Review: Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem has become most notorious for the huge development cycle of the latest game, Duke Nukem Forever. Back in the day it was a pretty unremarked, par for the course first-person shoot-em-up. Known for being good fun and somewhat innovative, people seem to have forgotten – judging by remarks and reviews – what it was about. To accuse Duke Nukem of being misogynistic, puerile and gory is to miss the point. Of course it is. Duke was and is a revelling in the macho action culture of the 1980s films that are reflected in the recycled lines that Duke spouts. He’s a mockery, a cipher, not any sort of deep commentary and to read more into it than that is to be bloody foolish.

In my opinion there was no way the makers could have ‘won’ at making this game. The sheer amount of time involved in getting the game back into existence created expectations that no company could ever have met. Modernise it too much and you de-Duke Duke Nukem, fail to change it and you get a cloud of manufactured moral outrage which, while great for publicity does create a stink that tends to taint things.

You don’t really go to a Duke Nukem game for deep and engaging storylines and if you do, you’re a twit. The story of Duke, insomuch as there is one, is that aliens have arrived on Earth and are stealing our babes. This annoys Duke inordinately, so he kicks their arses. That’s pretty much it. Along the way he destroys a mothership, closes a wormhole and kills a hell of a lot of alien bastards.

This did fall a bit flat for me since the storyline – such as it is – is ‘save the babes’ but you can’t particularly save any babes (perhaps two that I noticed) during play. That left me with a bit of a hollow feeling since it’s pretty much Duke’s only motivation.

This is largely standard gameplay – at least for the first person parts. You run around, you shoot things, you dodge behind cover. It’s an unreconstructed FPS but that also means that it lacks a lot of the innov,tions of more modern-styled games, but then that feels like a deliberate choice. This is an ‘old school’ experience, just with an updated set of graphics and, perhaps a more risque nature, since you can actually get away with more these days, for all the outcry. It’s an enjoyable enough game and the gameplay is good enough, you just have to get yourself back into the mindset of the old way to play and I think this might be behind some of the negative reviews, people failing to to dial the right amount of time into the Wayback Machine.

There are lots of little mini-games, things you do to increase your ego (health) such as lifting weights, playing pinball and so on and there are also driving sections, which are a nice break from the normal action and not too annoying (a common problem with these sorts of things). The only gameplay part that really lets the game down – at least on the console – is the massive loading time each time you die. This is only compounded into a ‘WTF?’ when you realise that dying during the driving sections DOESN’T force a reload. This gets really annoying, really quickly, especially during a couple of later jumping puzzles.

I played on the console (PS3) and, as always for someone who has played FPS games for a long time it doesn’t feel as ‘right’ as mouse and keyboard but despite ‘aim correction’ being a bit of a lie in the settings, it’s not too hard to hit your enemies even with a controller. Weapon switching is limited to two weapons – which is a bit of a disappointment – and bombs and mines are worked with the shoulder buttons, which is a bit fiddly. You take boost items with the pad, which can also be a little fiddly (beer makes you tougher, steroids make you do more damage in melee, you can drop a holoduke to distract enemies and you can use ‘duke vision’ to see in the dark – though this isn’t much better than the dark itself).

Again, this isn’t going to be something you really go to a Duke Nukem game for, but this is something that the game manages to pull off better than previously. You do get a sense of the city under attack, and of Duke himself under attack. The alien hive does feel disgusting. The only ways I think it lets you down is that some of the ‘sets’ are starkly under-dressed compared to others, as though there wasn’t enough time to completely fill out all the levels. There’s still lots of little details here and there, girlie calendars, soft porn mags, working drinks machines. It’s worth exploring the nooks and crannies just to find fun little things to encounter or play with – like the phone answering machines.

There’s nothing particularly outstanding here, it’s a pretty standard issue current-gen game as far as the graphics are concerned. I didn’t notice many screen artefacts and one thing I did appreciate was the care that seemed to have gone into characters holding things or… ahh… touching themselves. Many games go about this half-arsed but in Duke Nukem Forever you don’t get that ‘puppet body’ effect that was so noticable in LA Noire (compared to the facial animation). That said, Duke’s movements – as seen in mirrors – are pretty wooden and terrible. I’ve not played the multiplayer (I dislike playing with random arseholes on the net) so I have no idea whether other players look as bad I’m afraid.

If you can appreciate a wholesale pisstake of macho 80s culture and a boot up the arse of postmodern sacred cows. This is a good game for you. If you’re going to take it seriously and analyse the shit out of it, buy something else. I played the crap out of Duke Nukem on the PC back in the day and while this doesn’t have the replay value I’ve enjoyed the experience and I’m going to complete the game. That pretty much says it all as far as a review can go. It’s nice to have Duke back and, you know what? I like adult content in games, even if it’s immature content. Sometimes it’s nice to just kick back and enjoy something for what it is on its face. A particularly like the digs at Halo, Fallout and other games that are worked through the whole game, for me at least, that’s what really makes it. Like a cranky old drill sargeant calling out the new recruits, Duke takes the piss out of these usurpers. I hope there’s a new Duke game, brought out a bit more quickly this time around and with a bit more spit and polish but for now, this’ll do nicely.

Further to my review, I’d like to refer you to THIS brilliant article.

On the Plus Side

  • Nipples.
  • This game really, really doesn’t give a fuck.
  • Poor PR control by the PR company has exposed to a wider audience the shenanigans that go on behind games reviewing by professionals.

On the Minus Side

  • Needed more polish.
  • I have to put up with people whining about the game.
  • No great shakes for replay value.

Style: 4
Substance: 2.5
Overall: 3.25