappointed anyway.
Duke Nukem Forever (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Developer: 3D Realms, Triptych Games, Gearbox Software, Piranha Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: June 14, 2011
MSRP: $59.99 / $49.99 (PC)
Duke Nukem Forever does have a few redeeming qualities. The music is catchy, the attitude from Jon St. John is a welcome return, and his voice does much to bring the nostalgia flowing back, but Jon’s addition is the high point. Other experiences you’ll enjoy will include muddy graphics, poor controls, and to whomever thought adding a swimming level was a good idea, I’ve got a news flash for you. Swimming levels aren’t fun, they will never be fun, and I hate you. Those portions were some of the most memorable. Memorable because they added to my misery.
To be fair, when Duke Nukem Froever stops throwing bad jokes in your face, (including one that makes light of rape, and one that uses the word fag flippantly) and stops forcing you to partake in some incredibly frustrating platforming, it remembers what it’s supposed to be and lets you shoot some alien bastards. There’s jokes that poke fun at Halo, and some that poke fun at Call of Duty, but the Duke doesn’t feel right until the monotony and tediousness of the platforming is broken up with some traditional combat. It feels right, the same way a good, modern day beat em up feels right. If you liked the original Duke Nukem, then you can expect that same style of gameplay re-created in Duke Nukem Forever. The bad part of that is that the last decent Duke title came out in 1996. It’s time to bring a little innovation to the game, and that is not accomplished here. You’re more likely to be forced onto a turret.
The frustrations with the game made my entire experience an exercise in patience. Some of the notable moments included a portion when I was stuck in my truck and unable to move, or when a boss smashed me into a building, embedding Dukes body within some geometry, and forcing me to wait until I was murdered so that I could try again. Speaking of geometry, the graphics don’t do much to impress either.
Though the game uses the Unreal engine, someone was clearly trying to cover up some of the uglier moments. Well those ugly moments sometimes poked their heads out as backgrounds seen during the many turret portions look like something pulled off of google images and expanded to a thousand times it’s original resolution. Not to mention a few characters like the President, and General who could have used some polishing up before their big debut.
There are a total of three spendable power ups in the game. First up there’s Holo Duke. Holo Duke will be needed once the entire game, and then can be forgotten about. Secondly there are Steroids. Steroids will make your punches turn enemies into puddles of goo, but they eliminate your ability to switch to a firearm meaning that flying opponents are going to be awfully hard to kill. Finally there’s Beer. Beer makes damage have less effect on your character, but also makes the game, in my opinion, unplayable. The screen becomes so distorted there were times that I couldn’t proceed until the effect had worn off. This is obviously in an attempt to simulate being “drunk” but if the Duke can’t handle one beer without getting so wasted that he can’t see straight, I need to take away his man card.
Aside from these spendable abilities, there was one more added. It’s name is Duke vision, and it’s a spoof of the eye shine seen in one of my favorite games of all time, The Chronicels of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. It is the worst mechanic in the entire game and did a lot to cause more problems for the entire product.
Because they had to think about Duke Vision the entire time, the developer purposefully made some areas so dark that you would have to put on the goggles, and some areas so light that you are completely blinded if the glasses are on. Sounds fine in theory, but every single area I encountered that had even one light source made it impossible what was going on in the dark, or by using the glasses. It was a nightmare getting through some portions and the mode should have been scrapped in favor of more straight up gunplay. Sadly the latter was quite absent for the duration of my experience.
To keep you coming back a multiplayer experience has been included that has deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, and King of the Hill. You may have to squint at the names to recognize this, but if you look hard enough at Dukematch, Team Dukematch, Capture the Babe and Hail to the King you’ll figure our what they’re really supposed to be.
It’s nice that the mode was added, but the only character you’ll ever see is the Duke and the fact that they were so lazy that they didn’t even put other character models into the multiplayer experience is saddening. Someone needed to tell this development team that it isn’t 1996 anymore and placing one character model into a multiplayer match is unacceptable and lazy.
I can’t wrap up this review saying that I hated Duke Nukem Forever. Even with the negative aspects I managed to have some fun for the first few hours, and the final boss fight was rewarding to play and beat, but the flaws quickly made themselves apparent and some of the humor was inappropriate. Even for the Duke.
I think long time fans will find a few redeeming qualities that they’ll enjoy, but no one should be paying full price for admission. Wait until the game goes on sale and if you still need your Duke fix after that, then maybe pick it up. Or you could do yourself an even bigger favor by renting it as you’ll be able to finish it in a few hours, or at least reach a point where you’re so frustrated that you’ll no longer want to play.
I think Duke Nukem Forever can best be summed up by a quote from the game itself. It’s spoken by The President of the United States to Duke Nukem when the aliens begin invading. I think it sums up the game nicely.
“Duke, you’re a relic from a different era.”
Truer words have never been spoken. I hope 2K can give the Duke a proper return with the sequel they have planned. Let’s hope they have less jokes about being gay, rape, and that they get some decent gameplay in there next time.