Duke Nukem must have been one of the most searched for games on the planet. E3 trailer after E3 trailer, engine after engine and take-away after take-away to fuel World of Warcraft marathons (yup, we went there). Finally it’s here and instead of boring you to death with a time-line of Duke Nukem Forever’s development cycle, we’re going to actually do what the title of this post implies. We’re going to write a review of Duke Nukem Forever.
Hang on. Just before we dive into the fantasy world of Duke. Let us be clear on one thing. Duke Nukem may be a gaming icon for the genre, but the character, story and characters that accommodate Duke Nukem, can never be taken seriously. We’re on about a cigar munching, Rambo strategising lone-soldier who’s whole purpose is to bust-your-gut while saving kidnapped strippers from the clutches of Bebop and Rocksteady. Does any of that sound serious or even plausible to you? No? Good. Now lets move on.
Stripped to its bear-bones, Duke Nukem 3D was a simple “shoot anything that moves” FPS. It had already been done before with the likes of Wolfenstein and Doom, but Duke was more than just a face to indicate health status. He had a personality. We all remember frantically hunting for that RPG so Duke could shout “Fire in the hall asshole!” as your rocket propelled grenades would turn those pig aliens into red mist. We’re glad to say the characteristics that made Duke, have been successfully carried-over to Duke Nukem Forever.
3DRealms really went-to-town with recording the voice-overs for Duke Nukem (voiced by Jon St John). Kills with different weapons, interacting with the environment and looking-onward toward the next obstacle, all trigger a vast array of comments from Duke. While many cracked a smile, quite a few made us chuckle out-loud with great timing, as this is often something other games fail to master. Highlights include “Power armour is for pussies” as duke is advised to wear a halo-style power-suit, “Ah, this is gonna f$#k up my hair” as you look-on to a section that floods with water and “ah, I thought it was gonna be a monkey” after discovering an enemy was behind the hurtling barrels that made Duke’s life that more difficult, when trying to escape up a spiral stairway. Yes, Duke’s comments may rip-it slightly from other games, but you can tell there’s no disrespect with these witty remarks as 3D Realms have just played to our heroes humour. Put simply, Duke doesn’t give a s#*t. He does things his own way with his own “come get some”attitude. So if he comments on your favourite game, you’d be doing yourself a favour by not taking it to heart.
The developers have done a great job allowing Duke Nukem’s personality to not only come across in vocal form, but to also spread throughout the game in the form of interactive progression and hidden interactive goodies. Most games would have you nosy-around like a police dog for that correctly colored key card, but duke simply answers that problem with “I don’t need no f#$*ing yellow key card!” as he grabs the bottom of closed shutter-doors, promoting you to tap space bar as the Duke uses his brawn to make his own entrance. Interactive goodies that play to Duke’s personality are scattered throughout the game. If you see a mirror, Duke will admire himself in it. If you see a barbell and bench, Duke will bench press after you find the necessary weights. But this isn’t just for laughs. Every time you interact with something around the world of Duke that plays to his personality, you’ll permanently increase your armour which is appropriately named Duke’s “Eggo” (yet again playing to the heroes personality).
Be warned. Duke Nukem’s “no nonsense” attitude makes him a man of his word with balls of steal. If he threatens to “rip your eyeball out and piss on you brain”, that’s exactly what he’s gonna do! If he wonders the strip club toilets and finds a hole in the wall that offers a particular “service” then Dukes gonna go right ahead!
Duke Nukem 3D didn’t only climb the charts with the aid of Duke’s adult humour. The classic also won our hearts with its unique and awesome array of weapons. You may only be able to carry two weapons at once, but you’ll still be able to select from a wide-range of re-designed classics such as Duke’s signature handguns, the devastating shotgun, the awesome and distance friendly ripper and the RPG. To add the carnage, Duke Nukem Forever also throws in re-designed versions of its famous OTT weaponry such as the amazing Devastator, (the multi rocket bad-boy you’d have seen in the E3 demos) Shrink Ray, Pipe Bombs and a couple of other futuristic death tolls that we’ll leave you to find.
One thing you’ll notice from the very beginning is the absence of Duke Nukem’s Mighty Foot. Is this a bad thing? No. Not really. Instead of being able to toe-in those pig aliens, you can now make em’ bleed with an awesome new execute mode. Once you’ve squeezed off a few well placed rounds, you’ll see your enemy fall helplessly to their knees. This now gives Duke Nukem the opportunity to get in close and deliver a finishing move that usually rips off their mutated heads with one mighty foot punt! We actually preferred this over the fully controllable Mighty Foot. As well as giving Duke a more dominant and pwerful presence against the alien horde (not just having to rely on weaponry) it also gives the player better options that look pretty darn cool!
Once again the weapons and the character of Duke easily make the game. But Duke will need every once of it to burst through the arcade-style shoot em’ up gameplay that lies ahead.
So how have the developers continued the story of Duke Nukem? How has the gameplay changed since Duke Nukem 3D? Well, it’s good and bad. But more importantly…it’s an enjoyable experience. You’ll begin in a world where Duke Nukem really is the king. Regarded as a saviour and more famous than god himself, Duke has seriously been rewarded for his kick-ass attitude. You’re worshipped by a pair of twin spear-babes, booked for interviews on top rated TV shows and have statues and museums built to honour your courage throughout the first alien invasion. Suddenly an “Eggo” meter doesn’t seem such a bad idea as we’d all have personality issues if the entire planet wanted to be us…or be with us….
You worked your butt off kicking those pig aliens off our planet. But now they’re back and if that wasn’t bad enough, the president seems to think it’s for friendly banter! Something ain’t right. The generals behind you, but behind the president…he’s powerless. Your just gonna have to wait until the sludge hits the fan, clogs-up the fan, breaks the fan…and…well you get the idea.
SPLAT! It’s everywhere! Now you’ve got it in your hair and in your teeth, all you see are peanuts and you’ve swallowed some! All because of the presidents mysterious decision! You’ve got the look, (you’ve now had a shower) you’ve got the guns, (they’ve been taken apart and cleaned too) but will you stick with Duke throughout?
Our main concern was the simplistic gameplay. No, it’s not exactly going to revolutionise the FPS genre but we can tell you that Duke Nukem Forever offeres a lot more from the run n’ gun gameplay, than other big named PC remakes have. You may cover the floor with shells until a Gears of War-style chime sounds to signal the end of an alien horde, but it’s the weapons, execution options, Dukes remarks and the sprinkled NPC humour throughout, that make it fun and easy to see through.
What we like to refer to as “Cut-Scene-Set Pieces” are actually very well done in Duke Nukem Forever. This is where an unplayable movie-style scene will take place, (but always remaining in a Half-Life-style character perspective) that will either move the story along or put the player in a different situation (or both). Again, some pretty big names (both highly rated remakes and original IP’s) have failed to execute this correctly, (or not even bother at all!) but Duke Nukem Forever will surprise you at what it throws your way. You’ll be hanging from a chopper while it spirals out of control, flung from a construction cart by a hurtling car and fighting in mid-air while clung-on to a jet pack-suited piglet leader, as you both then smash through a buildings window. These are just a few set-piece cut-scenes and they really pace the simplistic gameplay, very well.
We must admit…one thing we always dreaded were “mini Duke” sections. When you thought about Duke’s character combined with the mature gameplay, it just didn’t make sense. However, we’re glad to say that it worked for us. The mini-Duke sections were well designed, even using a full dinners kitchen as an action assault course. Piglet aliens ambush you under product and stock packaging and some obstacles will force Duke to take some cleaver “plan B” routes.
One thing that did surprise us about Duke Nukem Forever, was the introduction of the “Mighty Foot”. This turbo boosting beast of a mutha truck, offers some cool Duke Nukem graphic designs including the original Duke Nukem 3D PC and PSone cover art work! Although there are the occasional and cool turbo jumping moments and hi-speed motorway obstacle scenarios, it does seem that the truck was a quick way for the developers to segment the FPS action. The rest of the time you’ll simply be knocking down enemies in bland outdoor environments and you won’t even be able to acquire their weapons. It’s a good thing the monster truck sections don’t linger long enough to totally outstay their welcome.
Duke Nukem Forever may have simplistic gameplay throughout, but there is so much more fun to be had in Duke’s world, than any other space marines or holiday makers adventure. One particular section that will always be joyful to experience are Duke Nukem Forever’s boss battles. Once you play just the first boss you’ll instantly understand that the developer never wanted to take the normal route with such level guardians. They wanted to give the player an arcade feel. They want you to imagine you’re in the middle of a soda n’ snack scented amusement section, with a huge light gun in your hands. You know what? They’ve executed this perfectly! Duke Nukem Forever contains some of the most memorable and fun bosses that we’ve ever experienced in an FPS.
Bosses won’t exactly be as thought out as Half-Life but they just offer a fantastic blood-pumping thrill ride! Huge bosses + huge boss weaponry + good room to maneuver + Duke’s kick-ass explosive weaponry = “Com get some!”. We see many games bosses as obstacles in the way of story progression, but in Duke Nukem Forever you’ll actually be playing through for them!
Now on to (now be honest!) what many of you were hoping for and had even pre-ordered for. They left us gob smacked with their tassel shimmies and had us miffed when one of them would just stare at us next to a pool table! Of course, it’s the strippers of Duke Nukem Forever. We may not be able to go into too much detail (this isn’t exactly a mature site) but we’ll do our best.
Things have obviously had a face-lift since 3D and strippers have had particular attention paid to their wobbly bits. Facial expressions may not be up to scratch with recent FPS games but we doubt most gamers will be looking up that high. While this is an improvement over 3D in terms of graphics, interactiveness lacks in the sequel. You can’t ask the strippers to dance and come to think of it…you can’t actually interact with them at all. Even GTA4 allowed you to request a steamy dance but Duke Nukem Forever seems to have avoided that entirely. You’ll pretty much be walking around the strip club admiring their assets, but still enjoying the mini games on offer such as video poker, air hockey and fruit machines. So you’ll get a feast for your eyes and some interactive gaming for your fingers. So in our eyes, it was still worth the wait.
D4 Gameplay’s final opinion on the Duke Nukem Forever Review
It’s no secret that Duke Nukem Forever has had some hard times with critics on its release. While we agree with some points made toward the negative comments, the scores as a whole have been utterly unfair. Duke Nukem Forever is a fun and solid FPS that offers simple but engaging run n’ gun gameplay. The simplistic action is segmented well with great set-piece cut-scenes and the arcade-style bosses should be experienced by all FPS fans.
Yes, the Duke Nukem Forever engine may lack when in comparison to modern FPS games. Does it look dated…yes. Does it make the game any less enjoyable…no. But although these things may have been wrongfully criticised, Duke Nukem Forever still has flaws that can’t hide behind dated development. A weapon system that limited Duke to only carrying two tools of justice, was a big mistake by the design team. Usually a 2 weapon limit would mean hard tactics for drawing on certain enemies, but when you have ammo bins that provide ammo for ANY weapon you carry, it just doesn’t add up. In fact, the game can be too easy if you know how to take advantage of them.
Although a dated engine and poorly thought out weapons system attracted harsh comments with major critics, it was certain sexual content that really created controversy for the Duke’s return. Alien breasts that hang from walls (we’ll never understand why 3D Realms wanted these interactive and NOT the strippers!) and a certain game plot for why the strippers were abducted, all fueled the controversy that lead to harsh overall judgement. But do these things truly make Duke Nukem Forever a bad game? No. Don’t get us wrong, 3D Realms should have used their World of Warcraft noggins a little more wisely for the abduction plot, but this should not be THE focus of a full review. As we said, the world of Duke isn’t to be taken seriously. If you actually played through 3D (and not just the demo) you would have understood that, even before being introduced to Duke’s ‘spear twins’.
Duke Nukem Forever is far from being a perfect FPS game, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Critics seem to have purely focused on the points of controversy, without reviewing the actual game. It may not revolutionise the FPS genre or blow you away from start to finish, but there is still a good FPS to be found within that storm of controversy. Our advice would simply be this: Only play the PC version and judge the game for yourself (especially if you own a Duke Nukem t-shirt).
Developer: 3DRealms/Gearbox Publisher: 2K Games Version Reviewed: PC
D4Gameplay awards Duke Nukem Forever:
Buy It: Good and well-timed humour (especially from Duke) – Cool mini games – Race around in a remote controlled buggy! – Strippers (yup, we said it) – Awesome arcade-style boss battles – Superb use of set-piece cut scenes
Consider: Don’t expect Crysis 2 visuals – Interactive wall boobs are just plain WRONG! – Stripper plot may offend