Review – Duke Nukem Forever
As in ‘put up your dukes’?
I’m a massive fan of Duke Nukem 3D, so since I was sixteen and when this game was announced I’ve been looking forward to it. Fifteen years later and the game which became a joke, with many saying it would never be released, is finally out. It even looked less likely when 3D Realms the company that was developing the game shut down, so Gearbox the company behind Borderlands took over and have finally got the game out there. The big question is this game worth the wait? Well unfortunately not, whilst it’s not a bad game it certainly doesn’t seem like a game that has taken fifteen years of development progression from something that was originally slated to use the first Quake engine.
Let’s start with the gameplay, it has moved on from Duke Nukem 3D, but it seems to have only gotten as far as the first Halo game which was released in 2001. The game has regenerating health, where Duke’s ego gets dropped by being hit and he needs to get into cover so he can build his ego up. Duke can only carry two weapons at a time as well, so you constantly having to figure out which are the best weapons to use for the situation. This can mean you end up dying because you’ve picked up a weapon which doesn’t work very well against certain types of enemies. Also there are plenty of times you get swarmed by enemies and killed very quickly, since Duke can’t take all that many hits. One little innovation is by interacting with certain in-game objects you can increase the amount of ego you have. The more interaction you have with the objects the more ego you get, so say you have a weight bench and you add enough weights to it and sit down to press them you get a big improvement compared to just lifting the small amount already on the bar.
The weaponry in the game pretty much all comes from the original game, so classics like the shrink ray and freeze ray make a comeback along with FPS staples of pistol, shotgun, and machine gun. One weapon that feels out of place is the rail gun, which works as a sniper rifle and Duke was never about sniping or hiding in cover so it just all feels a little off. Another thing which is very old school in its approach is the level design with some platforming and puzzle sections. Instead of the more modern FPS games like COD or Halo: Reach etc., where they hand hold you showing you where the next checkpoint is this game makes you figure out what you have to do next. This does mean there’s some backtracking and trial and error with what you have to do to continue on in the level.
Duke’s back, and like anyone who has been away for a long time, he’s brought home a host of tropical diseases: Terrible graphics and texture work, glacial load times, a laughably choppy framerate, boring turret sections, overly-long, shitty vehicle sections, a Halo-style two-weapon limit, and worst of all; tedious linearity.
I should add that the PC version of the game doesn’t suffer from quite as many problems as the Xbox 360 version I’ve been playing – PC gamers will enjoy the benefits of smoother framerates and higher resolution graphics. But these things don’t preclude the simple truth regardless of platform: Duke Nukem Forever is fucking awful.
DNF is a peculiar mix of old and new first person shooter tropes, but all of the wrong ones have been included. Duke Nukem 3D was fairly non-linear considering the technical limitations of the time. It had labyrinthine maps and offered players choices and multiple routes for the most part, and it did an excellent job of keeping things varied and interesting. DNF forces you down corridor after corridor.
3D had a huge variety of interesting weaponry that allowed players to mix things up and confront each set of enemies in a multitude of ways. DNF lets you carry two weapons at a time. An achievement dangling 50G in your face if you can carry the gold pistol for the duration of the campaign elegantly compounds this shit-brained problem.
Duke now has regenerating health. This didn’t seem like much of a big deal until I started playing and realised something: There’s absolutely no point in exploring the levels anymore. What are you going to find in a secret area? There are no mega health packs or armour. Maybe you’ll find a weapon you can’t carry if you’re lucky.
Being positive for a second, the environment interactivity is entertaining – pool tables, toilets, showers, pinball machines, etc – and the classic Duke ‘humour’ can be a bit of fun, but this is very much a case of rolling a turd in glitter. In short, the campaign is crap. Sadly multiplayer offers no redemption whatsoever and I simply don’t have room to talk about how dire it is.
Maybe it’s because despite all of the whinging about a lack of innovation in the video games industry, and the same tired old genres being milked for all they’re worth, the first person shooter genre has been refined and perfected to within an inch of its life. At this point, even a slightly sub-par FPS (see: Brink) stands out like a sore thumb. As a result, Duke Nukem Forever sticks out like a thumb covered in shit and thrust towards your face.
BUT, I will add one pretty significant caveat: I still find it oddly compelling. Like watching deleted scenes from your favourite film, or listening to a compilation of demo tape songs that didn’t make it onto an album, if you’ve been following the game’s progress all the way through, curiosity takes over. And in that respect, it’s a reasonably entertaining game. It’s awful, but there is still something there for people like me who have an interest in seeing this thing through and finding out exactly what it is they’ve been doing for all these years. That probably isn’t worth £30 or £40, but I have a feeling you won’t have to wait too long to pick up a very cheap second hand copy.
Secondary Score: 4/10
Graphically the game is no great shakes, if this game was released in the early days of the 360 five years ago it would be fine, looking at it now though and it really does look shoddy. There’s many times where the textures take a while to fully appear once the game has loaded up. You will also have to deal with this due to a lot of mid-level loading screens and the time it takes to load up the section of the level you are in is pretty awful. It can take up to a minute for the game to load and installing the game onto your hard drive only improves it marginally. This gets very infuriating when you get to the sections where you get swarmed by enemies, get killed wait ages for the game to load repeat ad nauseum until you get passed it.
The game also sees the return of the secondary weapons from Duke Nukem 3D, these are the trip mines and pipe bombs. You use the left bumper to throw the trip mines and they’ll stick to walls, floors scenery objects and even enemies. Then there’s a laser that comes out and anything that sets it off gets blown up. The pipe bombs are basically just grenades, but you choose when to set them off using the right bumper to throw them and then the right trigger to activate it, you can throw out multiple bombs before setting them all off. It also means that in some games like Halo or COD if you fluff a grenade throw, you get it bounce back into you and you’ve blown yourself up, but you can pick them back up and try again which is always a nice little touch.
The game also adds in some multiplayer deathmatch and a capture the flag type game where you have to coerce a “babe” back to your own babe, by slapping them on the arse. It is all very vanilla to me. It doesn’t try to do anything different and just seems tacked on.
Duke is back and he seems a bit tired and out of touch, sure you get lots of witty one-liners from Duke voiced by Jon St John, but they end up getting annoying after a while. This is because they repeat far too much, hearing Duke go on about “I wonder how many pork chops I can make out of you?” every other time you kill a pig cop, which is the most plentiful enemy in the game is just tiring. If this game was released during the early part of the last decade, then it would be getting good reviews, but in 2011 it just seems out of touch. At least Gearbox can concentrate on making Aliens: Colonial Marines now instead of getting this dog of a game released.