NOTE: This review covers PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 versions of Duke Nukem Forever. However, I only had time to play the Steam (PC) version for the purpose of this review.
If you have your mind made-up about Duke Nukem Forever, then there is nothing I will be able to say to change that stance. However, if you don’t have an opinion one way or the other regarding Duke Nukem or the game of Forever, please read on as I may allow you to make the best decision for yourself. Which immediately brings me to the point of this Review (and a bit of Editorial), this game is the definition of subjective. We all have been through a lot the past 14 years waiting on the completion of Duke Nukem Forever throughout it’s tumultuous development. Some moved on, others stayed vigilant. I remained on the vigilant side as well, not quite to my friend Billy’s level though. I’ll admit, as the years wore on – I never thought it’d see the light of day. I had lost all concern whether it was going to be good or not. I just wanted to play it.
The game starts in the pisser. No, literally – you as Duke Nukem begin pissing in a toilet. Once you’re done from the forced sequence you can do a bit of free roaming in the area as you like. Even take a gander at yourself, and be narcissistic. The character model seems different from Duke Nukem 3D. While it’s been 12 years, Duke looks younger than he did in DN3D – I’m sure in an attempt to keep him “fresh” looking. Quickly you’ll realize some familiarities in the first level to that of the 1996 game. If you’ve played the demo, this part has been spoiled for you as to what happens – but if you haven’t I’ll leave it to you to discover. Almost every part of the world is interactive. You can turn on and off lights, write on whiteboards, open and close lockers and doors, and drink from fountains.
Shooting is straight-forward, but not so different from any other first person shooter on the market today. You point at a alien dude or pigcop dude and they die when you pull the trigger. Now, the thing that sticks out is the omission that Duke can no longer carry 9 weapons. He’s relegated to choose 2 weapons (any combination works, not a primary/secondary scenario). The guns he does use feel okay, but maybe are lacking in sound to provide that power you’d expect when unloading into baddies. His special grenade types (trip mines and pipebombs) and whatnot are part of a separate inventory. There are bonus enhancers like Steroids which will put you into a rage where you bring up your fists and will one-hit kill anything that connects into a bloody, gooey mess. Beer will increase your resistance to damage and allow you to unleash out in the open.
Duke Nukem Forever looks decent enough, I was able to run the game at max settings and attain 60fps throughout. The game does run on Unreal Engine 2.5, rather than Unreal Engine 3. Though it doesn’t suffer too much for it and holds up remarkably well despite the numerous numerous engine changes the game has endured throughout the years.
Bosses are managable, strategic affairs that require a bit more than circle strafing (sans the first boss). Duke Nukem Forever’s bosses are almost always larger than man-sized creatures and can only be damaged by explosive weaponry. Luckily enough, at each encounter you are given an explosive weapon and a supplies crate of endless refills to meet that requirement. At the end of each boss fight, you are able to indulge (unavoidably) in a context sensitive area to humiliate the beast you’ve slain.
The game does cover many of the first person shooter locale diversity in a cliched manner, almost as if there was a pre-requisite for levels: rail sequence, platforming, driving, collecting, and underwater. Though the game is lacking any sort of space station, or killing aliens on the moon. The name of this game is fun. While others will complain it’s not enough – it most certainly is. I found the back half of the game to be far more enjoyable than the first. Each level has it’s moments of quips and one-liners that’ll get a chuckle or even a hearty laugh out of you. Jokes range from where we last left Duke to just a few years ago – making it a testament of the time it’s taken to develop Duke Nukem Forever.
Multiplayer follows the recent trend of having a persistent ranking system that provides an awesome “Pad” for Duke Nukem and able to unlock more and more stuff for your Pad and making it a nice showpiece of your multiplayer accomplishments. All of the MP modes are standard fare: Dukematch (Deathmatch), Team Dukematch (Team Deathmatch), Capture the Babe (Babe = Flag), and King of the Hill. All characters are Duke Nukem, only differentiated by their t-shirts (as was the case in Duke Nukem 3D). There’s a remake of the first level of Duke Nukem 3D, Hollywood which has been turned into some sort of Paintball Arena, but retains all of the damage Duke gave it when the aliens attacked 12 years ago. This was a lot of fun, I set up a custom game of Dukematch with Fists only, which was a one-hit kill – it’s worth playing, but won’t be the new Call of Duty or Battlefield.
It’s worth watching Duke Nukem Forever’s credits to see all of the people involved throughout the years of it’s development. It unlocks a nice “Thank You” achievement/trophy at the end of the 12 minute sequence as a result – not sure if that’s a nod to the development time or just a strange coincidence.
If I could describe this game into one sentence, it would be: The title of the game would be better understood if it was called Duke Nukem Forever HD, a game remade in HD where the original didn’t even exist. What I mean by that is, it’s a game that feels like it did step out of a time machine – but is no less fun or engaging to play as a result because it looks and plays like most modern shooters while having fun at their expense.
Duke’s next outing should fare a bit better. Here comes the hard part…