Developer: 3D Realms / Gearbox Software / Triptych Games / Piranha Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: Windows / STEAM / PlayStation 3 / XBOX 360
Genre: Action / Science Fiction
OFLC Rating: MA
For those of you who are not familiar with the Duke Nukem franchise, it all started with the original episodic shareware game that (back then) was spelt Duke Nukum until the sequel that was released two years later. The first two games featured two dimensional platforming gameplay back when the gamers we’re heavily into games of similar nature like Super Mario Bros., Sonic The Hedgehog and of course Commander Keen along with a multitude of other platform action games. The first game saw Duke Nukem take on his original adversary Dr. Proton and his robotic legion using what resembled a pulse rifle of sorts. Duke Nukem II introduced three new weapons to the mix as you foot a mysterious alien warlord who was after Duke’s brain. The third game Duke Nukem 3D of 1996 become somewhat of a quantum leap compared to it’s predecessors (however not necessarily to the it’s “newfound” genre) as the game evolved from a platformer into a fist person shooter. Like the majority of FPS games of the day it was fun to play (with or without “Cheats”) offering a high replay value. Unlike other shooters this game was the first to use the Build engine, but what really set Duke Nukem 3D apart from the others was the tongue in cheek humour and pop cultural references it used. Every time you killed an enemy Duke would spout out with a (not so original) one liner, along with confronting “Bosses” and starting levels. Duke Nukem 3D added shock humour that really stirred up controversy among women’s rights groups with the sexual humour, example being that you could pay strippers to flash. With the level of violence (despite the fact you were facing alien invaders) displaying blood and guts flying, along with the sexual humour all this brought the Duke Nukem franchise from G – PG action game into the realm of adult entertainment.
Now this latest instalment Duke Nukem Forever was initially announced shortly after the success of Duke Nukem 3D round 1997. Duke Nukem Forever’s development saw the game become the bane of vast number of jokes and ridicule as it was expected never to be released – Dubbed “Vaporware”.
Through the course of it’s development we have seen at least three different versions of the game (including this release) as the game has been redone from having to upgraded to new engine. If we had have seen the game released in 1998 it would have been using the ID2 engine used on Quake II. From the footage shown round 2001/02 you have expected to see a game with rich story and action using UE1 (Unreal and Unreal Tournament) if it had have been released then. But after prolonged development and a court battle between the creators of the franchise and publisher Take Two Interactive we finally see Duke Nukem Forever in the midyear of 2011. The question many fans would have been faced with – Has it been worth the wait?
As a fan of the original PC DOS series from 1991 I will try set aside my prejudice and answer honestly and unbiasedly as I possibly can.
The story is quite simple as it takes place twelve years after Duke Nukem 3D, however the game begins with the prologue that sees you as Duke Nukem start from the ending of the last game (D3D) giving you an indication as to the connection between this game and the prior’s stories. In the previous game you returned to Earth only to find aliens have taken over the world (whether or not these are the same foes from Duke Nukem II, that is unclear) and are (strangely enough) after the female population. Having obliterated the last invasion force from D3D, their at it again with stronger force – Only this time, it’s personal (for both Duke and them). Though Duke Nukem Forever has characters and plots that try to enrich the story, beyond that there really isn’t much to tell.
As for the overall gameplay featured in DN:F it practically uses the majority of the arsenal from the previous game (only retextured and tweeked in a number of ways) and making a few additions in that department. Unlike D3D where you have all-out “Run’N’Gun” gameplay that made it so successful, this game tries too hard to keep with the action franchises of the twenty-first century thereby spreading itself thin.
Now there are some critics who site Duke Nukem having regenerative health as a negative, however DN:F this in the for of EGO which serves as a unified health and armour. This of course can be replenished gradually when you are not under fire, but you can perform “Duke-Like” actions to speed this process up along with expanding your EGO – As an example, pumping iron. Personally I find this EGO system quite an interesting addition to the mix.
One thing about DN:F that serves well to break the ice is the ability to interact with items in the world, this I found surprisingly entertaining especially when I got Duke to pump out of tonne of softdrink cans and then drinking them all – Too bad he doesn’t know his “A-B-Cs”… Okay bad joke, moving right along.
Now in terms of the action department it is actually pretty decent, despite having being restricted to carry two weapons at any given time instead of going into battle with entire arsenal on hand – I do miss that though. But I dare say the gunplay and various “Arena” sequences (eg: Turret battles) are quite satisfying. I have heard the gripe about the game’s overall difficulty though and I would be incline to disagree with the common argument of it being “Too Hard”. If that were so the easiest setting would not let you off the first chapter without having claimed two handfuls of hair due to immense frustration on the player’s part from dying a hundred times on the same segment. No – On the easiest setting (for those who have had a hand FPS games) most will make it through a few chapters until their first death. That is too say that Duke Nukem Forever is not as unforgiving as critics (put forth this argument) are making it out to be, but the game is definitely no “Push-Over” either as it will do a reasonable job of giving you a run for your money.
In trying to keep up with action games that mix things up with puzzle sequences, this is where DN:F starts to get a little tedious for players’ liking. On puzzle will borrow and advances on one involving an RC car puzzle from the game Shadow Warrior where you had to retrieve an important piece to progressing through to the next area.
Where I find Duke Nukem Forever to really fall flat is in the humour featured in the game. Unlike the Duke Nukem 3D – DN:F’s shock humour comes across as being blatantly “Try-Hard” and doesn’t do better than getting a few half-decent chuckles out of you if not being sneered at for being “Uncool”. With exception to the multiplayer modes “Duke Match” and “Duke Of The Hill” offering gameplay demonstrating that the game has been making a serious attempt at sticking to the franchise’s roots, the “Capture The Babe” multiplayer mode (while not as offensive as the media make it to be) in another area in which DN:F falls flat as will not appear to gamers who actually HAVE standards (and believe me there are more of us then you may assume). You could be forgiven to think that the try-hard nature of DN:F’s shock humour would reduce this title down to a softcore pornographic action sci-fi game, and I doubt honest critics would blame you for it either.
Now… Has this been worth the wait?
If you are tolerant/forgiving of both the ordeal of waiting as well as the short comings in this game enough to want to pay full price to purchase this game. Then the answer is obviously going to be yes.
If you are not so forgiving not want to pay full price for this… Rent it.
If you are gamer who has the integrity in refusing to lower your standards to play this should you consider this “Smutty” (or something derogatory along these lines). Then you should not feel obligated to satisfy any remote curiosities about this game.
Just don’t expect your mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, etcetera to play this one let alone appreciate it.