Nostalgia isn’t always a good thing. Yeah, it’s nice to look back on your younger days and think, “Wasn’t that great.” In the world of video games, we are able to go back in time very easily with access to all sorts of old school games. Sometimes it’s fun to remember the roots of gaming history, but the vast majority of time, the memories of your favorite games are a lot better than the games actually are. Duke Nukem has become a victim of people’s memory. Everyone remembers Duke as the bad ass, cigar smoking misogynist. Duke didn’t change. Gamers did.
When a game has a 12 year delay, it’s impossible to meet expectations that have been built out of nostalgia. I like to compare people’s thoughts on Duke Nukem 3D to a fish story. Every time that fish story is told, the fish gets bigger and crazier. Every time someone recounted their days with Duke’s last game it seems to make the game sound better and better. Also, when you have a 12 year delay on a game, that means people are 12 years older. That means that some of the poop jokes, T&A and one-liners you loved when you were a teenager become less funny. That means that mindlessly shooting aliens might get a little boring when the FPS genre has grown to much greater heights. What a 12 year delay doesn’t mean is that the game has adapted to everything people now expect or hope for “their” game to be.
Now that we have out of the way, understand that this game has been looked at through the wrong lens. This is exactly what I expected for this game. It is exactly what everyone else should have expected. It’s an average shooter with dumb jokes and a lot of boobs. There are plenty of one-liners to be heard and plenty of guns to pick up and kick some ass. The world you travel in is varied and while the graphics aren’t up to Killzone 3 standards, the game certainly looks like it’s from this gen.
So why all the hate? Duke has been getting killed in reviews and in forum comments on every corner of the interweb. As far as I can tell, the comedy was too low brow, the action too average and the polish newer games have is missing. Is all of that true? Absolutely. But this is a sequel to a game that embodied all of those things and now the game is being punished for sticking to its roots. Roots which most gamers demandedthe game stuck to.
So if you can get over the fact that this game isn’t Call of Duty 34: Modern Black WWII Shooter and just sit back for some of the least serious action you have seen in a game in a while, you will probably enjoy this. The controls work exactly as they should. There is a great variety of weapons with your standard pistols, shotguns and rocket launchers. In addition to the standard weaponry, you get to play around with some cool alien weapons like the shrink ray and various assortments of lasers.
While the game gets the weapons right, I will admit, the story is more or less nonexistent. If you are looking for something to connect to on some emotional level, this isn’t the game for you. You play as Duke and you have to save the world from aliens. There’s the story. While there is nothing within the plot to draw you into the game, you are taken to a pretty wide array of locales. You start off in what I think is the Duke’s personal hotel, then an underground tunnel and all the way to the Hoover Dam.
While most of the action is centered around shooting, there are some diversions here and there which help to break up the action. There are some driving segments that were actually more fun that I expected. I was reminded while diving the Monster Truck, which handled very well, that Gearbox is not new to vehicles in FPS games. They, of course, perfected it with Borderlands. Along with driving, the game also has some platform sections. These were probably my least favorite part of the game, but they weren’t horrible.
The game lasts about 9 or 10 hours, which is long by today’s standards. The boss battles are decent, with a little cheapness on a few of them. Each boss has their own style but for the most part you just need to shoot them more than they hit you. There is online multi-player to help extend the game’s life, but I have to admit it was pretty forgettable.
So is the game terrible? No, but it’s not great either. It controls well, looks OK graphically and has a lot of weapons to blow stuff up. There are lots of boobs and lots of dumb jokes. It’s Duke Nukem, just as I remember him from way back when. I have to admit that I am finding it difficult to understand the terrible reception this game has gotten. But if you think about it, it makes sense. People remember Duke Nukem 3D as one of the best games of their youth. That memory has lasted longer than it should have, because if you went back and played it today, it’s nothing special. And that’s what Duke Nukem Forever is, nothing special, but there is definitely some fun to be had.
Story & Presentation:
The story leaves a lot to be desired. Load times are the worst thing about the game, but presentation is fine besides that.
A lot of complaining has been done about the graphics, but I found them to be better than average. Some nice lighting effects here and there.
A straight ahead shooter. The action is well paced with driving and platforming sections.
The voice acting is fine or at least it isn’t poor enough to complain about. Other than that nothing stands out from a sound standpoint.
This isn’t an overly easy platinum. One of the old school things that remains is the difficulty (but there is some glitching that can be used to get around that). Game also must be played twice for platinum.
- Duke Nukem Forever 2013 edition: modders return the king to his throne (pcgamer.com)
- The REAL Duke Nukem Forever released 16 years later (destructoid.com)
- Play Duke Nukem Forever In Its Original 2001 Graphical Style Via PC Mod (Duke Nukem Forever 2013) (testingitis2.wordpress.com)