Some legends never die, as the saying goes. And some legends you just wish would die. Then there’s those legends that keep promising they’ll come, and then they don’t, then a couple of years later they show you a trailer and get you all excited again, then they don’t come out and then, just when you’re convinced they are dead, or you just lose interest all together, BAM, they finally come out. Okay, so that last one has only happened once but maybe it’ll give you some insight to how long I’ve been waiting for Duke Nukem Forever!
Since it’s finally here, let’s get all the shit jokes over and done with. “this is taking Forever”, “DNF stands for Duke Nukem Forever? No, Did Not Finish”, “Fail to the king” blah blah blah. So to all you nay-sayers and all your nay-saying, we finally have the sequel to one of the most influential 1st person shooters of the mid-nineties. 15 years of development and legal disasters are over and I’m sure that hell has frozen over and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse are saddling up. But is it any good?
There’s a reason I waited a while to put out this review. Because I saw so many reviews for DNF really blast the crap out of it but most gamers that bought it have, at the least, enjoyed the experience. So I wanted to completely finish the game before writing anything on it and here we are….
Ultimately, what we have here, is a game that feels 6 years old. It’s rigid and unforgiving in its controls and, graphically, looks like a plastic bag full of dog shit that’s been lit on fire with a few exceptions here and there (one being the first boss fight on the football field that looks damn amazing). But honestly, after a few levels, it didn’t matter anymore. You get used to the dated graphics pretty quick and then you start to appreciate what’s been done right. Having said that, the control issue did pop it’s head up on occasion, but more on that later.
The beauty of Duke Nukem Forever is a difficult one to explain but when you play it, it’s there. The level design is inspiring, the interaction with the world is great and a good chunk of the environment is destructible. This kinda bands together to make an interesting playing field which keeps you wondering what they’ll throw at you next. Then you couple that interest with the humour from an adult character like the Duke, who continually throws out those macho one-liners from action and horror flicks and the pudding is a sweet tasting meal indeed. It’s just a shame it looks like vomit.
If you’re a fan of Duke Nukem 3D, you should enjoy this. Those little touches are there, like being able to open a microwave and chuck a bag of popcorn in it, then set it off and watch the bag grow and when it’s done, pull it out and eat it. They actually made a bit of a reward system with finding these little interactions by increasing the size of your ego bar (which acts as your health bar because no one can really kill the Duke) and some of them will make you laugh like mad. The humour is as crude and awesome as ever and, just like Duke Nukem 3D, it has next to no story to lull you to sleep with. Sure, at first, I was a bit shitty that the story is little more than “Aliens start attacking after years of being quiet, they steal your women and you want revenge” but then I realised that that was almost double of the Duke 3D narrative (they didn’t steal the women).
If you have never played Duke Nukem, or maybe weren’t even BORN when Duke 3D was released, you may find this package somewhat underwhelming. The lack of any proper purpose for Duke to fight the alien menace will have you questioning a lot and the character of Duke Nukem is so comic book over the top that just about every Call of Duty “realism” brat won’t get it. There’s no A-Cog scopes and tactics here, just run-and-gun fun. It’s almost an arcade game as opposed to what every 1st person shooter has been like for the last 6 years. The last game I remember being like this one was PREY but that had a story attached….. sort of.
I think the main problem that the game carries is the frustration that comes from the controls. Sometimes, at that critical moment, Duke decides not to jump, even though you pressed the button and that added to the fact that this game is not easy at all just gets your teeth grinding. The second last boss fight, not the last funnily enough, had me swearing like I had stubbed my little toe on the table leg from the sheer difficulty. I believe when I passed it, it was a fluke….. after the TWENTIETH ATTEMPT!!! And if that doesn’t drive you insane, the undeservedly eternal and over-frequent loading sequences will. It loads when you die, it loads for dialogue, it loads for an elevator shaft then after the elevator shaft. My god man, just LOAD THE WHOLE GODDAM SECTION!!!!! The game may have started production when the Commodore 64 was out but that doesn’t mean you need to homage to its loading times! However, I would like to take this time to say the last boss fight was actually fun and felt like a proper gaming achievement…. regardless of the cheap and nasty shithouse ending!
Now to the most disappointing part of the game. The multi-player. The online portion of DNF just feels cheap. Way too cheap. 8 players is pretty dire and when the graphics are as simplified as this mode has been, you should be able to fluidly get 16 easy. Even with 5, I had lag issues and I’m on fibre optic cable so the online mode is tacked on at best. There are one or two well realised levels but the overall poxy-ness of the gameplay just kills any effort that’s been put into the surroundings.
Duke Nukem Forever will be a fun bit of closure for the old-school Duke fans out there and a confusing mess for those who only play Call of Duty. This is a fun macho shooter that’ll make you laugh your guts out if you forgive its extremely dated graphics and its repetitious frustrating nature. The game clocks in at around the 7 hour mark and unlocks a plethora of awesome fan-boy easter eggs for finishing the game which does soften the blow of the disappointing “ending” and still rocks one of the most awesome head-bangin’ theme songs of all time. This is a gamers game and not a journalist’s game. Wanna actually have fun when you play a game, god forbid? Then give Duke Nukem a try but don’t expect the world. We can expect that for Duke Nukem 5 ….. maybe in 2026?
P.S: a question that comes up frequently in a lot of Duke Nukem forums and conversations is “How do you follow up on 15 years of hype?” ……..um, StarCraft 2 did.