Review: Duke Nukem Forever (Single-Player)
Duke Nukem has finally returned, after all these years and years. And what it does is truly put the phrase "better late than never" to the test.
- Worth The Time?No, but since that won't stop the die-hard Duke fans and curious gamers, avoid getting it at full price.
- Things LovedThe good humour and amusing parodies, interacting with the environment, the nostalgia, gaining EGO in funny ways, the unique and entertaining moments.
- Things HatedThe immense repetitiveness of the combat, the indecisiveness of the game regarding whether to be a modern or classic arcade shooter, the generic aspects to the game, the fact that it's a below par FPS at the core, the two weapon limit, the annoying high-pitched screeching noise when using Duke Vision, the regenerating health system, the often continuous spawning of enemies, the outdated feeling to the game, the inconsistent visuals.
- RecommendationFor this sense of nostalgia, die-hard Duke fans will most probably be unable to stop themselves, but the game is not worth full price so avoid that. It would be best to rent this or borrow it, but if you absolutely have to get your hands on it then go for the cheapest option. Ideally, avoid it entirely.
- Name: Duke Nukem Forever
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online co-op (4 players)
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Gearbox Software, Piranha Games
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Price: R361-399 (PC), R542-599 (PS3, 360)
- Reviewed On: PC, PS3
After playing through the demo of Duke Nukem Forever, I was left with the impression that this game would serve as a commercial revival for the franchise, and while it wouldn’t necessarily be a good game, it would set the stage for future Duke games. Unfortunately, I’m left with the same viewpoint, and this game ultimately doesn’t bring anything to the table to enable it to compete with any of the top shooters around. Although I can’t say I expected it to, given the fact that it’s impossible for a game riding a hype train that stretches back over a decade past to live up to the glamorous and greatly exaggerated standards set by its creators, fans and critics alike, especially since the franchise has been out of the game, so to speak, for such a long time. The biggest attraction here is most probably the return of Duke Nukem and the nostalgia and delight for all fans witnessing it, and honestly in some tiny ways the game does entertain you and take you back to a place in your mind where all this was once awesome. But in the end, it just feels old and shallow.
Duke Nukem hasn’t changed. The game may take place twelve years after Duke Nukem 3D, but the man himself is still that same 1980’s vulgar, testosterone-overloaded immature brute we know and love who tears aliens to shreds, objectifies women at every turn and spews out classic movie quotes wherever he can. While it’s easy to live with Duke being the same as he always was, even if he is in the wrong era right about now, the same can’t be said for the outdated and awkward game underneath that simply doesn’t compare on any level of complexity to modern or even older games. Things start out pretty well for Duke, with the opening few sequences being quite funny and enjoyable, giving you the impression that you’re in for a good few laughs and entertaining moments, but unfortunately you’re able to notice the problems with the game as soon as a gun is placed in your hand – and things go downhill from there. Firstly, the awesome “mighty boot” of Duke has been replaced by a boring and generic gun bash melee attack, and the only time you’ll get to see a big boot is if you get enemies to low health and perform an execution or if you’re, well, bored enough to stare down at your feet. The absence of the mighty boot might seem trivial, but in actuality it makes things feel wrong and generic from the start, because the gigantic boot-to-the-face melee attack helped characterise Duke and inspire laughs.
Now that the issue of the mighty boot is out of the way, the biggest problem with Duke Nukem Forever is that it just feels unfinished and far too basic, and from here it’s easy to find its massive abundance of flaws. I personally love a good old arcade shooter, but this game feels as though it just doesn’t fit in, like it wasn’t sure whether it wanted to be a modern shooter or an arcade shooter and instead ended up being an awkward blend of both. You have the annoying two weapon limit and generic melee attack and regenerating health system, and then alongside that you have the actual concept of the game, which is to simply point and shoot at anything that moves. There is no level of depth to the gameplay beyond that, making it not only get extremely repetitive very quickly but also making it feel like a below par shooter. Speaking of regenerating health, even Duke’s famous EGO bar seems to have been caught between arcade and modern thoughts, because while you still increase your maximum EGO by being awesome in the game world and winning mini-games, and heal back what’s lost by killing enemies, you also see the bar get drained really quickly when you’re shot at, forcing you to do what you do in most other shooters and hide behind something until your health regenerates, which is dull.
The shooting, even though overly-simplified, still manages to be entertaining in the early stages, and you’ll have a variety of weapons with which to obliterate your enemies with, ranging from pistols, shotguns and RPGs to freeze rays, shrink rays and rapid-fire missile launchers. While the weapons are fun to use, things get very repetitive since each weapon only has one function, and not much helps the fact that these are the same weapons that were in the original Duke Nukem and there are a handful in total in the game. Not to mention that there aren’t many enemy types either, so the game doesn’t have much variety. Aside from your weapons, there are four items Duke has access to in order to gain the upper hand, namely Duke Vision, Beer, Steroids and the Holoduke. The first is essentially night vision, highlighting your screen in blue and enabling you to see in the dark, but while it’s on it irritatingly makes a high pitched screeching sound that can easily give you a headache. The latter three are items you pick up in the game world, where Beer increases your damage resistance, Steroids enrages you and turns your fists into deadly weapons that smash enemies to pieces and Holodukes turn you invisible and create an image of you to distract enemies. Items are useful, but for the most part you’ll just use them when you get them or forget about them, and they don’t really have a significant impact on gameplay.
Aside from shooting things, which is basic and passable, there are a number of turret sequences, puzzles, vehicle sections and humour-orientated moments to play through. However, past the funny dress-up they’re all covered in, at the core these sections are dreadfully basic, revisiting mechanics that have been explored and that were amusing many years back. See, an important thing to realise about this game is that it’s creative when it comes down to its concepts and how it goes about doing things, but when you actually look at what it’s doing, you’ll see just how primitive and old it all is. I suppose you could say that it’s the humourous dress-up that is attractive about the game, but the fact remains that most aspects to the game would have been entertaining years and years ago, and not now. For examples, you’ll be made to do things like simple see-saw puzzles, place barrels onto platforms to add weight, drop metal boxes into a large rotating fan to break it and so on. These concepts are playing with the basics of game physics that were explored, tried and awesome back in the days of Half-Life 2, and simply dressing them up in a different way doesn’t make them new. Their only purpose seems to be to break up the endless shooting sequences and unnecessarily lengthen play time.
Other issues include often getting lost, because there is no sense of direction in the levels or means to point you in the right way, and the fact that in many sections in the game enemies just keep on spawning, dragging out battles and resulting in the combat becoming a boring chore long before the credits roll. The sad truth is that the only real entertaining moments in the game are experienced through the little things, like once-off happenings such as signing an autograph to boost your EGO, punching someone square in the face for being a douche, humiliating bosses, getting shrunk to the size of a mouse and then driving an RC car around and listening to some of Duke’s one-liners. It’s these moments that you’ll most likely get a kick out of, and that make the game feel like there’s more to it to be appreciated beyond the outdated and shallow gameplay. There are definitely aspects to like about Duke Nukem Forever because of its humour, parodies and difference to other titles out there, but that difference doesn’t stay a good thing, because the game is just basic, immensely repetitive, lacklustre and old, and it doesn’t show you anything to convince you otherwise.
It’s curious that just like it’s only the little things in this game that carry any kind of value, by contrast it’s also small things that will irritate you substantially. While controlling the camera and aiming on PC is easier than on console, as a whole the aiming just isn’t smooth and responsive, and is rather floaty on PC and imprecise on consoles. Moving and jumping feels heavy and unnatural, and again it seems like the awkward blend between arcade and modern styles interfered with the game here. Sprinting is a curious thing, because after mere seconds Duke will be panting and grunting as though he’s in dire need of help, which seriously threatens his manliness. It all makes you wonder whether the developers who created this game were really caught in a bi-polar working environment, where half the studio wanted realism in the game and the other wanted complete wackiness. It’s something I couldn’t wrap my head around when playing this game, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand some of the design choices that were made, because they just don’t make sense.
Perhaps one of the worst truths in this massively controversial affair is that once you strip away the Duke Nukem coating of this game, all you’re really left with is a barely adequate shooter that is massively inconsistent, but at least features some variety, even if it doesn’t always make things better. The game feels as primitive as the era in which its glory originally came from, and the reality is that Duke Nukem Forever, despite its obscenely long and ridiculous development time, never really did mature as a game at all, but at the same time it never really glorified what once upon a time made it so great either. Even if you were to view this game in complete isolation, it still doesn’t do much better, and after all is said and done it just doesn’t seem right to feel disappointed or even bitter towards this game, because it’s really just on another level. It’s most definitely not the worst game in the world, but it certainly leaves the most peculiar aftertaste.
The graphics in the game are a mixed big, because in some areas of the game they look pretty decent while in many others they’re bland and lack detail. The game’s character models look good, but particularly in the larger and more open levels you’ll notice how landscapes and buildings look bland and just plain ugly. It’s apparent that the PC version plays and looks better than its console counterparts, and since you won’t need that powerful a rig to play this game it would be ideal to play it on PC – if you’re planning to that is. Regarding the more technical aspects of the game, I noticed a number of pop-in issues and low resolution textures which were cringe-inducing considering it’s already behind the times graphically, and in practically every other way too mind you. The only sounds I remember from the game really are the one-liners from Duke and the squeals of dying pig monsters, but beyond that there’s nothing memorable in the audio.
In the end, Duke Nukem Forever relies on nostalgia and long-time fans of the game in order to be appreciated, and sadly the reality is that it offers so little to actually earn that appreciation. Sure the primitive and below-par shooter that this game is got wrapped up in Duke flavouring, but that doesn’t change what it is underneath: a painfully shallow and lacking game. The only real kicks you’ll actually get out of this game are those provided by Duke himself, because the game itself definitely doesn’t win any awards, especially when considering the competition it faces today. Nostalgia certainly leaves its mark with Duke Nukem Forever, but it leaves nothing worth celebrating or remembering in return.