Duke Nukem Forever Review
I’ve finally met the hero I’ve waited ten long years to meet. What a shame he turned out to be the massive disappointment I feared. Duke Nukem returns in Duke Nukem Forever, but the game is just as dated as many of us anticipated. It’s quite obviously a project that has been dragged through multiple design choices, two different development teams and years of uncertainty. Duke Nukem just isn’t the same character he used to be, which is a big, fat slap in the face for those of us wanting to relive his once-charismatic charm.
What Duke Nukem Forever Got Right
Self-mockery - This is a game that has gone through development hell. Everyone knows it. Duke Nukem Forever defines vaporware. It was this game that led to the penning of “When It’s Done”, a now infamous industry saying that is instilled whenever a game’s release date is unknown. Interestingly enough, Duke Nukem Forever knows it’s not very good and that it’s taken far too long to be released, and in its own self-mockery one can’t help but feel slightly amused whenever it references its failures. It does it often throughout the experience, and this at least attempts to dilute the game’s seriousness (if there even is any) amidst ten years of development chaos.
Decent Mini Games - Amidst the game’s horrible platforming elements (detailed later in this review) are a ton of mini games that have Duke interacting with objects so as to gain an Ego health boost. These mini games don’t take very long to complete, but they do add some depth to the experience, allowing you to improve Duke’s health in a way other than simply collecting health pick-ups and the like. They’re not particularly exciting but the mini games are about as entertaining as Duke Nukem Forever gets.
What Duke Nukem Forever Got Wrong
Gameplay - There’s nothing charming about playing a game that is as dated as Duke Nukem Forever. Some games are able to rely on dated gameplay, pending they instill mechanics that offer some sense of originality. Duke Nukem Forever does not do that. This is quite obviously a game that was first created over ten years ago. It shows on an enourmous scale and it’s very difficult to look past it. There is absolutely nothing deliberate in this game’s 90s charm (if one could argue it had any), and I’d even go as far to say that had this game been released back in 1999, it would have been received just as poorly as it’s going to be received in 2011.
Not Enough Shooting - A vast majority of the experience is dedicated to tedious and dull platforming elements, many of which are broken due to a terrible physics engine that makes playing the game too frustrating for words. Duke Nukem Forever takes elements from popular games such as Half-Life 2 and simplifies them down to the core, offering mechanics that are neither enjoyable nor particularly accessible or challenging. It’s actually hilarious that it takes roughly 45 minutes before you’re actually given your first gun once you finish off the Duke Nukem 3D boss fight at the start of the game.
Terrible, Out-Dated Humour - The humour we have all come to expect from Duke Nukem Forever – fueled by pop-culture references and downright vulgarity – just isn’t as funny as it was back in the 90s. Maybe it’s because we expect more from a video game these days, especially in the way of humour. Portal has definitely spoiled us, but Duke Nukem Forever shows us how far we’ve come when it comes to humour. This game tries to be funny by relying on the most tasteless, moronic humour that even the most obnoxious of people won’t find much to laugh at. I just don’t get the whole “aliens raping human women” thing. There’s also a nice little stab at Halo, although Duke Nukem Forever is not in a position to be bagging out other games, especially ones as critically and commercially successful as the Halo franchise.
Frustratingly Inconsistent Quality - When playing through Duke Nukem Forever you may find some areas to be of a higher quality – both visually and gameplay wise – than others. What this alludes to is Gearbox’s desperate attempt to stitch together pieces of code left over from 3D Realms’ initial effort, leading to a game that looks great in some part, but horrendous in others. This is a very evident inconsistency throughout the experience, and if you needed proof that this game has been development hell, you need not look further than its up-and-down quality, which is evident throughout.
Horrendous Multiplayer - The three multiplayer modes in Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch and Capture the Babe (Capture the Flag…but with chicks) are all plagued by horrible map designs and frustrating combat. Fans of Quake will see similarities in the multiplayer offering’s design and functionality, but Quake is still a better multiplayer offering, even today. That’s saying a lot. Duke Nukem Forever’s multiplayer campaign is complete and utter rubbish, a component that was quite clearly derived in the late-90s with inspiration from multiplayer games at the time. The game hasn’t evolved at all since that time. It shows.
Facepalm Graphics - Put simply, Duke Nukem Forever looks dated. It also looks horrible. Absolutely horrible. Some NPCs stand motionless, while others move around the place in the most awkward of animations. Enemies lack polish, although it’s quite clear that some designs have been touched-up to give the game a bit of visual pizzazz. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked, and the end product is a game that looks highly inconsistent in design. Duke Nukem Forever is a very, very ugly game.
The Final Verdict
It’s a real shame to say this, but Duke Nukem Forever is a terrible game. The weight of expectation was too much for this game to bare. It lacks originality and polish throughout, with terrible platforming elements, a distinctive lack in shooting combat (I thought this was a FPS?) and a multiplayer component that is just too bad for words. After over a decade in development it’s safe to say that Duke Nukem Forever would have been better off remaining as vaporware. The character of Duke Nukem is all but dead after this tiresome, frustrating and ugly affair.
By Gaetano Prestia
About as entertaining as being sexually abused by an alien.