Available for Xbox 360 (reviewed here), PlayStation 3, PC
Developed by Gearbox Software
Distributed by 2K Games
Over a decade. That’s how long gamers have been waiting for Duke Nukem Forever. There have been starts, stops, company changes, and every other conceivable thing that you can imagine to hinder this game getting made. But Duke? He’s a tough son of a bitch, and the simple fact that he was and still is iconic enough to eventually get this title (also known as the impossible) done is an achievement all its own.
After staring at the box in dumbfounded disbelief for around ten minutes, I popped the hot little piece of software in, and right off the bat the first problem reared its ugly head … the load time. We’ve all seen long load times before, but this? To say it’s excessive is a bit of an understatement. Finally the game started, and within ten minutes I had:
Yes, Duke Nukem Forever is a very M-rated game filled with all the fun stuff like blood and gore, intense violence, mature humor, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, and of course use of drugs and alcohol. Duke has never been more raunchy, and that is a very good thing. So good, in fact, that it makes this game really hard to review.
Sadly, the mechanics and aesthetics of Duke Nukem Forever are so painfully average that you will occasionally feel as if you’re playing a budget title with a bloated price tag. Textures range from good to “Are you kidding me? It’s 2011, for Christ’s sake!“; and everything — believe it or not — even though it has spent years in development is so unpolished it feels as if this bun really needed even more time in the oven.
For instance … Duke is in the bathroom and goes up to the sink by a mirror. The sink (like many other objects in this gameworld) can be interacted with. Doing so will also increase your health/ego bar. More on that in a second. For now you’re in front of the sink looking in the aforementioned mirror, and the faucet can be turned on and off. Even though you see your body turn the water on, in the mirror your character is just standing there stiff as a board. I mean, why even bother? Hide this! Have the mirror be broken or something, or better yet, don’t have a mirror there at all! Throughout the game you’ll run into dozens of these weird kinks and baffling instances which will tear you right out of the experience.
The core gameplay mechanics themselves feel just as antiquated. Run. Shoot. Jump. Repeat. Gearbox mixes it up a little bit with some puzzles and driving sequences, but they also add to the confusion of the game’s main theme. The Duke Nukem franchise has always been about shooting first and not even thinking of asking questions later. Throughout the game Duke balks at some of today’s gaming elements, such as regenerative armor. His persona is vehemently against anything that you’d find in modern first-person shooters; yet, his health — or in this case ego bar — regenerates and he still has to deal with needless bits of platforming and puzzles. How much cooler and in character would it have been if Duke came across a puzzle, say a door that needed to be opened by moving stuff around, and instead he just opted to blow the shit out of it, walk through it and then laugh. That’s what the Duke of yesteryear surely would have done. Instead Gearbox has him engaging in the very activities he’s rallying against the entire experience. You can’t have it both ways.
The biggest sin, though, remains those nagging load times I mentioned earlier. I can totally understand having to wait a longish amount of time for a level to load. That’s a pain but it’s forgivable. But let’s just say that you’ve waited upwards of thirty-plus seconds for the game to load, and then you’re killed a minute later. Instead of starting from the last check-point right away, you have to wait for everything to load again. This is frustrating and uncalled for beyond words.
As for the multi-player aspect, it’s all pretty standard stuff. Death Match, Team Death Match, King of the Hill, and Capture the Babe. Or, as we like to call them, Spawnkill Central. Know where a spawn point is? You can bet someone will be waiting there to shoot you in the face as soon as you appear. The only real strategy to be needed here is the memorization of where players will show up; however, this experience is not at all fruitless. All the points you earn online open stuff up for you in the online Duke Mansion. You can design the ultimate Duke Nukem related online pad, and this is without question the best bit of fan service offered here.
In a world of Halo, Crysis 2, and Call of Duty titles, no matter how big his bravado is, Duke just doesn’t have enough firepower to cash the checks his mouth spends so much time writing.
Still, despite all of these shortcomings (and there are many, many more, but I don’t feel like nitpicking), Duke is the star of the show here, and he’s just as funny and nasty as you want him to be. Even with all of the problems, I had a smile on my face from ear-to-ear while playing. Duke Nukem Forever will not change the face of gaming, nor does it bring anything even remotely new to the table, but damnit, it’s still fun. Even so, after nearly fifteen years we cannot help but feel that the Duke deserved better.
3 out of 5
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