Duke Nukem Forever

 

Introduction

It’s a game where the suspense keeps you on the edge of your seat. The writing is serious and poses thought provoking questions. Your decisions seem to have consequences and work to further the story. You love it so much, you wish it wouldn’t end. That game is Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Ok, bad joke. In all seriousness, Duke Nukem isn’t anything like Deus Ex. The only thing the games really share is that they are first person shooters, but other than that it’s like comparing apples to aardvarks. I think this might be where alot of the bad blood from critics came from. They were expecting a modern shooter with all its trappings, and that’s not what Duke’s about.

In fact, when DNF tries to emulate some of the modern FPSs it falls flat on its face. In the few moments where the game resembles old Duke, there is some fun to be had.

Duke Nukem 3D was all about fast paced action, with tons of enemies unrelentingly assaulting you, lining up to be splattered by increasingly bigger and more awesome weapons.

It was mindless violence with little to no story. And we liked it. Now get off my lawn.

Anyways, let’s explore DNF a bit, shall we? Hop on board the Duke express elevator to hell. We’re going down, oooooh yah. If that sounds stupid, then DNF is probably not your game. Let’s continue.

Story

There is none.

Ok, there is, but there might as well not be. Aliens reinvade Earth, killing humans and stealing our chicks, man. Duke, being the white knight that he is, goes on a quest to rescue these big breasted damsels in distress.

And on the topic of breasts, does it speak to the chauvinism rampant in this game that the women models in the game all have bodies painstakingly modeled with what seems like thousands of polygons, and faces from a 90s first generation 3D game? I’ve seen more life on display in The Walking Dead (the zombies, not the actors).

Anyways, no story is really needed. Bring on the alien slaughter!

Gameplay

DNF is a mixed bag in this department. Sure, it LOOKS like Duke. Sort of how chicken nuggets LOOK like chicken.

Weapons

All the old favorites are there: shotguns, miniguns, rocket launchers, the shrink ray, the freeze ray, the devastator, pipe bombs. Unfortunately, aside from the shotgun all of the weapons feel underpowered. There’s something lacking. The shrink ray and freeze ray are all but useless, and the rocket launcher is never used (you can’t hit crap with it unless you “lock on”) until the boss fights force you to use it. New weapons like the gun dropped by some of the aliens look cool, but feel like nerf cannons.

The pacing of the weapons is pretty poor. You get the best guns early on, but can only carry four at a time. It feels like they sprinkled them throughout the levels with no real thought to their necessity, then shored up any hot spot with a reload box.

And on top of the uselessness of the weapons, you spend half your time loading ammo. C’mon, Duke is
an action figure caricature! Arnold never had to load a gun, unless it was just to look cool doing so. Since most of the levels are tight hallways, I tended to rely on the melee attack (a bash with the stock of your gun) more than any of the weapons.

As for the items you get, like the steroids and holoduke, you’ll probably go the whole game without even using them. And there are quite a few times I think DNF forgets it’s not Doom 3. Many of the levels are dark and require the use of “Duke Vision”. To simulate “Duke Vision” IRL, stare at the sun for about 3 minutes, then close your eyes and try to run up a flight of steps.

Levels

The levels look nice. There’s lots of color. Lots of interactive crap that people expect from a Duke game. By and large, they’re interesting, and sometimes they even shine. The mini-Duke areas in the Duke Burger levels were entertaining, as were the mini-Duke areas of the Hoover Dam. The underwater level at the Dam was also pretty cool, if a bit frustrating.

The major problem is how disjointed they feel. One level you’re in Vegas, the next you’re in a strip club dream sequence (I’m sure the devs researched this one quite a bit),
the next you’re fighting aliens in the Duke Dome. Some driving around the desert is thrown in to kill time. At no point does it feel cohesive. This might not have felt so glaringly obvious if not for the linearity of the maps (there’s even a highway map that has Duke driving his Tonka truck down a ruler-straight highway dodging aliens). Each map only really has one path through it. There’s no sense of
exploration, as it’s usually pretty obvious where you’re supposed to go…the object you need to be interacting with will blink.


Duke burger...it's better than pink slime

Duke burger…it’s better than pink slime

With such simple levels, the game resorts to annoying design shenanigans to stretch each level out. I can’t count how many rooms I stepped into, only to be halted in my forward momentum as I’m basically locked in while a preset number of enemies spawn in and attack me one at a time like a bad Kung Fu movie. Only when they are all vanquished am I allowed to continue. You’ll know when you’re done, as the game conveniently plays a little riff.

I call it the “Thank His Noodly Appendage that shit’s done with” sound.

This is then followed usually by an extended bit of jump puzzles and unnecessary “interactivity”.

DNF will make you hold down a button to move a bridge to the one spot it could possibly go. To stop a speeding elevator, you have to hold down a button. Then, for shits and giggles, DNF will
make you tap your space bar till it breaks just to open a damn door, with a lame jab about not needing Doom style keycards. I’d have rather gone looking for the keys, as with all the rapid button tapping, I was getting flash backs of Track and Field on the NES.


F%#k Track and Field...

F%#k Track and Field.

Interface

DNF suffers from a fair amount of consolitis. At the main game menu, you can use the mouse to select menu items, but I’ve found that at times it seems to bug out, and you’re forced to use the keyboard to finalize a selection.

When you interact with objects (valves, for instance), you usually have a choice of two buttons to press. Without doing any research, I bet these were hooked up to the trigger buttons on the console controllers. For some reason, that’s a console gamer’s definition of “interactivity”…pressing a trigger button.

During the driving levels, control can be a bit cumbersome using the mouse and keyboard. I’m sure it’s much nicer using a controller, with their pressure sensitive joysticks.

The most glaring display of consolitis, though, would have to be the health system. Eschewing the tried and true health system used in Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Forever uses the regen health system seen in EVERY FPS EVER (since Halo). In combination with checkpoints, this makes it easier to shovel the game into consoles. In consoles, saving manually is a pain in the ass, so they usually use
checkpoints. But if you use checkpoints, you can’t use the old health system of hit points, as this could leave you in a bind if you hit a checkpoint with little life and no healing items nearby. That’s fine, I guess. But in this game, it seems tacked on.

Graphics

I’m not really a stickler for graphics. I can enjoy a game as long as the gameplay is fun. So on that account, I’m not sure what all the bitching is about. DNF looks fine.

Just turn the post processing effects off. I’m not sure where game developers fell in love with the bloom effect, but it needs to stop. In no game does bloom look good, and all it really succeeds in doing is making a game look like a soap opera dream sequence. Then again, maybe that’s the point. We’ll all wake up and walk into the bath room, and Duke will step out of the shower and assure us it was all a bad dream…

Conclusion

Looking back at the review, I can see it might paint a horrible picture of DNF, but despite its flaws, there is still some enjoyment to be derived from this game. I’d only really recommend it for people who
loved Duke 3D though, as most of that enjoyment is of the nostalgic variety. At the time of this writing DNF was going for $19.99 on Steam, and they often times have it as part of their sales, almost GIVING it away.

Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford likened Duke Nukem Forever to a greasy cheeseburger; sometimes you just want something that’s cheap and tastes good. However, I propose that DNF is more akin to a Taco Bell burrito. Sometimes you crave one. You go out and buy it, but half way through it you wonder why you even bothered. And an hour later you’re straining on the toilet, voiding your bowels, gripping the side of the bowl and moaning “Never again…never again”. But eventually time will pass, memory will fade, and you’ll start craving some Duke again…

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