Interesting fact: back when 3D Realms originally announced Duke Nukem Forever, Nintendo released it’s first polygonal 3D Zelda, Ocarina of Time, on a system that was struggling in the market to give it a boost. The game, Ocarina of Time, would go on to be known as the greatest game ever created, and would set the blueprint of 3D games. Fast forward to today, thirteen years later, and when Duke Nukem Forever is finally released after the longest development cycle for any game in history, Nintendo has released it’s first stereoscopic 3D Zelda, Ocarina of Time, on a system that has been struggling in the market to give it a boost. The remake of Ocarina has been warmly received everywhere, and many are calling it as the game that all stereoscopic 3D games must look to emulate henceforth.
My point is, we’re dealing with a ridiculously protracted development period here- after all, Duke Nukem Forever has been in development for fourteen years, and has been, at various points in its development cycle, on at least three different engines. It’s had four different developers working on it. It’s been the subject of a massive monetary lawsuit. It’s been dismissed as vaporware (to the extent that it became synonymous with the term for almost a decade), and been the butt of an absurdly high number of jokes.
How do you review a game like that? When it’s straddled by so many expectations, when there is so much baggage, is it even possible to remove the game from the legend, the myth, the hype, and to look at it for what it is, and review it objectively first and foremost as a game? A game that should be compared to not what we expect it to be after all this time, but to other similar games on the market, to other games on the system? After all, when you, as a consumer, go to the store with your $60, you won’t care about the history behind Duke Nukem Forever, will you? You’ll just want to know if it’s worth it to part with such a substantial amount of money, if the game represents a wise investment. The question then is, is Duke Nukem Forever a good game?
The answer to that question is: no. No, it isn’t. Duke Nukem Forever is a horrible, horrible game, one that might rank as one of the worst games ever created. If you value your money, your time, and perhaps most of all, your intelligence, just stay away from this game, and run in the opposite direction as fast as you can when you’re offered to play it.
The problems with Duke Nukem Forever are numerous. The first of these, although one that I suppose most aware gamers would be willing to forgive it for, is the graphics. They range from being mildly nauseating to eye gougingly bad, with horrible textures, poor character models, weak animations, and a mess of a mish mash of colors all thrown in together. The game looks atrocious at worst, and incredibly unattractive at best. It’s kind of easy to see this game as being a product of the last decade, century and millennium, actually- the visuals are certainly a testament to that.
If the graphics are bad, then that is nothing compared to the intelligence violating, intellect sodomizing, absolute and utter bullcrap quality that the game’s design represents. You see, while the game sells itself as being a blast from the past- and indeed, even consciously attempts to emulate old games numerous times- Duke Nukem Forever is ultimately nothing like the shooters of yore.
Let’s just start at the beginning, shall we? For example, remember the one thing that perhaps most importantly differentiates old shooters from new ones? If you’re new to gaming, let me tell you that old shooters were notorious for their lack of realism, in that your one character could literally be carrying an entire military arsenal on him at all times. So there were no limits to the kind and number of weapons you could carry. In 2001, all of that changed of course, with the release of Halo: Combat Evolved on the Xbox. However, with such a fundamental change came other changes to how shooters played- for example, regenerating health and cover based firefights are all products of a modern era.
Another thing is, when you limit the weapons your main character can carry at a time, your weapon design has to be carefully structured, so that you can always access weaponry and ammo littered around the level at all times. It’s a delicate balance that has to be struck.
What’s the problem with Duke Nukem Forever, then? Well, the game, in spite of all its jabs at Halo (for being a nancy modern day shooter), has promptly gone on to adapt this two weapon mechanic for itself, but it has failed to incorporate any of the accompanying changes to game design that go with it. Hell, I’m not even talking about regenerating health or cover based shooting, you can go an entire level because you ran out of ammo and have no other guns to replace your useless weapons with, simply because the designers forgot, somewhere down the line that you’re supposed to provide the player with easily replaceable ammunition and weaponry if you limit the weapons he can have on him at all times.
But don’t worry, you won’t be at much risk of running out of ammo. You see, there isn’t that much shooting in Duke Nukem Forever to begin with. For whatever reason, most of the game is about puzzle solving (with numerous jabs at the pi0neer of this kind of gameplay, Valve), and platforming, and collectathons, and other such shit. One example of this, when you realize that the game has sunk to a new low, is when you are literally asked to go on a fetch quest for a stripper inside a strip club, looking for her… toys. And all of it for a lap dance. That’s what Duke Nukem has sunk to.
On the whole, the game design of Duke Nukem represents a catch all mentality. It’s a classic example of too many cooks spoiling the broth.It is evident that many gameplay ideas were proposed during the game’s extensively long development cycle, and evidently, Gearbox just put them all together, threw the kitchen sink in and called it a day. What we have is a game that is disjointed, has horrible pacing, fails at basic game design, and is overall, just not fun.
There are some highlights to the experience. For example, when there is shooting, it’s certainly enjoyable, although not to the degree that you’d want it to be, and certainly not as much as the classic Duke Nukem 3D. It’s more or less predictable fare, shooting at aliens, and mowing your way through them, and ultimately, it gets just… boring. Inoffensive. Nothing special or remarkable at all. Some other sequences are also mildly fun, such as the vehicle driving level (although admittedly, it is a bit anti climactic, since there is a trickle of all of four enemies attacking you for the entirety of that sequence) and that level where you’re shrunk to chipmunk size. But all of it is too far in between, and most of it becomes grating on the nerves after a while, including, yes, the shooting. The sad part of Duke Nukem Forever is, it fails at being fun.
What’s even sadder is that it fails at being Duke Nukem. Many will remember the early ’90s gaming icon, and remember him for his sexist quips, his irreverent attitude, and his uber testosterone fueled alpha male mentality. In this game, Duke Nukem is a caricature of his former self, reduced to being unacceptably misogynistic, sick, creepy, foul mouthed and perverted. There is literally a level in the game that shows women being raped, as in actually being raped, accompanied with all their whines of misery, and all that Duke can manage after this sequence is a ‘you’re screwed’ joke. It violates one’s sensibilities, and more importantly, their mind and intelligence. Did they expect this to be funny? Is their idea of humor literally depicting rape, and treating it in such a callous, tactless and cavalier manner?
What’s worse is that Duke is clearly a relic of his era. The hilarious pop culture references that he used to make are the not so hilarious pop culture references that he still makes, and they’re not so funny now. His jabs at competing games and developers come off as hollow, especially considering that games by Valve and from the Halo series are games that we can, you know, actually play and enjoy. Which is more that can be said for this.
Duke Nukem Forever is plagued by many issues. Bad game design, ugly graphics, not being fun, underwhelming shooting mechanics, a story that is without any context and insults the intelligence, scenes that seem to have been included only for the shock value, an absolute lack of a sense of humor, a bad multiplayer mode… the list goes on and on. My point is, stay away from this game. It fails at being a last from the past. It fails at invoking the ’90s era shooters. It fails at being a good game. It fails at being a game. But perhaps most importantly, it fails at being Duke Nukem. That, maybe more than anything else, is what will bitterly hurt longtime fans of the series the most.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
The game was finally released
Bad graphics, underwhelming shooting mechanics, the game is monotonous and boring, it has a brain dead story, terrible sense of humor, perverted and revolting 'humor,' It fails at being Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem Forever is an insult to our intelligence.