Duke Nukem Forever Review
When Duke Nukem Forever was released a little over a month ago, it was difficult to ignore the mostly scathing reviews that rolled in. Having not had a chance to sit down and play it for myself, I hoped and prayed that somehow these reviews were collectively misunderstanding the game and it was a title that just needed some time to settle in before people began to enjoy it. So I set out on a mission, armed with lots of knowledge on what DNF didn’t have, to explain what redeeming qualities the game might have and ultimately to make a case for not shunning this one away in the history books. I spent a few hours with it, all the while trying not to peer into the depths of its shortcomings, but after this time had passed I found it nearly impossible. DNF has a remarkable ability to actually pull a user in closer to its issues, rather than try to employ any of the hundreds of tricks used by other titles to hide their unpolished work.
By now the story is a well distributed one; Duke is currently living it up after he successfully thwarted an alien attack over a decade ago when the aliens launch another attack and he must suit up once again to save mankind. If you look at the overall story line for DNF you’ll notice that it actually fits within the mold of its universe. However this was something I had to go back and look at on paper to realize, and it was most likely due to the fact that there are so many mini games and side challenges to complete that it continuously distracts from the overall goal.
Controlling Duke is conceptually no different than any modern day shooter, with layouts similar in style to anything released on the current generation of consoles. DNF breaks down very quickly after this by providing unnatural movement, something akin to sitting on a set of rails that doesn’t have very good breaks. Some of the staple weapons that Duke carries around handle decently enough for a passing grade, however most of them (especially the alien weapons) feel like there is a half second delay from trigger pull to screen response. Another curious decision by the development team was to only allow Duke to carry two weapons at a time, which I can understand conceptually if you’re trying to fit the game into a modern control set, but unfortunately it doesn’t fit here and only made the contrast between it and other triple-A titles worse.
On the visual front lines, DNF tackles a few areas well like textures on boss characters and Duke’s lady friends. Unfortunately the visual presentation falls apart shortly after this, giving way to overly waxy looking objects, absolutely horrendous texture resolutions, and load times (including the initial hour long install) that often had me screaming at the PS3. DNF’s lighting and visual effects feel behind the times, and its frame rate noticeably drops during heavier firefights. Other features, like the game’s motion capturing and physics models look like they had potential at some point, but were then dropped on their heads and allowed to run amok.
Unlike other reviewers, I can’t say that I have much of an issue with DNF’s lewd script. Given that Duke Nukem 3D probably played a sizable role in desensitizing me to the offensive world back in ‘96, one of the things I was expecting from this latest version was another chapter of the utterly obscene. Besides a few scenes in the middle of the game where Duke’s truly offensive and misogynistic colors shine through, I would rate the overall experience as downright corny (and not in the intentionally funny way). In the end it was DNF’s voice acting and the cringe worthy one liners that were more offensive to me than anything else.
There is a multiplayer mode that offers up a decent selection of maps to choose from, but since it suffers from the same issues as the rest of the title and doesn’t do much to help balance gameplay it definitely leaves something to be desired. If you have been jonesing for some old school matchmaking set in the style of Duke then this might be for you, however most of the older play styles put to work here have gone away in modern games because they didn’t work then and most likely won’t work now.
Final Rating: 20%. Plain and simple, Duke Nukem Forever suffers from being passed around the development table for too long without any updates to its core.