The internet is buzzing with all sorts of opinions about Duke Nukem Forever. I have played it and am still enjoying it. The game has taken a long time to get to us. The Australian Classification Board even let it through at MA15+ without any changes, so that’s a bit odd. But you don’t click on a review to hear about classification. I promise if you read more I will talk about the game we’ve waited 14 years for.
The aliens have arrived on Earth and are starting to cause some mischief. The president urges calm but Duke Nukem knows better. Especially when they aliens start taking all the babes. After a super long intro, somewhat reminding me of Half Life (Although Gordon Freeman never had babes throwing themselves at him), we start to get some shooting gallery alien killing action. All the weapons one could want are there. We have Shotguns, The Ripper machine gun, Shrink Ray, Freeze gun, Rocket launcher, Alien Enforcer gun, Railgun (a sniper rifle) and the Devastator (Twin-rocket launcher). If you want more explosions, the pipe bombs are back with car remote detonation along with the laser trip mines.
I find the humour spot on. Jon St John really brings out the anger that is Duke. The fan service is here in big helpings. From Halo references about power armour being for pussies, to Step 3 being, “umm… Profit?” The game made me chuckle, even laugh out loud at some points. The weapons all feel pretty good. The shotgun feels powerful at close range, pipe bombs are awesome, the weapons all bring back that good Duke Nukem feeling. Plus Holo Duke is back and kicks ass, it even shoots and talks. Don’t forget jet-packs.
I found there was much more colour than other modern shooting games. It was wonderful to have more in the colour palette than just brown, grey, black and muzzle flash. Parts of the world are quite interactive. It reminds me of a time when it was amazing that you could turn on taps or hit light switches. It has no bearing on the actual gameplay and just plays as simple humour. Some reviewers have gotten angry about the game letting you pick up faeces from a toilet and throw it around. If that’s your idea of fun go ahead, not mine, but I’m glad the developers gave people the choice.
The level design is very linear compared to Duke Nukem 3D, but there are the little secret spots to be found that will likely increase your Ego(health) bar. I really enjoyed the variety of game type used to break up the action. Some of the best levels are when Duke is shrunk down and must navigate his way through kitchens or a casino. There are even some OK driving parts involving a monster truck or an RC car.
It’s good to be killing pigs again. Being able to disable them and perform a finishing move the, “Mighty Boot” just makes me feel like a bad-ass. The game looks good enough for me visuals wise. I have heard of issues on the 360 version where there are frame rate problems and blur, I didn’t notice any on the PC. While playing, it’s just good wholesome Duke Nukem fun. Which is to say macho childish humour. Nothing wrong with degenerating to boobs and explosions to keep one entertained.
Multiplayer is back, with some nice maps. Even the first level from Duke 3D has been converted into a paintball style arena to shoot it out in. Mmmmm nostalgia.
Taking off my fanboy goggles for just a moment, I can find some faults with Duke Forever. Regenerating health, not a fan of it. No more medkits, just shoot, get hit, take cover, wait and then back in to shoot some more.
I had big problems with the multiplayer. Even playing with other people in Australia I found pings were around 300+. The games were laggy, and voice to all chat seemed to be in every match. Sometimes peoples voice chat was on automatically so all I could hear was someone watching Price is Right in the background or a mother telling someone to clean their room. Dedicated servers would have been awesome. The unlockable hats and clothes rewarded by playing mutliplayer looked fun but I couldn’t sit through enough matches to get anything of real value.
I don’t like the change to only being able to carry two weapons. Duke Nukem has decided to follow modern shooters and use the two gun policy. You can still use pipe bombs and trip mines but I found only carrying two weapons really tedious. The game provides ammo regularly and weapons drop from most enemies. As a big fan of the shotgun I would usually have that in one slot and maybe the rocket launcher in the second, in case some boss was around the corner or something. Problem is, the rocket launcher only carries five shots, So if I don’t want to waste them, I can only be using the shotgun. If I find a Machine gun on the ground, I have to drop one of my weapons to carry it, but what if they don’t give me another shotgun for a long time? I want the chick chick boom. It may be a small gripe, but I was always a fan of the shooter that let you amass a great deal of weaponry. Half Life and Doom let you stockpile and bring out the big guns as you felt the situation needed.
Some of the humour misses the mark. Sometimes the sexism or ‘base humour’ becomes just a little too full on. I wasn’t bothered by Duke cracking an abortion joke after blowing up women who have aliens ready to explode from them. I understand how tasteless a joke like that can be. Duke’s little one liners after dispatching a foe can seem a bit repetitive after a while. That could just be me wanting to hear more lines from Jon st John though.
Despite finding much wrong with the game when I look at it without fanboy goggles, I had fun while playing. Maybe the jokes and simple corridor shooting gallery gameplay dumbed me down enough to enjoy it. Whatever the reason, I still get a kick out of running around killing aliens with a shotgun spouting one liners.
A friend asked me if it was worth the wait. I don’t think any game could be worth more than ten years of development. If I wasn’t able to play any other game in that time until this came out, then hell no, not worth it. But I’m glad it finally did get to completion. I’m glad I’ve played it, I don’t regret the money spent. I just advise to go in wanting some silly nostalgia. Stay away from the multiplayer until some sort of patch fixes it.
Play it on PC, maybe that helps bring back the good Duke Nukem feeling. Oh and, Jetpacks.