Reviewed: June 23, 2011
Released: June 14, 2011
Apparently I didn’t have nearly as much fun playing this game as Duke did, but then again, my review copy of Duke Nukem Forever didn’t come with two ditzy blonde twins to fellate me during the disappointingly easy final boss fight or any of the chapters leading up to the anti-climactic ending. But come on…after “12 fucking years” how could this game be anything but a disappointment. What would have been a great game in the previous century is now only a painful reminder of how far games have advanced and how firmly Duke Nukem is stuck in the past.|
Duke Nukem 3D offered a great, almost open-world experience when it came to level exploration and alien combat. The environments were large and complex with loads of secrets and multi-colored key cards required to access each new section of the level. In Forever we find a much more linear game design, one that could almost be considered on-rails. The closest thing to a keycard is perhaps finding some energy cells to power-up the big Duke gun in the first level or finding assorted sex items in the strip club to power-up one of the strippers for a private dance.
In the past, Duke was all action with the occasional bad pun or witty one-liner tossed in to parody the great action movies of the time. In Forever, Duke fires off his mouth more than his guns. You’ll play a good 20-30 minutes before you shoot anything other than your wad (see aforementioned oral sex reference), and even before you collect your trademarked gold-plated Desert Eagle you’ll be reduced to killing aliens by throwing trophies, basketballs, and barbell weight cookies at them. Seriously? And once weapons do become a part of the game you can only carry two and don’t even think about alt-fire modes or weapon attachments. This is old-school gaming, which might work as an homage in an XBLA title, but not a serious competitor to any of the other hundreds of FPS games available for the system.
Gameplay is linear and repetitive. You’ll often be running down a single narrow corridor or driving down a narrow highway or dirt road with no chance to explore on your own. If the area opens up at all you know you’re in for a short spurt of arena-style fighting before you move on to the next area. While the levels are cool in concept and feature some relatively fun and original designs, their complete lack of openness kills any possible challenge or sense of adventure. This is a duck hunt.
The game does offer a few moments of inspired gameplay, usually associated with you being shrunk down to “action-figure” stature. The first time this happens you are forced to drive a remote-control dune buggy…sorry, Duke Buggy, through a casino in one of the most horrible driving engines I’ve played. Even worse is that you then, have to retrace that entire path on foot to get back out. But things get totally creative at Duke Burger where you must navigate a fast food joint, the stock room, and the kitchen in miniature form. Trying to get across a hot stove top by jumping from burger bun to burger bun was hilarious. Later in the game you must traverse machinery and a complex set of gears in miniature form - another great moment.
Much like the previous Duke game everything in the world is interactive so you can use phones, make popcorn in the microwave, get smokes and soda from the vending machines, purchase condoms in the men’s room (as well as piss and play with poo), and even play a bit of pinball, air hockey or slot machines in the game room at Duke’s Titty City. Many of these interactions will boost your Ego which also serves as your health bar. Med packs are gone in Forever and Duke now regenerates his Ego over time – probably the only thing modern about the game design.
From start to finish, Duke Nukem Forever just seems like a self-serving product that tries to “tell” us how cool Duke is (or rather was) rather than letting us experience it firsthand. Sure, Duke might have saved L.A. 12 years ago but how does that mean he gets his own casino, burger joint, sports arena, museum, Broadway musical, and the list goes on. I enjoyed the gallery of his past games more than the fake photos of Duke in space, killing sharks, or winning two Oscars – much like those fake magazine covers you can get at the amusement park. Duke spends 8-10 hours trying to be cool rather than actually being cool.
The presentation is a complete disaster on the Xbox 360 starting with some of the most horrible load times of any 360 game in my library, and that’s after installing to the hard drive. With load times easily hitting the 30sec mark, there were some fights where I was dying faster than it took to reload my last checkpoint. Visually, the game is a complete mess. The sheer lack of any FSAA creates some of the worse jaggies and shimmering graphics I’ve seen on this system or even the original Xbox. Some of the best jokes are the hardest to appreciate such as the clever labels on the foodstuff in Duke Burger, but good luck reading them on the 360 unless you are playing in 1080p on a 42” or larger screen.
Creature design is okay I guess. It’s basically all the same monsters from the last game given a moderate next-gen facelift. All of the same weapons are back and perform as we all remember. It’s very much a continuation of Duke Nukem 3D when it comes to content and gameplay. Human modeling is rather poor, which means that the strippers look only marginally better than their sprite animations from the last game. Perhaps the most artistic thing about the entire game is the opening credit sequence. Now that was cool.
As far as treating your ears, we get a great rocking intro song and plenty of energetic music throughout the game that really complements the action. Sound effects for the weapons and the aliens are pretty much what I remembered from the last game with marginal enhancements for Dolby Digital. Jon St. John delivers all his expected one-liners and a whole lot more guaranteed to ignite the 12-year-old boy in all the male players and offend any females who happen to stray by the screen. Duke and the entire game seem to go out of its way to push the boundaries of sly adult humor into a new level of offensiveness just for the sake of being offensive. And when you finally get tired of slapping wall boobs to hear the half-dozen wisecracks Duke will make, you can rest assured you can play and hear them all later in the sound board that will unlock when you win the game.
Duke Nukem 3D was one of the first games I ever played online. Sure, it was a one-on-one hook-up with a 2400 baud modem, but it was a total blast, and combined with the level editor, me and my bud (Hey Brice!) were making new maps and playing this game for months after the initial solo adventure. None of that joy is present in Forever. Again, the genre and sadly, this gamer have grown up a bit, so merely presenting me with a few easy-to-learn maps with static spawn points for weapons is not very fun regardless of whether I’m playing Deathmatch, Team DM, King of the Hill or CTB (Capture the Babe). I can almost guarantee that you won’t play these online modes any longer than it takes to unlock all of the rewards to populate Duke’s virtual penthouse…if that long.
Duke Nukem Forever has already earned the world record for longest game in development and I’m guessing it will likely win another for the biggest disappointment. There is just something terribly wrong when I would rather go back and play the original Duke Nukem 3D or Duke Nukem Manhattan games, both available on XBLA, rather than the game I’ve been waiting 12+ years to play. I smiled, I laughed, and I even managed to find a few memorable moments during Duke Nukem Forever, but most of the time I just shook my head and muttered, “seriously…”