It saddens me to write this review. I’m trying hard to look on the positive side of Duke Nukem Forever, but every time I try to see the positive, the game throws my childhood memories into disarray and shatters my last few shreds of hope and I find myself back on the dark side. I had hoped that despite all the bad press, sheer nostalgia would keep me pushing through. As it turns out, nostalgia just is not enough. Find out why after the jump.
Duke Nukem, forever a memory?
In the opening minutes of Duke Nukem Forever, the man himself plays his own game and when asked whether it’s good he exclaims; “after twelve years it had better be”. The irony is palpable. If I took twelve years to write this review, it’s unlikely my grammar would improve, but it would probably be a better review. The same cannot be said of Duke Nukem Forever: the twelve year hiatus has not been kind. Developers Gearbox has tried to salvage what 3D Realms left unfinished, but in my opinion they should have left it all on the cutting room floor. If they had, then at least my good memories of Duke would not have turned into this nightmare. You understand I’m trying not to be overly scathing here, but when a game messes with my childhood, I get upset. This is the exact same feeling I got after watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
I’m not sure in which century this game belongs; if it had come out in the late 90s as it should have, it would have been an acceptable game, but not a good one. In the modern age, Duke Nukem is totally out of his depth. He’s the same wisecracking guy, but I no longer found anything he said funny. While toilet humour amuses me just as much as any other red-blooded male, the humour employed in this game is really scraping the very bottom of the barrel. I’m sure this has been mentioned in every other review, but in the first few minutes of the game Duke pees in a toilet and then you garner an upgrade by reaching into the same toilet and lifting out a steaming human turd. There’s a metaphor to be made here, but I’m still trying hard not to be overly critical.
As for the game play, I found very little to like. In Duke Nukem Forever, Duke is protected by an ego bar which regenerates while you are not in combat. Simple enough. There is some fun to be had with the ego boosting interactive elements scattered around, such as the pinball machine. But these won’t distract you or keep you entertained for very long. The levels themselves are linear, frustrating, and downright boring. And if that wasn’t enough, when you die you’re faced with inordinately long load times, and the save points really do seem to be spaced that little bit too far apart. Was there really a need to make me fight that same frustrating and boring fight again, Gearbox? Playing Duke Nukem Forever is an exercise in self flagellation. The more I played the more I hated it. The more I tried to enjoy it, the more difficult it made that task.
The various types of levels thrown in feel disjointed and I quickly grew confused. There is vehicle driving, which is bearable and even occasionally fun, and then there are the many turret sections… make the pain stop. The baddies are the usual lot, but the fighting is unimaginative, except for the occasional well-thought out boss. The problem, though, is that for every well-thought out element, there are ten terrible moments. Another gripe is with the restriction on only holding two guns. This is a Duke Nukem game; please give me more than two guns at a time. I don’t care if it’s a modern convention, this isn’t a modern game, so let me carry as many as I want. There are also many physics puzzles to solve, but they’re so dated I won’t even go into them. Suffice to say that you won’t enjoy them; I didn’t. Then there are the many times you’ll be shrunk and have to negotiate a proportionally sized world. Come to think of it, some of these were okay.
While the graphics are tolerable, I would be lying if I said they were mind blowing. They graphics might have been good five years ago, and they occasionally skip and jar. I was young when dancing ladies in Duke 3D would flash their pixellated breasts, but I’m over 20 now, and the attempts to get me to enjoy your game by flashing boob at me around every corner are not appreciated. (Ed: What red-blooded male gives up the chance to see boobs, no matter HOW pixellated?)
The multiplayer side of the game offers up the usual game modes, including Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. The spice is that you can earn rewards in the form of décor for your Duke penthouse. The gameplay is a little less point and shoot, but still you’ll only get better once you memorize the levels.
In my youth, a guy at school designed a level for Duke 3D which was an almost exact replica of our school. The chapel has dancing ladies in it. Truthfully I would much rather hunt down an old copy of Duke, teach myself to use the level editor, and painstakingly remake my own version of that map and then play that, rather than ever pick up Duke Nukem Forever again. I’m not sure what market would appreciate this game, but I certainly didn’t.
Score: 4 prawns out of 10