Duke Nukem: Forever Review. Should you hail to the king?


 

Lets not beat a dead horse. We all know Duke Nukem Forever has been in development for a few hundred years. Its been the brunt of many, many internet jokes. The internet might even have run out of jokes for the Duke by now. Instead of continuing down this line, let’s look at Duke Nukem Forever as a game, shall we?

Duke Nukem is, and always has been, an egotistical, immature, poddy-mouth character who shoots first and says legendary(or lame) one-liners later. Aliens always come to earth to steal the hot chicks, and Duke uses his fists, an assortment of weapons and steroids to combat his foes and save earth. It should come as no surprise that Duke Nukem Forever has exactly the same concept. The real question is, does the game offer enough to make this more then just nostalgic joy ride? The answer is a surprising yes, but not without a few snags.


 

Not terrible…right?

Duke Nukem Forever has been in development for over 12 years. So it’s not surprising that the game isn’t a graphical powerhouse. It utilizes the Unreal Engine, which can make even terrible looking games decent. But Forever doesn’t look bad, just unpolished and a few years old. The weapons are the highlight, they look real, shiny and polished. Duke, other humans and the aliens all look good enough, with a decent amount of work, especially with the animations. The environments are usually low on textures, with some fairly bad texture pop in. At times, the textures don’t pop in at all, giving the unpolished aspect some weight. However, the environments also offer some destructibility and it can look very nice, but it doesn’t seem to work everywhere. For example, in one level Duke fights enemies who are taking cover in a buliding. I shot a rocket at one side, and the wall crumbled and chunks flew everwhere. I then shot the next wall, and nothing happened. It’s selective, so don’t get to giddy when something blows up real nice. The worst offender, by far, are the shadows. Duke’s shadow is an icky mess, but at least definable. There are times where shadows from the enemies move as if the whole games was slowed down to 5 FPS(frames per second) Add that in the actual, if occasional slow down when things get heated, and the game won’t wow you with it’s visuals. The worst part of the game might be the loading. Whether you died and restarted a checkpoint or are going to the next area, the loading screens can easily take up to 15 seconds or more. The game isn’t that pretty and the areas aren’t always that big. The loading times are annoying, to say the least. Regardless, the game is not ugly, but it won’t win anyone over.

This is not a fair fight. The cycloid at least needs to be fully covered in armor…and have rocket launcher shoulder pads. Then maybe.

 

Duke Nukem Forever has a very complicated, intense, personal story line…..just kidding. The aliens have come to earth to steal our chicks! Who do we call? Why, the Duke, of course. The story goes absolutely no where, and serves as a meager thread that ties things together so you can move from one destination to the next. Playing Duke Nukem Forever for a good story is like playing Mario Tennis for its story. You don’t do that. Ever. You come for explosive and fun gameplay. Thankfully, Duke more then delivers on this front.


I did not see this level coming. It was actually quite fun.

Going into this game, I expected some non-stop shooting action for the majority of the game. While shooting does play a large part, Duke Nukem Forever actually has a surprisingly high amount of variety. At times, I hesitate to call it just another shooter. But before we get into that, let’s talk about the shooting mechanics. Shooting feels very good in Duke Nukem Forever. It lacks an iron sight option, and instead ops for a zoomed in look when you press the aim button, similar to Fallout 3. It works and while others may lament it for lacking iron sights, let’s not forget that Halo doesn’t have them, nor are they required to make a shooting game feel good. Favorites like the Devastator and Shrink/Freeze Rays return, and they’re still fun, but besides a couple new, bland weapons, you’ve seen this arsenal before. Whether it’s a machine gun, shotgun, sniper or rocket launcher, each weapon feels good to shoot. You can only carry two at a time though. I know that’s the standard for modern shooters, but it feels out of place in this game. It would’ve been better if we could carry more. The fights themselves are rarely set-piece worthy, but they’re good fun if nothing else. Duke also has returning abilities in steroids, which make him extremely strong, and Holoduke, which makes a decoy Duke to shoot at enemies while you turn invisible to flank or revive health. He can also drink beer to increase his health, which can be life saving during the later fights. For the most part, the fights are fun but hardly surprising. What is surprising, however, is everything else.

You will drive vehicles(including a tromp through a desert on a monster truck), jump around in surprisingly good platforming sections(naysayers will say they suck, but they actually work, and like Mario, if you fail at it, it’s probably your own fault), take part in various on-rails shoot outs, solve puzzles, play mini-games(such as pool, pinball and air hockey) and explore open-ended(albeit small) environments for objects. The amount of variety was a bit of a shock to me, especially considering Duke’s pedigree. The pacing in this game is very well done, and stands as a highlight of the game. The last newest feature to Duke is the ego system. Ego is another term for overshield. Once Duke’s ego is depleted, he can only take a few hits before he dies. Like many other shooters, you must find cover for it to recharge. It works well, even if it seems a bit silly. One cool aspect of it though is the ability to upgrade it’s HP(hit points) There are many ego boosters throughout the game, be it lifting weights, killing a boss or picking up a naughty magazine. By the end of the game, your ego meter will be considerably high, as long as you made an effort to increase it. Even if none of what Forever does is amazing, it’s a fun, varied ride.

 

 

I hope you like hearing Duke make a LOT of jokes, because that’s the majority of this games sound design. I laughed at many of them, and shook my head at others. It’s all about personal taste, though it’s worth noting there are plenty of jokes us gamers will get a smile or chuckle from, and some jokes are smartly written and generally funny. If you like the Duke’s style, you’ll enjoy his quips. If you don’t…you don’t. Many may find some of the content distasteful, and I won’t disagree. I’m not a huge fan of some of the games humor myself. But in all honesty, it doesn’t detract from the gameplay, so it’s not a big deal either way. The music is good enough. Intense fight tunes play when you’re in fight’s, and when you’re not fighting, it’s either no music or some more somber/creepy music, depending on what level you happen to be in. I doubt many will be rocking to this music on youtube, but it fits the game. Do we need more?

 


 


Think of the Devastator as the golden gun. Which means, if you don’t have it, you lose.

Duke is a pretty long game…for a shooter. Depending on difficulty level and general skill, it could take anywhere from 6-8 hours. There is some incentive to replay the game thanks to hidden goodies and higher difficulty settings, but most people will probably turn to the multiplayer once the campaign is done. I would describe the multiplayer as a combination of old-school gameplay with modern renovations. You have a 8 player cap, with each character controlling the Duke. Instead of load-outs, weapons are at pre-determined spawn points. It’s very often a rush to get to the good weapons at the start of the match, then it turns into more of a traditional match. However, there is a fairly robust XP, challenge and reward system. You get XP for each kill and challenge you complete. As you level up. you unlock items for your very own penthouse(which you can traverse on foot). These range from paintings to a pinball machine to babes who will more then happily show you some jiggle physics. It’s a neat concept and is a nice change of pace from unlocking attachments and perks. With traditional modes like Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Fla….erm, Capture the Babe, the multiplayer isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. Along with smaller player cap and predictable maps, this will not reach massive popularity, but thanks to the unique reward system and the fun of using the shrink ray online, it’s certainly worth a try and the game will most likely always have a dedicated fan base.


Duke Nukem Forever surprised me, and not because of its brand of humor. It’s actually a good, fun game. After so many negative comments and years in development, I didn’t come in expecting the best game ever made. What I found was a very fun game filled with a large amount of variety(and thusly, excellent pacing), enjoyable gameplay and chaotic multiplayer. There are some jarring technical issues, the biggest of which is long loading times, and a few questionable changes(such as only being able to hold two weapons at a time) but it doesn’t ruin the game. Now I know not everyone will feel the same. As I said, many will write the game off because of it’s humor, while others may not think it evolved enough to compete with other shooters. I respect that. But the truth is that Duke Nukem Forever is a good game. It has its flaws, but I imagine many gamers will be to busy having a blast to care. If you like shooters or want a game that never manages to have you doing the same thing for long, give the Duke a chance. It’s probably better then you think.

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