Duke Nukem Forever Review
Duke Nukem Forever has a long and (infamously) storied past with which you’re undoubtedly already familiar, but the game’s pedigree, or lack thereof, won’t be a factor in this review. What matters most to me is whether or not a game is fun to play, and it’s on this point above all others that Duke Nukem Forever fails. It’s simply not that much fun to play.
The story in Duke Nukem Forever is simple and straightforward. After defeating the Earth’s alien invaders Duke has become one of the most famous, and apparently richest, person on the planet. Unfortunately, the aliens have returned, and once again it is up to Duke to defeat the aliens singlehandedly and make the planet safe for strippers once more. Duke is an over-the-top caricature of 80s action movie stars (and one former governor in particular), so a paper thin plot is pretty much expected here and in and of itself is not much of a knock against the game. Duke is all ego and sex drive, so the dialog pretty much consists of one-liners. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but they’re just not all that clever in this game. Duke’s best lines are lifted straight out of Army of Darkness, but without the context that made them such good lines in the first place. And the sex jokes are juvenile at best, making “that’s what she said” jokes look like the pinnacle of adult humor. Action hero one-liners and ribald humor can be clever, witty, and entertaining, but Duke is simply inane and puerile. The game’s rated M, but the humor is aimed squarely at boys who are still a few years away from buying M-rated games on their own. This is evident right from the beginning of the game when Duke grabs feces from a toilet and begins tossing it around. If you find that the height of humor, then you’ll love the game’s humor. Otherwise, you’re unlikely to find the game to be all that funny and are in for a long ride.
The game was first conceived well over a decade ago, so naturally some of its gameplay and level design will seem dated by today’s standards. That by itself shouldn’t necessarily scare you way from a game; after all, there are plenty of games on XBLA that do a great job of capturing some of the aspects of “Old School” games that made them fun to play in their day. However Duke Nukem Forever hasn’t aged well in limbo and instead is a collection of gameplay concepts long ago abandoned for good reason. Brain-dead enemy AI, frustrating platform sections, overly long turret sequences in which enemies attack in the same couple of patterns over and over again, … And there are problems that are unforgivable in any age such as poor control responsiveness and excruciatingly long load times. To top it all off, the game looks terribly dated and the framerate is rather poor.
There’s a multiplayer mode that includes your basic game types. It’s certainly a 1990s style mode which might have served as a nice mindless break from today’s complex online modes if it weren’t for poor map design, rampant spawn point camping, and lag that somehow manages to put Brink’s to shame. Players that appear frozen in place and disorienting random jumps and uncontrolled spins are a frequent problem, and just as with the long load times you’re left to wonder how such basic and relatively primitive gameplay and graphics can cause the Xbox 360 to choke and sputter so much. There’s a potentially interesting aspect to it in the form of experience points and challenges that reward players with new items to view in their own virtual Duke’s penthouse pad, but I doubt anyone will put up with the frustrating aspects of the multiplayer mode just to add a portrait of Duke as an astronaut to their penthouse wall.
Probably the biggest joke in Duke Nukem Forever is that the game was released as a top-tier title at a $60 price point. The game that was supposed to reboot the franchise has without a doubt rebooted it to a BSOD, and it will certainly take some time for the Duke legacy to recover from this fiasco. It would have been far more prudent to make a new Duke game with a clever story that poked fun at modern shooter conventions and that nailed everything that was fun about old shooters without digging up all of the old problems that modern developers have long ago buried, and that came with Duke Nukem Forever as a free bonus. Then gamers could have had a good laugh at how bad the game that was in development for so long was. Instead the joke’s on anyone who paid full price for this mess.
Since Duke likes to rip-off Ash so much, it’s fitting to sum things up with an Army of Darkness quote with Duke standing in for Sheila instead of Ash this time - Duke: “You found me beautiful once.” Ash: “Honey, you got reeeeal ugly!”
Final Rating: 40%. Fail to the king, baby...