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Published on June 23rd, 2011 | by simeon


Duke Nukem Forever

The long-awaited swaggering machismo of Duke Nukem is finally back and the King has some alien butt kicking to do. It would be next to impossible to do a review on Duke Nukem Forever without mentioning that the game had a development cycle rumored to be near 15 years and it was released almost 12 years after it was first expected.

One could probably write a book on all the reasons behind the lengthy delay of the game which stemmed from graphical engine changes, publishing changes, creative team changes, and more but instead let’s focus on the game itself with the understanding that its road from concept to final product was a long and complicated one.

In the events since Duke Nukem 3-D Duke has become an even greater hero to the masses as he reigns over a massive empire from his lofty and swanky Las Vegas digs. Everything from TV appearances, books, fast food chains, movies, and more are adorned with Duke’s image and wisdom which feed his already sizable ego as do the constant stream of adoring fans and women who throw themselves at him whenever they lay their eyes upon him.

When the aliens appear again over the city Duke is confident that he is more than ready to stomp them a new one. He is so unconcerned that he continues with the plan TV appearance up until the point that the bad guys make their move.

Duke makes his way to his underground command center is ordered by the president not to do anything to antagonize the aliens because he is currently in peace negotiations with their emperor. For Duke the best negotiating tool is a shotgun to the face, and when the aliens infiltrate his compound he takes matters into his own hands along with members of the Earth Defense Force to take care the alien problem.

With an arsenal of weapons that include pistols, shotguns, chain guns, pipe bombs, mines, rocket launchers, rail guns, a freeze ray, shrink ray, and some alien weaponry as well as his never ending arsenal of quips, Duke is a man on a mission.

There an interesting series of locales for Duke to fight in ranging from casinos to construction yards as well is alien lairs, fast food restaurants, and ghost towns all of which provide a never-ending onslaught of bad guys for Duke to dispatch/

The game also has some enjoyable missions involving a vehicle one such required a shrunken Duke navigate the casino and a remote-controlled car while another required him to take his oversized monster truck through the desert plowing over any bad guys get in the way.

The gameplay is very much a retro run and gun shooter. While there are some outdoor battles and locations in the game a lot of it takes place indoors and follows the gameplay formula of the last game and shooters of the past. There are occasions where Duke fights outside or in darkness using his Duke Vision glasses which are enjoyable moments to step outside the box and allow players a greater degree of tactics than in other parts the game.

Graphically the game does appear dated from many of its peers as the facial animations definitely have a retro look to them as do much the environments. The game puts its focus on the action and doesn’t let things like a complicated story and deep interactions with other characters get in the way of Duke’s one-man army.
The multiplayer in the game is a lot of fun as aside from death match there is also team death match, a mode that requires teams to hold strategic points, as well as a nice variation on capture the flag where ala Postal 2, players must carry a female from the other team back to their base.

The game is also loaded with puzzles which at times became a bit frustrating. It’s not that they were overly complex it’s just that I am not a fan of taken a break in the action to do timed jumps around the map. The puzzles involved manipulation of objects were much more enjoyable to me but there were times that I felt the puzzles were more prerequisite rather than essential to the level and the storyline.
The enemy AI is improved over the last Duke game but for the most part enemies still stand their ground or charge at you in a straight line. Duke does get the opportunity to execute down bad guys which increases his ego or health, which replenishes itself when Duke gets out of harms way. While going in guns blazing has always been a tried-and-true strategy for some I found a more effective strategy with hit-and-run tactics when faced with over whelming odds which allowed me to decrease the enemy numbers and take moments to reload and revive.
Humor abounds in the game as do several in jokes against other gaming franchises, films, and pop-culture references many of which seem dated due to the lengthy production cycle of the game.
While the game sure to get its share of criticism for juvenile and sexist humor I would say that you know what you’re in for an Duke Nukem game and that the developers clearly know their audience and their hero and were not about to change anything in this regard. It is the humor that makes the game series what it is and separates Duke from the countless and often faceless heroes that dominate other first-person shooters stone silence.

In the end while it is lacking when compared against modern releases, the simple fact that the game made it to market as an amazing story. Upon completion of the game, several bonus areas are unlocked one of which is a detailed timeline on the game’s development. Had the game been released seven years ago people would be calling it revolutionary and groundbreaking as I fully believe was the intent of the developers during the development of the game.

As it stands now, Duke Nukem Forever is a very retro game complete with data graphics and gameplay. This is not to say it is a bad thing as once you get into the game I found it enjoyable and it took me back to the days of playing the previous game and other shooters of a similar style. The ending is wide open for a sequel and I for one look forward to seeing what Gearbox can come up with when they start a new game from scratch using the latest technology instead of having to cobble together and polish a game from over 12 years of production.

While it will not set any new standards for graphics or gameplay, Duke is a franchise unto itself that despite its retro look and feel is an enjoyable guilty pleasure for those who don’t take themselves too seriously and set their expectations accordingly.

3.5 stars out of 5

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