QCF: Duke Nukem Forever

Excuse me, I’m sorry for the awkward introductory sentence, but I just can’t get over the twisted irony of this review being so late, and this fucking paradox just gets funnier and funnier as I think about it. Alright, well are we both done chuckling? Good.

When I first covered Duke Nukem Forever, the game was months away from being released. With its launch date so close, the initial hands-on impressions left this bewildering sense that the game felt dangerously unpolished. 2K then delayed the release of the game for yet another month, and so the launch date extended to June. Where some called this move a publicity stunt to build to the satire of Duke’s development history, one could only imagine that Gearbox was trying to finish any refinements that the game was in serious need of. As the campaign boots in and I tread familiar ground again, the first analysis was towards the controls. Duke no longer had the clunky input that fueled my prior apprehension when I first sampled it at PAX East, but movement still came off a bit too sluggish to feel natural. Where movement response was varied upon play, the context sensitivity of the game with points of interaction was atrocious. A core component and something focused on from the praise of Duke Nukem 3D is the element of interaction with the objects, or the direct setting of your environment; Duke Nukem Forever encourages these interactions by incrementally increasing your health bar. With that incentive, you’ll find yourself actively searching these out. When you come across them, the spontaneous change of the contextual sensitivity between grabbing it and using it with another item will constantly infuriate you, as this is once again a core-component of the game.


The shooting aspect of the game is arguable depending on how you apply the critique, where the mechanics are not broken or fragmented; they are definitely dated, and will feel archaic in comparison to any other first-person shooter that's currently available. The modern conventions of sprinting, or quick-time-event kills ironically go on to further expose the antiquated constitutions of circle strafing, and awkward cover crouching that the game is founded on. The enemy A.I. enforces these sensations through the three flaws of being unbalanced, limited, and predictable. The unbalanced component pits you in situations where you’re being attacked in a sluggish offensive of sporadic return fire, in a drone like formation that feels reminiscent of an amateur Doom-mod. The best example of the unbalanced A.I. is main stay opposition within the Duke Nukem universe: the Pig soldiers. There are times your swine foes are pathetically easy, as they dawdle about with their shotguns or RPG launchers, just ready to be slaughtered. Then there are points where they will attack you in a wild brute fashion, as they pounce on you like a beast and kill you within seconds before any defense can be applied. The predictability comes into play by the enemy never changing their strategy. Anything short of the occasional pipe bomb throw, the enemy rarely flanks you─especially in rooms that demand for the strategy and will always─and I mean always─either crouch, or completely stop moving when reloading their weapon. The final example I have regarding the limited A.I. can easily be pointed out in the gun fights involving turrets. If you first shoot down the turret operator, every enemy will immediately jump at the chance of replacing the previous operator. Their hackneyed tactic will have you laughably shooting them down one by one, like fish in a barrel that take the extra step of lining up for the opportunity of getting lead pumped into their bubble-goose. The weapon selection is also fairly narrow─the Shotgun, M16, Rail-gun, RPG Launcher, Assaulter laser, Assault captain laser, the devastator, the Freeze-Ray, and the shrink ray rounds off to a total of nine guns, along with trip-wire laser mines and your iconic pipe bomb─that’s all you’ll come across within the entire game. The return of tactical support items like steroids and the Holo-Duke are welcome additions to your arsenal, along with use of beer. One chug will send Duke into a drunken invulnerability, which can come in handy during boss fights or heavy mobs, but the jarring “beer-goggle” effect on the screen adds to the balancing act of the item’s use.

The actual settings within Duke Nukem are limited within the scope of a war-torn Las Vegas; an intrusive alien nest in a sports arena, complete with the stereotypical slimy cocoon aesthetic; a desert, with a crumbling highway passing through a western ghost town; and the Hoover dam stage, which can be coupled with other stages like the Duke Cave as the cookie cut-out “insert here” industrial stages. The manner in which I listed these off contains the same sentiment towards the actual navigation of these stages─you simply move Duke from Point A to Point B. The most back tracking you will ever find yourself doing is looking for a gas can to refill the tank for your monster truck during the vehicle segment of the campaign. Duke Nukem Forever attempts to make up for shallow level design with several contextual interactions, which you'll be able to have with objects or environments within the settings of these levels. The most fun was actually during the stages where Duke shrank and needed to platform through obstacles that were catered to his new size, changing the way you went through the game and adding to the fun. Points where you’ll have to fight off normal sized foes will turn into boss fights, or areas that will have you unscrew bolts to a vent cover and climb along radiator pipes bring reminiscent feelings of another game: the 16-bit classic known as Harley’s Humongous Adventure.

The presentation is a little outlandish, even for the standards one would assume of Duke Nukem─but they never leave the realm of the expectations one should carry when approaching Duke Nukem Forever. The humor of being able to pick up human feces, or slap around symbiont-like female breasts that can be found within the alien nest areas may seem low-brow─even for Duke Nukem─but they never feel out of place again. Again, these“controversial” moments within the game don’t feel trite, especially following on the heels of Duke Nukem 3D. They add to the personality of Duke Nukem, and particularly towards the aspect of first time exposure to the franchise. The game is never presented to be taken seriously within the slightest, and the idea of someone questioning the moral ambiguity of Duke Nukem Forever is as arbitrary as disputing the amount of violence within Mortal Kombat. I am in fact referencing the Alien nest scene of needing to kill the same twins who treated you to the fantastic fellatio you received within the introduction of the game. Because the extraterrestrial rape they endured has obstructed any further progress until you can continue, ask yourself this: is something like this─with all of the tongue-in-cheek humor you’ve already come across before─really going to make an impact on you outside of the game? It shouldn’t, because it’s simply another scene within a plot comparable to a Troma film. Derogatory chauvinism towards women and crude and crass debauchery─it’s all within the realm and territory that Duken Nukem has grounded itself in. So if anything I described here isn’t for you, then neither is this game.

Overall, would I recommend Duke Nukem Forever after the long wait we’ve endured? For fans I can say yes, because the game sticks to its source material and provides more Duke. I also empathize heavily on the word “fan,” as a fan would keep their expectations grounded with Duke Nukem Forever’s history (which I covered in this post prior), and that the game is First-person Shooter built from 2002 conventions released nine years too late. I could call it a throwback, but throwback games return the charm of the old and enhance the experience with current conventions when appropriate. I can’t call Duke Nukem Forever a Throwback, because this would still be a lazy throwback─even with the refinement Gearbox has given it. However, in the argument I always apply when reviewing older games, I feel it’s unfair to hold that game to the standards of others within the current generation, because it’s a matter of not having the resources that would adapt to accommodate a similar playing experience (sans those few timeless exceptional games). If I were rate Duke Nukem Forever for the time era, I would give it an above average score, and I would definitely recommend it be played by any shooter or action fans. I can even recommend it now, as I still did have fun with it, but my fun was not worth $60. Try a rental and purchase the game when it makes its eventual appearance within the bargain bin.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

« Bullet Heaven HD, Episode 34 - Shooter: Starfighter Sanvein | Main | PPR 42 »