I’ve been playing Duke Nukem games since the very first one was released in 1991. Since then Duke Nukem has changed entirely from a 2d side-scroller to a first-person ass-kicking machine. When Duke took his first steps in 3D, in Duke Nukem 3D, I was floored by how Duke Nukem was revamped to the quintessential bad-ass that he is known as today. Duke Nukem Forever was going to be Duke’s last hurrah before the new millennium, but as we all know, it took 12 years for the game to finally come out.
12 years ago, Duke Nukem saved the world by defeating the invading aliens. Since then Duke has been living the high life and living life as a king for his heroic deeds. Duke now lives in an extravagant penthouse that includes a museum and a television studio. Secretly Duke has built the Duke Cave, far underground, which is an obvious homage to the Bat Cave. While Duke is testing out his latest video game, which actually is the last boss from Duke Nukem 3d, the aliens return to Earth and Duke is ordered by the President of the Unites States to not get involved this time around, so he can work out a diplomatic solution with the Cycloid Emperor. When the aliens’ true intentions are shown and become hostile Duke has no other choice than to kill every last one. The aliens make one huge mistake; no one messes with Duke’s babes.
Breaking up the action sequences are some of the most boring non-combat exploration I have played in a FPS. In one section, Duke gets shrink and has to drive around his penthouse in a RC car, but it lasts for way too long. These are by far the weakest part of the game. It’s almost seems like these were left untouched and unfinished and only retouched to add a little graphic flare. This graphical effect adds a shine to almost everything in the game.
Let me say this, Duke Nukem is not a modern day shooter by any means. He may only carry 2 weapons at a time and has a recharging ego bar, which can actually be extended by boosting the Duke’s ego. Duke Nukem Forever feels like a late 90’s shooter from the gameplay elements, to the level designs, to the graphics; okay the graphics aren’t that bad, but it is not a pretty game by today’s standard. If you go into the game, knowing this from the start, you may enjoy it a lot more.
The levels themselves feel like a maze of corridors, even in some outside environments they feel confined. Duke can’t aim down the sights of the guns, but does have the ability to zoom in. Using the Zoom creates a depth of view effect, and blurs everything that isn’t being aimed at. This alone separates it out from every other shooter out today.
If you have played a Duke Nukem game since the PS1/N64 classic, then you know Duke is all about babes, vulgar one-liners, drinking, and shooting aliens. Duke Nukem Forever is like Duke Nukem on steroids, oh and yes, Duke does take steroids in the game. Naturally, they make him tougher and able to explode aliens with a single blow…come get some, okay even I think I went too far, but this would fit right in, with Duke Nukem Forever.
After all these years the game is still lacking a fine coat of polish, but there is only so much that can be done with a 12 year old game. Duke Nukem Forever is a 1999 game stuck in 2011. You know what, I’m perfectly fine with that. If Mega Man can return to its 8bit roots, why can’t a first-person shooter get released that doesn’t play like the latest Call of Duty?
Duke Nukem Forever has an online element that so far as eluded the majority of online console games today; a Browser List. I can’t stand the fact that games only use matchmaking these days. I don’t see why there shouldn’t always be at least an option for both, why does it have to be one or the other? Multiplayer has the standard game modes that one would expect to find, Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, King of the Hill and Capture the Flag, though of course they all have a Duke spin to them and are respectfully named, Dukematch, Team Dukematch, Hail to the King and Capture the Babe. Capture the Babe has Duke throwing a babe in a skimpy skirt over his shoulder to carry back to his base. This all comes with the ability to slap her ass. Duke, you are such a ladies man.
Weapons are scattered across the levels as pickups, as in most classic first-person shooters. Players only start with the pistol and have to venture out to pickup the rest of his arsenal which include shotguns, lasers, freeze rays, and the classic pipe bombs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the freeze ray does, but players do have to run up to the frozen player or shoot them with another weapon to finish them off to get the point. The game does feature unlockables, but it boils down to cosmetics to customize your Duke with. Ever dream of putting a wig on Duke and have him wear a pink shirt? Well, now you can.
The multiplayer is not without its own set of issues. Lag has been predominate in the majority of matches, not to mention it only supports up to 8 players in a match.
Duke Nukem is not a bad game because of its retro FPS gameplay, but a bad game because it’s just a bad game. The game as a whole just doesn’t flow together at all. It feels like bits and pieces of all the different builds were sewn together and pushed out the door. I don’t blame Gearbox Software for releasing this, as I no doubts that they did not approve of the game as a whole. Not to mention the terrible load times on consoles and some pretty nasty texture work and pop-ins.
I believe that people will call this a terrible game for the wrong reasons. It has nothing to do with the retro gameplay. I for one don’t care that it plays like one. Is there a law that all games must play like one another? Mega Man has 2 completely retro-based games and those were praised for returning to its retro roots. Now, I understand this game is a different beast entirely, as it wasn’t developed to play like a classic FPS, it just happened to be stuck in development hell for 12 years and back then, this is what games played like. The fact remains that if the game were released back in 1999 it still wouldn’t have been any good. I can safely say, even though it causes some frustration, I am still having some fun with it and to me, having fun is the most important aspect of any game.Note: Duke Nukem Forever was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A physical copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.