Jun 22, 2011

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Review: Duke Nukem Forever

Review: Duke Nukem Forever

A long-standing joke was that rare event X or Y would need to happen before we saw another Duke Nukem title.  But after many, many years, the Duke is finally back with the infamous Duke Nukem Forever. With so much history, expectations were high, but most of the games’ history is full of development problems. Since we finally have the game in our hands, it’s time to answer the age-old gaming question, “How is it?”

If you did not know, Duke Nukem Forever was in development hell for over a decade. Thankfully, the story revolves around this fact since it takes place twelve years after the last game. The gist is that the aliens are back for revenge. The story goes nowhere past that, and everything else is just Duke’s quest to kick ass and chew bubble gum. Being completely honest here, I do not think anyone was expecting an engaging story, but what they do expect are Duke’s famous one-liners and that is what you get.

What the game lacks in story, it makes up in jokes. Part of the whole game’s charm is not that Duke says funny stuff, but that there are so many hidden jokes. From labels on items in the kitchen to little rooms with unique one-liners, it is hard to lose interest. A rarity this generation is such attention to detail; I mean, name the last game where almost everything in the environment involved some sort of humor? Some might find the humor to be too crude, but I didn’t have any issues with it. One issue I did have with the game was the graphics.

The game is not naturally on par with other AAA titles, but is closer to the graphics we saw earlier in this generation of consoles. Opinions will differ, but in the end, we have seen far better looking titles, and this is not a game graphic fans will enjoy. Some of the textures are awful, some areas load poorly, and in few cases the game looks bad even by last generation standards (e.g., the air hockey game).

Before we really get into the positive aspects of the game, you need to understand that the gameplay is dated. This is completely due to the game being designed in a time when shooter meant “arcade novelty” game. The game feeling old isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in no time at all the game felt the same as Red Faction that I played last week. However, let it be a warning to gamers that expect Call of Duty like gameplay; you will be disappointed.

With all the bad press out there, it is hard to believe there are positive aspects to the game, but believe me, there are. Duke Nukem Forever has personality that makes playing quite a bit of fun. You will see this though the aforementioned references and in all the bits of charm throughout the game. First and foremost, you have mini Duke objectives. These are usually less combat-based and more of a platforming-type of gameplay. At Duke Burger, for instance, you need to avoid falling into the water, so you bounce off spatulas and run though vents. At one point early on, you ride in an RC car avoiding enemies in the Lady Killer casino; I mean there is a clear style here. Aside form the game’s personality and charm, there is a decent amount of action to be had in DNF. The boss battles and waves of enemies make this a great game for fans who just like to, as Duke would put it, kick some serious ass.

When it comes to sci-fi games, weird or interesting weapons are a must. Duke Nukem Forever does not have much, but the shrink gun makes up for it. The shrink gun has the power to turn any non-boss enemy into a tiny worthless peon, making them so weak you can merely step on them or destroy them with minimal effort. Past the shrink gun, you have a lot of the standards like the shotgun, assault rifle, golden pistol, and RPG. All of them work much like they do in other shooters, but they still contain a lot of the old-school Duke sounds, which takes you back twelve years.

When you are sick of kicking ass, there are plenty of interactive items in the world of Duke Nukem. Most of these include lifting weights, tossing objects, bench pressing, etc. Some, on the other hand, give you a bit more of a thrill, like playing pool, slots, and video poker. If you are looking for a time sink, you can show people why you are the king at the woefully done air hockey table or pinball, which is actually quite amusing for a mini game. There are 28 little side games to play, and while they do not add much to the gameplay, they do leave a lasting impression.

As far as multiplayer goes, there is a small multiplayer mode. Here you can do all the standards you would expect from a shooter, but with a “Duke” twist. A small example of this would be “Capture the Babe” where you go after a girl rather than a flag. One of the highlights of this mode is when you level, you unlock more items for your virtual area. Here, you can design it to look as you wish, which is cool, but the multiplayer as a whole isn’t good enough to hold the average gamer’s attention for long.

In the end, Duke Nukem Forever has some problems, like long load times and a disjointed feeling, but these problems are to be expected when a game has to go through so many different developers. There is definitely an enormous amount of nostalgia here, and for some long-standing Duke fans, that’s all that they wanted from DNF. But even for those who have never experienced the Duke, there is some enjoyment to be had. The game does have solid pacing, interesting boss battles (which could be more varied), crude humor, and a highly interactive environment. Although it is a shooter, DNF changes up the formula a bit, so there are more things to do than shooting, but at the same time, it doesn’t not try to reinvent the franchise. A lot of people are riding the hype that it is bad, but once you sit down and get to play through the game, there is enough here to satisfy any shooter fan looking for a ton of action. It also helps that DNF is longer than most games in its genre. There are worse shooters out there, and if you found the demo amusing, then I would say that it is worth at the very least, a rental. If you are looking for a game with a lot of personality, humor (as crude as it may be), and mindless action, then DNF is the game for you.

Duke Nukem Forever
Platform: PC, PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: 06/14/2011
Developer: 3D Realms
Publisher: 2K Games
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
MSRP: $59.99