Duke Nukem Forever Review
The saying goes, "Better late than never." I wish this was the case for Duke Nukem Forever. Unfortunately, stale gameplay and clumsy mechanics make me wish Forever was left as an idea, rather than made into an actual game. I wanted to like it. I really did. I tried to overlook its shortcomings and enjoy a story and character that brought me back to my childhood.
As far as character is concerned, nothing has changed. Duke is still the same testosterone-raging, foul-mouthed booby-slapper that he was in the 90s. He is a gun-toting badass who treats women as objects, mocks our society, and gets off on squashing aliens. The humor in the game is great. It brought me back to my adolescent days, when I got a rush out of doing things in the game that I wasn't supposed to do in real life---like looking at dirty magazines. Boy, did pixelated women ever look so good.
You'd think that after 12 years in the making, the women would look a little better. OK, so the game may have been an idea for 10 of those years, and the other two were development, but the point is that a game for consoles like Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 should look somewhat better than Duke Nukem Forever does. I thought blocky graphics and choppy movements were gone with the original Xbox. I would think the "King" would get the pleasure of a graphical overhaul, but maybe they purposely left us with these graphics for a nostalgia's sake.
I wouldn't be so hard on the graphics if the gameplay made up for it. The simple fact is that the gameplay is stale. There is nothing quite as adrenaline-pumping as running into a room full of aliens, guns blazing, and blasting the hell out of anything in sight. It was fun in the first Duke Nukem. It was fun for the first couple of levels in Duke Nukem Forever. Then it got repetitive. I can only get so much enjoyment out of shotgunning an alien and giving it the finger afterwards. Maybe today's shooters have spoiled me into wanting more out of a game, and maybe the hype of Duke Nukem Forever made me expect more out of the game's action. But there wasn't more. All you do is run in and shoot up the place, often dying in the process because of "cheap" deaths. When I say "cheap" deaths, I don't mean any time I die I'm labeling it as cheap. I admit, some of the deaths were results of careless play on my behalf, but when I am shrunken and nowhere near an enemy yet still die when he stomps his foot on the ground, I consider that a "cheap," poorly programmed death.
Normally, I don't complain about dying in a video game. I enjoy the challenge. However, when it takes five minutes to reload the level, it gets a little frustrating. No, I am not exaggerating. Each load screen takes about four to five minutes, and it happens quite frequently.
Duke Nukem takes gameplay elements from the very FPS games that it mocks. It has a regenerative health bar, called ego, and the constraint of only holding 2 weapons at once. Honestly, who can only carry two weapons these days? Especially when the hero is someone as badass as Duke. Duke's levels are fairly straightforward---linear maps filled with charging humanoid pigs and jetpack-wearing aliens. Some of the weapons are fun, as you can find shrink rays and freeze guns or use your blunt fists to pulverize enemies. After blasting your way around a level, you occasionally encounter some small puzzles. Although small and simplistic in nature, some of them can be quite difficult to figure out and can lead to frustration. The majority of them involve finding which crate to jump on next. Once you complete the acts in each chapter, you come face-to-face with a boss of some sort. These boss fights usually require patience, as you are forced to repetitively fire rockets at it until its health depletes.
The ideas behind some of Duke's elements are there. It could've been fun shrinking into miniature size and driving miniature trucks around a room. However, its clumsy handling leaves you wanting more. "Jump on this crate and climb this ladder ... Jump on the hamburger buns to avoid being burned." The puzzles are so dull that they are annoying. What should have been considered fun breaks in action sequences seem more like hindrances that only piss you off when you die because you can't make the jump required to reach the next platform. Have fun waiting another five minutes to reload the level. But hey, what is five minutes of waiting when we've waited 12 years for this game?
I enjoy the Duke character. I love flicking off aliens and cursing them out as I blow their heads off. I love chugging beer and cracking skulls with my fists. I love getting virtual lap dances in strip clubs and admiring myself in the mirror. The story, as hokey as it is, is still entertaining and filled with crude humor. I just don't love anything else about the game. The graphics are dated, and the gameplay is pedestrian at best. I found myself begging for the game to end, playing it only for the sake of beating it rather than enjoying it. It seemed like a chore instead of a game. If you enjoy repetitive levels and corny one-liners, then you will find enjoyment in this game. The game will definitely bring you back to the 90s, but I wish it would have left 90s gameplay and graphics.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]