Game Review: Duke Nukem Forever


Lately I find myself not often getting new games. I recently moved apartments to a location next to the shopping mall where I live in Germany, and now I find myself visiting Game Stop to look at, and maybe purchase, used games.

PC Cover, I played the X-Box 360 version
So on a recent trip to the mall I purchased a second-hand copy of Duke Nukem Forever, took it home and popped it in the tray.

I did know what I was expecting, as I had read many reviews panning the game as being horrible, the graphics being not up to par, the humor being high school at the most and all of the fun was missing.

I however had a different experience, for the most part.

As I was working through the campaign, I actually found myself having a fun time with it.

This game is not a serious gamer’s delight; it never was. Back when Duke Nukem came out it helped define what the first-person shooter genre was to become, but it was a game filled with juvenile humor, violence, and the graphics were nothing special to talk about.

Sure, the gamers that played the original game back in 1996 have since grown up. However if they thought that any part of the Duke Nukem game would grow up as well, they would be disappointed.

Inside Duke's strip club.
It took 15 years and a bunch of law suits to finally give the rights of the franchise to Gearbox Software, who finalized the Forever game and released it in April 2011, with plans of always making a Duke Nukem game of their own. We still don’t know for sure if there is one being made, however there have been a couple hints from Gearbox in the last few months that there will be.

But now back to Duke Nukem Forever.

Duke Nukem Forever is a fun game that does not push the limits of the X-Box 360 in either graphics or game play. But really it wasn’t supposed to. It is a game that has spent 15 years in development hell.

Within Duke's Casino.
Regarding story, the game is a continuation of the first, when Duke is basically a hero of the human race and hounded by fans and camera crews nonstop. He has opened a casino, burger joint, strip club and has a secret lair underneath the casino. There should have been a lot more to the story, it picked up a little too fast at the beginning of the game, and seeing a little more of Duke’s world would have been nice.

The overall game layout is a bit all over the place. from Hoover Dam, to Las Vegas, I just found that there should have been a little more fine-tuning before anything was made. I understand they were rushed to get this made, as they had a license and no game to release with it (the game had been made prior by 3D Realms, and released through Gearbox), but that doesn’t serve as the greatest excuse.

I actually liked the story though. Throughout the game I found myself looking for all the secrets, which increase your Ego bar (basically your life bar). These secrets are things like computers you can interact with, which then display nude women, or adult magazines in the levels that you can look at to see some great looking boobs. Yah, the game is juvenile, but in a way it made me feel like I was sneaking through dad’s adult magazine collection throughout the entire game. I know that sounds weird, but for some reason it was fun.

The Cycloid Boss at the beginning of the game, which takes place in a game Duke Nukem is playing based on his heroics in Duke Nukem 3D.
The worst parts of the game were the unbelievably long load times. My God, I could almost make a dinner in the period between levels, and it would be a three course meal! This was compounded by the shortness of the levels, so it seemed like you spent more time waiting for the game than playing it. There was a chance at some really amazing sandbox levels, but that was overlooked. Like levels where you drive a monster truck around the desert through one ghost town after another. Opening each level up a little, offering a compass GTA-style may have helped it some. Hell, making the game itself a little more open could have saved it.

There was so much that could have worked, that should have worked, but just never came to fruition once the game was in the hands of Gearbox Software and Piranha Games. They seemed to just take it for the name and release it to a public that was foaming at the mouth for a game with the Duke Nukem name, without actually opening the cover and plopping it in their own X-box 360 to check out what they had.

The Monster Truck level. If they had allowed more sandbox within the game, maybe it would have been better.
I don’t want this to sound as if I am completely ripping the game apart, there were some redeeming things about it I did like. As I’ve said before, overall the game was fun. Sure, a little tightening of the controls could have helped, but I will not complain about that too much. If there were control issues, they were miniscule at most, at least for me.

The enemies had some challenge to them. Pig Cops did get updated, and their rampage addition was good fun. I found myself actually shooting and looking for places to hide at the same time when they came running at me.

The humor in the game was just like the original. It was high school bus stop humor at the most, and sometimes even sunk down to a junior high level. There were references to things such as the Alien franchise, Inception, Starship Troopers, Halo, Dead Space, 300 and even a reference to the Christian Bale breakdown of him yelling at a camera man.

The entire game should be taken as only a spoof on the FPS genre. It is nothing more. Even when the first game came out it was a spoof. This definitely doesn’t take it to a more enlightened level. Duke Nukem Forever is at its heart a spoof of itself as well. One thing the programmers did capture was the tongue-in-cheek humor of Duke Nukem himself.

Since this review has gone back and forth with the good and the bad, I am going to list below a summary of what I believe was the worst, and best, of Duke Nukem Forever:

The Worst

  1. The levels are way too short.
  2. The loading time between levels is way too long.
  3. Graphics were outdated.
  4. Gun play is no longer as much fun as the first iteration.
  5. NPC characters were a little too inanimate.
  6. Game levels were unorganized.
  7. Controls were a little loose.
  8. Some level missions were not totally clear.
  9. Game was too short.
  10. In this day and age, having only one real cut-scene in a game is pathetic.

The Best

  1. True tongue-in-cheek humor.
  2. Jon St. John is back as the voice.
  3. Game was fun despite being short.
  4. Secret searching is fun, as well as looking to find what items are interactive.
  5. Girls are everywhere on three of the levels.
  6. For those who bought it for the boobies, they are everywhere as well.

Overall I stress that the game was, simply put, unpolished. It needed a final scrub down, and maybe an extra six months of programming to catch it up to its potential, which, in the fifteen year production time for it, is not a long wait. There was a lot of potential that Gearbox could have pursued, but they decided to just push it out and be done with it.

Hoover Dam.
My greatest hope, as a Duke Nukem fan since the beginning, is that Gearbox will listen to all the criticism and make a game that matches what the Duke Nukem name deserves: better graphics, a truly immersive story, boobs and chicks everywhere, gun play that is again fun to control, and it wouldn’t hurt to throw in something new and original to the game play. Remember, Duke Nukem really started the FPS craze, so it deserves a game that everyone can be proud of. ‘Cus who doesn’t prefer Duke’s balls of steel to balls of fail?

In the end, this sleepy, rather disappointing game full of tongue-in-cheek humor gets 2.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls from me. It’s not great, but it is worth a maximum price tag of $15.00 for a used copy.

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