Duke Nukem Forever Review
Reviewer’s note: In recent memory, although Gearbox released another disappointing travesty called Aliens: Colonial Marines, showing the world that they don’t actually care that much about games other than the Borderlands franchise, I still stand by what I say in the following review of Duke Nukem Forever. Although it is still known as a severely disappointing game, I had fun with it, and while there are some elements of it that I don’t like (such as gratuitous amounts of sexism), I consider it a “so bad it’s good” video game.
You may recall that about a month ago, when I was hopped up on Vicodin due to mouth surgery, I reviewed the demo for Duke Nukem Forever. In this review, I praised almost every single aspect of the game in an orgasm of fanboyism. The Duke has finally returned after 14 years, and the full game is going to be 17 glorious hours of nonstop action, violence, and humor! Well, after I got the full game and actually sat down to play through the entire thing, I took my fanboy glasses off and put my reviewer’s hat on. You’re probably asking to yourself “What is this guy babbling about? Get to the hatefest already!” Yes, it was no surprise that every single reviewer with a computer, a brainstem, and an opinion hated Duke Nukem Forever, and said it was the most disappointing thing in the history of mankind. However, there were a few exceptions to this rule, as Duke Nukem Forever actually got away with grabbing some pretty good scores from the likes of PCGamer, who gave the game an 80%. But am I one of those people who hate Duke Nukem Forever? Hell no! In fact, I thought it was one of the funnest experiences I’ve had in a long while! Did I think it was flawless, and was worth the 14-year wait? Oh believe me, just like with my Splatterhouse review that I posted on New Year’s Eve, I can’t lie and say that Duke Nukem Forever has no flaws because that would make me dishonest. But I’ll get into that when the time comes. For now, let me start off this review by saying that a lot of the reviews for Duke Nukem Forever were, comparatively speaking, too harsh to the game. In some cases, reviewers openly acknowledge that their reviews are based on an incomplete analysis of the game. Seriously dude, if a game has multiplayer, why the hell do you not include that in your review? That’s, in my opinion, unprofessional. With this review, I believe that it would only be fair to not only love on the aspects that I adored, such as the gameplay and humor, but also discuss some disappointing aspects that regrettably lower the review score, such as the aged graphics. Some people may think of this as a counter-review to Duke’s negative press, and while they may be right to some respect, these are also my honest thoughts on what I thought about the game.
I think one of the problems that reviewers had with Duke Nukem Forever was that they didn’t leave their 14-year-old expectations at the door before going into playing the game, because it is impossible for anything to survive that much hype. As a result, we get comments like “This seems to be somewhat lacking for 12 YEARS of development. Underwhelming to say the least.” Realistically, I think that the hype should have died when 3D Realms closed doors and stopped working on it when they had their legal complications with 2K, because we pretty much knew that Duke Nukem Forever, as they saw it, would never get finished. It’s been in development hell for fourteen years, and the only reason it was released was because Gearbox had to come in and finish the game with the staff of 3D Realms. We should have expected that the game would not be the legend it was hailed to be in the E3 1998-2000 announcements, so I think that Duke Nukem Forever should be judged by its merits instead of its hype.
Let’s finally get to the review by first excerpting from the demo review:
“With those who are unfamiliar with the character and concept of Duke Nukem and his video games, they are basically every teenager’s wet-dream: excessive and ridiculous violence, titties everywhere, and lots of insane guns to choose from. The very basic appeal of the Duke Nukem franchise contains these elements, but what also makes the Duke-man’s adventures stand out to gamers, especially those who have been waiting a very long time for this installment in his misadventures, is the humor. The Duke Nukem brand of humor involves something extremely close to Conker’s Bad Fur Day, aka potty humor and making fun of the latest movies, games, and newsworthy events at the time, but with a massively amped up dose of testosterone thrown in. For example, I read in a magazine article that while they were in development, Duke Nukem Forever once had Duke’s own strip club be called “The Slick Willy,” in reference to our past president Bill Clinton (and if you don’t know why he’s called that, go read a damn book, I’m not your history teacher!). Duke Nukem Forever is basically the latest in a long line of psychotic fun shooters, and it is a great example of what extreme escapism can be in video games. Thus, this is the appeal Duke Nukem Forever has for me: it helps me escape my pathetic, sad life by providing some hilarious humor and some ridiculously awesome gameplay!”
As I stated in the demo review, albeit in a very fanboyish fashion, Duke Nukem has always been extremely light in the Story department since the core appeal of the game does not come from the fact that the player can get engrossed in a 20-hour emotional tale about personal growth, but more from three core elements: its potty-humor, the excessive violence in the countless ways you can kick alien ass, and the babes. However, since Story is usually the best place to start in a review, here is the general synopsis:
You begin the game living the life of a celebrity as Duke Nukem, now idolized as a major star for saving the world from an alien invasion that happened twelve years ago (in Duke Nukem 3D). However, you continue to hear news broadcasts talking about alien motherships hovering over Las Vegas, and the President of the United States is hopeful that they have come peacefully, warning Duke not to kick any asses. However, shit hits the fan when the aliens attack Duke’s base and begin adbucting the world’s women, and now it’s up to the manliest man alive, Duke Nukem, to save the day!
There isn’t much, is there? In terms of Story, I’m going to be incredibly honest: Duke Nukem Forever suffers from what a lot of First Person Shooters suffer from, and that is a story that falls apart in favor of shooting things. Just like with a lot of FPS games, Duke Nukem Forever has a bare-bones plot to guide the player from location to location, but the gunplay is the central focus. Yeah, we know that you’re meant to save the world and get the chicks, but is this really any different from Duke Nukem 3D? Not really, although to be fair, a lot of FPS franchises often repeat their stories from game to game: you can even argue that, when you get right down to it, Halo is all about fighting the opposing alien side in a galactic war, Gears of War is all about fighting the opposing alien side in a galactic war, and Call of Duty is all about fighting foreigners. All I can really say about the general plot is that there wasn’t much to it, sort of like a B-movie. However, just because a game’s plot is bare-bones doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! Otherwise, wouldn’t everybody hate the first person shooter genre? Despite the fact that its story is very simple, we can somehow see Duke Nukem Forever as a schlocky cult film like Deathwish or Return of the Living Dead where both may not have the most coherent plots in the world, but they are still fun as hell to experience!
With that said, as a game that does nothing but emphasizes on horribly killing aliens, I’m glad Duke Nukem didn’t really have a story that took itself too seriously, or we’d end up with something like Bulletstorm. Bulletstorm was also a psychotic fun shooter that was developed by Epic and People Can Fly, the teams behind Gears of War and Painkiller. The basic premise behind the game was that you killed aliens in a ton of creative but gory ways, very much like Jason Voorhees with every single teenager that visits his campsite. However, while I was initially having a lot of fun with throwing mutants into giant cactuses or shooting them in the balls, I was soon really turned off by Bulletstorm, and traded it for Portal 2. Why? Well, the games from Epic and I don’t really get along that well, and it is because I find a lot of them to be very trite in terms of their stories. See, with Gears of War, despite the fact that the biggest appeal was chainsawing giant steroid aliens in half with a chainsaw gun, the plot was surprisingly melodramatic in that you had to look for the protagonist’s wife. While I can appreciate a little dramatic tension in my stories, it was almost played really straight, and that got to me. It was the same with Bulletstorm, where although you had three characters cursing at each other like a little kid who found out about the word “Fuck” for the first time, the game was clouded with a melodramatic tale of redemption and regret… even though the main aim of the game is to kill mutants in a variety of ways. Those two elements clicked with an audible clunk, and it just didn’t really appeal to me that much.
With Duke Nukem Forever, it’s almost as if they make fun of this, and inadvertently make fun of Duke, by setting the game in Duke Nukem’s world, and make everything all about him. While many characters try to kiss up to him, since he is the demigod who saved the world, the way they go about talking to him is just too absurd to take seriously. For instance, when EDF soldiers celebrate the fact that they helped Duke take out a giant alien, this exchange occurs: “Yeah! We did some damage!” “You don’t say ‘did some damage’ around Duke! He says something like busting balls or kicking ass or something like that.” “Let’s… go rupture spleens together!” “GOD, why are you such a DOUCHE?” Unlike Bulletstorm or Gears of War, even though they appear to play Duke straight, I believe that Duke Nukem Forever is really absurdist in what it does. Absurdism is basically making a situation too serious or crazy to take it seriously. With Duke Nukem Forever, can you really take Duke-brand condoms, tits on walls, or Duke Burger and Lil’ Duke Meas seriously? It’s too absurd to because even though this is Duke’s world, and he is supposed to be this insanely respected world savior, nothing is played seriously. Even when the soldiers complimented Duke, for example, it turned into another joke. Thus, although Duke Nukem Forever’s story is about as simplistic as it gets, I’m just glad that 3D Realms and Gearbox didn’t try to ‘modernize’ Duke more by making his story melodramatic like an Epic game.
However, something that really bugged me about the Story to Duke Nukem Forever was that, although it does not need to be serious by any means, there could have been some potential for a more complex storyline about Duke and the President butting heads, like if the President made it look like Duke instigated the war with the aliens, and as a result he would have to be fighting not only hordes of Pig Cops and Octobrains, but squads of the Earth Defense Force. Duke could have proven that the aliens attacked him in a plan to have Earth get rid of its best shot against their invasion, or the aliens could have even brainwashed the President. Instead, while the President is pissed as all hell at Duke for supposedly starting the alien war, this story element isn’t really explored in the game, and that was a disappointment. While I really don’t mind that there is a lack of a deep story in a Duke Nukem game, this could have potentially been a really neat twist in the game’s campaign. Overall, aside from the possibility of a twist in the plot’s direction that I already discussed, and the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, Duke Nukem Forever’s plot is very much like a lot of other shooters: bare-bones. However, while the core plot may be one of the weakest aspects of Duke Nukem Forever, other elements in the game more than make up for it!
As I mentioned in the previous review about the Dukester, the Presentation in Duke Nukem Forever’s demo was one of its strongest attributes! Now that I was able to play the full game from start to finish, I still feel this way! As I mentioned before, the team at Gearbox Software wanted to not only finish the job that 3D Realms started, but also keep Duke Nukem Forever true to the franchise’s spirit and humor! Thankfully, President of Gearbox Randy Pitchford was not blowing smoke when he said that he, along with other staffers, wanted to put some major tender loving care into this troubled game. Duke Nukem’s trademark humor is still intact, as what the series is most famous for is not only its, admittedly, vulgar humor, but its tendency to reference other movies and video games. I may have mentioned in my TGWTG Kickassia review that references, when done wrong, are not funny in the slightest, but in the case of Duke Nukem Forever, the constant references are actually humorous because while many of them may be obvious, like their jabs at Gears of War and Dead Space, they actually fit within the context of the game instead of being shoehorned in. One particularly infamous example is when Duke and the Earth Defense Force rush out onto the battle-torn streets of Las Vegas. After meeting Duke’s friend Dylan, who spouts off “fucks” and “shits” just like any normal character in an Epic game (Gears of War, Bulletstorm), he is asked if he would like to use power armor that looks suspiciously like Master Chief’s to fight the aliens with. Duke only replies with “Power armor is for pussies.” Instead of going down the TGWTG Kickassia route and randomly inserting references from Looney Tunes, The Simpsons, Street Fighter: The Movie, Patton, and Star Wars into any point of the plot, the references in Duke Nukem Forever are relevant, they aren’t shoehorned into the game, and many of them are fun easter eggs that players can find if they explore the environment!
Aside from references, though, Duke Nukem Forever’s humor is actually funny because not only does it have the usual Duke flavor of toilet/sex jokes, such as one moment where you can pick up a piece of shit and fling it at anyone and anything in your path, but the game is just so over-the-top and at times self-depreciating that you can’t help but love Duke for it! This is Duke Nukem’s world, and since he is the epitome of the action hero parody and the world’s savior, we see pictures of him wrestling a shark or on top of Mt. Everest (which has Duke holding a sign that says “Hail to the King, Everest”), giant statues littered everywhere, and even Duke Burger, a fast-food franchise where you can find Lil’ Duke Meals that come with a little Duke Nukem action figure! I mean, usually I prefer my comedy with more wit and less shit, but with cases like Duke Nukem Forever, somebody isn’t telling a hackneyed toilet joke and you are just spectating, but you are actually slapping tits or throwing shit at something yourself. I am by far a psychology student, but doesn’t this appeal to the inner Id? We may all want to pretend that it doesn’t exist, but for me, this was a perfect game to do all of the crazy shit I wanted, and enjoy it! For me, that is the appeal of the potty humor in Duke Nukem Forever. Not only this, but many of the elements present in first person shooters come into Duke Nukem Forever with a twist: Duke Nukem’s health meter is presented as his “Ego Bar,” so whenever he takes a hit, the aliens aren’t physically hurting Duke, but they are bruising his ego. When the game is loading, Duke Nukem Forever gives some very helpful tips, such as “You can slap our wall boobs since ladies won’t like it if you slap theirs,” If you die from falling off a high ledge, it’s probably your fault,” “Take less damage to avoid getting killed,” and “When you get stuck, don’t forget you can cheat and look at FAQs online.” Duke Nukem Forever also takes powerups usually found in a lot of other first person shooters, and makes them fit the Duke-style humor: Beer “makes you tougher,” as it allows you to get hurt less by enemy fire at the exchange of blurring your vision, and Steroids act as the Berserker in DOOM 3 and allows melee attacks to kill all enemies in one hit. Duke Nukem’s main appeal is its trademark humor, and I am very glad that Gearbox left it intact in Duke Nukem Forever, as this game’s Presentation is definitely one of its major highlights! Besides, at the end of the day, isn’t it more fun to play as a joke-cracking, hooker-ogling, beer-chugging man’s man than a voiceless, boring, stereotypical soldier devoid of any personality? Hell yes it is! For people who complained that Duke Nukem shouldn’t act like Duke Nukem (ie: over-the-top manly man, woman lover, shit-thrower, etc), what did you expect when you purchased a Duke Nukem game? He has always been a mysoginistic parody of the action genre, and that’s how gamers should always see him! If you are looking for a deep character with sprawling development, then you may want to look elsewhere.
However, another element that Duke Nukem is very familiar with in his games is how offensive it can be. After Duke Nukem 3D got a bad rep for rewarding players for killing women (in fact, the opposite is true, it actually punished you for doing that), Duke Nukem Forever has a sharp shift in tone during the scene inside the alien nest. Even though the game box says that DNF is “Inappropriate, insensitive, and offensive…”, this particular scene pissed a lot of people off. The following discussion will be contain SPOILERS, so if you do not want anything to be spoiled for you, skip over this next discussion.
About midway through the first half of the game, Duke has to fight through the alien hive to try and rescue the countless women who have been captured to be used as incubators for their alien babies. Undeniably, this has to be one of the most uncomfortable moments in the game because the tone shifts from light-hearted alien-killing fun to something from a horror movie, like a more vivid rendition of Aliens. Women are attached to very phallic-looking alien objects as they cry to be free, or bemoan their horrible fate. As you make it through the level, you come across the Holsom Twins who were captured right in front of Duke’s eyes. As they ask Duke what is happening, he says “You’re fucked” before they burst open from the little ‘chest bursters.’ Duke angrily vows to make the alien motherfuckers pay for that, and he goes to take on the Queen Bitch.
Controversial, right? In the forum topic for the Duke Nukem Forever demo, there were serious debates about the purpose of this scene in the game, and while no definite answer has been provided by Gearbox that I know of, both sides of the argument differ in what they think. Was this an attempt at drama that had the unfortunate idea of making a joke like “You’re fucked” (a double-entendre), or did the developers at Gearbox/3D Realms really think that they wanted to add more mysoginism to the game? Well, to help us debate this point, here are points from both CineMax and the LaughingMan. First, we’ll present CineMax’s discussion:
CineMax: “…as much as I scorn it when the media represents video games as some sort of universal wellspring of debauchery and violence … what sick, misogynistic, and depraved motherfucker thought that was funny or, indeed, clever? I know Duke Nukem is supposed to be offensive, but this isn’t just seeing two hot, sultry school girls polishing your cock or throwing shit at someone’s grandma; this is truly the lowest form of… I was going to say “humour” but, really, is it even that? If this were some psychological sci-fi thriller a-la Aliens, this scene would no doubt posses a strong emotional impact (especially if the women weren’t some unnamed D-cupped bimbos, but rather, say, members of your squad or, hell, even the main protagonist’s wife, girlfriend, sister, or whatnot). However, here… Why is this scene even in the game in the first place, by the way? Shouldn’t the game be all about Duke plowing through legions of space-mutants with his own modified version of the BFG9000, all whilst getting his legs dry-humped by a squad of sultry, voluptuous cheerleaders? Actually, that’s what irritates me about this game now more than ever. It seems like instead of focusing on gameplay and, you know, actual humour, the developers just wanted to see with how much they can get away with; hence such an abhorrent, disturbing scene… I don’t know if the current odiousness of the scene was a part of the developer’s original plan or not, but the fact is, I can definitely sympathize with people who find this scene to be quite disturbing and abominable, amongst all other things. Look, this ain’t rocket science: if they wanted this scene to seem serious, all they had to do was have Duke fall on his knees and reenact the ending of the original Planet of the Apes a-la, “You monsters! What have you done?!” Instead, however, he just walks in, slaps the poor (emotionless, obtuse but still nevertheless poor) broads across the tits and says, “Welp, suck to be you, darling!“”
Obviously, CineMax has a very good point in saying that if this scene was played for laughs, then it is a failure at humor, for the setting is just too inappropriate for anybody to even chuckle, and the “You’re fucked” joke is going way too far. However, the analysis doesn’t end here, let’s see what LaughingMan has to say:
LaughingMan: “If Duke Nukem Forever was pushing the boundaries for the sake of ‘waking up’ the player by presenting a scene that was truly horrific, then it accomplished it in spades. Gamers quickly become apathetic during the course of gameplay, it’s just a fact. How many people have played through the Modern Warfare 2 airport mission without batting an eye? “There’s a family! *BANG!* Two points!” Maybe you play GTA and go barreling down the sidewalks in a Hummer running over the faceless walking mannequins for shits and giggles. It’s too easy to lose one’s self in a virtual world where everything you destroy (even Koopas from Mario Bros) is a faceless enemy. One instance that always seems to shake my apathy is when playing Borderlands and setting baddies on fire, and they run around screaming “MOMMY!” like a little child. It’s a moment that makes you realize that all of the people who you have headshot are supposed to be human beings. In games that require you to kill everything from Point A to Point B, it’s easy to drown one’s self in a sea of apathy. “Oh, they’re not real people anyways.” But then if they’re “not real people” then why are people up in arms over the alien impregnation scenes? There’s a lot to say about any game that can make a player pause his virtual killing spree and fully digest exactly what it is that they’re doing, and I can appreciate games that literally have to curb-stomp human compassion back into a gamer’s head.As for what I’ve seen in Duke … the entire scene is pretty damn close to Aliens, but with naked women instead of your marine pals (as CineMax noted). If there were soldiers strung up and being impregnated, would there be a shitstorm of this magnitude? Probably not.
As far as the accusations of ‘on screen rape’ are concerned, I haven’t seen any literal sexual acts outside of naked women plastered to walls and ‘organic pillars’ that resemble Giger’s art (they look like tentacles and cocks, okay?). But if there was anything overly sexual like aliens actually committing onscreen violations, then I doubt this game would ever make it through the ESRB. The violations are implied, but as I’ve said before: What you think in your mind is worse than what’s shown.Also, Duke is showing remorse for killing impregnated women. “Sorry, there’s no other way.” But from what I’ve seen you aren’t required as a player to shoot any of them. It’s not like Duke actively encouraging people to shoot the girls by shouting “People pinatas! Shoot the woman and get a better ending to the game! *BANG* Just kidding, sucker!” I’m not seeing any incentive to shoot them, like extra ammo falling out or anything, so what you do or don’t do is entirely up to the gamer.Now, the scene with the twin Brittany Spears girls: Be honest, but if Duke came up and said: “Hold still, I’m getting you two out of here and to safety, now!!!” instead of “You’re fucked” would the entire situation register with you differently? On the other hand, Duke DOES say “You’re fucked” so just about any seriousness and power that the scene potentially had is now thrown out the window for probably what is the most ill-timed and offensive one-liner in history.”
Again, a very poignant point made by LaughingMan. In an age where video games have made the player do everything from chainsaw someone in half to shooting Russian families in an airport, maybe this scene was supposed to be a moment in drama where it forced players to actually sit back and see that Duke’s mission is extremely important not only because he has to save the babes, but because the babes are suffering and dying. The only thing that ruined the scene was the ill-timed “You’re fucked” joke. But what do I think about all of this? Well, I’m inclined to agree with LaughingMan in thinking that the scene isn’t being played for laughs, and it is trying to have a shocking element that the other games in the series had, like Duke Nukem 3D’s controversy with shooting babes and having them attached to very phallic objects. The difference between Duke 3D and Duke Nukem Forever, however, is that our generation has already been desensitized to a number of things, like mutilation, death, and all that ‘fun’ stuff, so I believe they had to take it to that degree to be shocking. Not everybody is going to like it, but that is what this scene may be trying to accomplish.
Think about this: other video games have very questionable scenarios that are shocking like this scene, such as the whole “Hey, go kill a bunch of unarmed civilians in the airport!” in Modern Warfare 2. In some ways, that scenario is just as bad as Duke Nukem Forever. Although I agree with CineMax and think that the very horrible pun with the twins is a very poor decision that Gearbox and 3D Realms made (and, as a result, makes some gamers think that they are really fucked-up people), Duke still shows remorse and anger towards having to put them out of their misery. It’s the same for other women in the hive that, if you choose, Duke shoots – he doesn’t crack a joke, but he is remorseful and actually sad that he has to kill other human beings. It’s not like Duke to drop down on his knees and have a ‘weak’ moment, he’s an intentional beefhead/’man’s man’, but it’s also not like he slapped the poor broads across the tits and said “It sucks to be you”, either. He said he’s going to get those alien bastards who did that to those women, and he’s on a mission. In Modern Warfare 2, you’re tasked to shoot down harmless men, women, children, and old people just because you’re ‘undercover’… when somebody could have, you know, stopped the terrorists from killing a shitton of people instead. Both scenarios are disgusting to think about, but in the tradition of Duke Nukem games, I think Duke Nukem Forever had that somewhat dramatic scene thrown in as its controversial shock moment. It did its job, right? It shocked and disgusted us, and that was one of the only things that could make us react like that in an age where we can watch people die on youtube any time we want, or when we can bury a machete into some random Joe’s face in Fallout New Vegas.
Although none of these points of view are definitely what 3D Realms and Gearbox had in mind, I still wanted to share that debate with you as food for thought because even though this debate will not affect the final score, I thought it was still something worth noting. If you would like to read the debate to its conclusion, as I merely wanted to present two sides of the discussion on a basic level, here is the forum page.
For many gamers, graphics are the most important part of a game, and as I mentioned in my Splatterhouse review, some will base an entire game’s worth on just how pretty it looks. Thus, if there is just the slightest glitch, or if a graphic is not being rendered at the highest resolution that a system is capable of, then some gamers will completely dismiss the game and throw a tantrum. In my opinion, this frame of mind is what makes many gamers miss out on some truly awesome experiences. Hell, it doesn’t matter if Fallout: New Vegas was glitchy as all hell when it was released because it is a fantastic game, and if some gamers are going to trap themselves in the elitist mindset that the graphics should come first and foremost in a video game, then they are truly missing out on a great experience. Patience is what I am prescribing today, kids! I can’t tell you how many times Fallout 3 and New Vegas have glitched out on me, but I just reset the system and kept playing, and you know what? Fallout 3 is one of the greatest games I have ever played! Despite its wretched loading times and some graphical bugs, Splatterhouse was also a really fun, gory experience that I played for months straight. But enough expository banter, you probably know where I’m going with this, right?
Duke Nukem Forever is an ugly game… okay, let me explain what I mean here. The development for Duke Nukem Forever lasted from 1998 to 2011, give or take a year, and along the way, it suffered numerous delays from complete engine changes and graphical updates. When I played Duke Nukem Forever, this was painfully obvious. Remember when I said that the demo for Duke Nukem Forever was really pretty, graphically, when I was beating the crap out of the Cycloid at the beginning of the demo? Well, something I noticed was that the graphics in this game are incredibly inconsistent, as when the spoof intro ended, and it revealed that Duke Nukem was playing his universe’s equivalent of Duke Nukem Forever (which is actually a very clever jab at the development time), I was able to mosey around Duke’s flat and wander around in a casino for a little bit before shit hit the fan. Needless to say, we went from 2011-era graphics to around 2008-era graphics. This changed at several points in the game where the environment would look more or less polished.
Speaking of inconsistent, the models for the aliens and people in Duke Nukem Forever also vary from really good to downright ugly. While Duke and the aliens admittedly look really awesome in their designs, and are really beautifully rendered, the other NPCs vary. The President, mentioned earlier, is a really good example, because he actually varied in appearance from scene to scene. While his appearance right before the final boss looks perfectly fine (as pictured above with the horrible Nixon joke), there are moments where he is far less detailed, and looks like a video game character from 2003. You can definitely tell at certain points in Duke Nukem Forever that this is a hodgepodge of different scenes from different versions of Duke Nukem Forever that were made throughout the years.
From 3:16 onwards, just look at the President and ignore the unfunny Lets Player.
Two final complaints about Duke Nukem Forever’s graphics differ between different versions of the game, as I hear that PC players did not experience these issues and it is mainly only for the Xbox 360 and PS3 ports. I played the Xbox 360 version of Duke Nukem Forever, so I’m speaking from what I experienced. First, let’s talk about those loading times. Just like in Splatterhouse, Duke Nukem Forever suffered from some bad loading times. If you died in a really intense battle, get ready to stare at that screen from anywhere between 30 seconds and two minutes. While the game does provide some humorous ‘tips’ at the bottom of the screen, waiting for the game to load really takes you out of the immersion that it accomplished with the intense gunfights with the aliens. Another issue that I ran into that didn’t bother me as much was that the environment was somehow still rendering when the level started, as sometimes some things will be unrendered such as cars or mountainsides. While this problem corrects itself after a few seconds into starting a level, it is something that I should definitely mention.
So after all of that is said and done, should you turn away from Duke Nukem Forever just because its graphics aren’t all that stellar? As I made the point to say earlier, even if a game’s graphics are not very appealing, that doesn’t mean that you should instantly give it the finger and call it the worst thing ever. Despite the obvious graphical limitations that Duke Nukem Forever suffers from, I still found it to be a really enjoyable experience. Many people also make the point to say that it is unfair to compare Duke Nukem Forever to current-generation games, as it was in development hell for 14 years, and what we got consequentially looks like an old game. Even though I think that Gearbox and 3DRealms (mostly the latter) should have worked to polish the graphics and make them consistent with each other so that they wouldn’t be so ugly in places, I can look past that when I play this game. Unfortunately, other people won’t be so forgiving, so I sincerely wished that both development teams (especially 3D Realms) worked their asses off to make Duke’s graphics more visually appealing. With the millions of dollars that went into Duke Nukem Forever, you would think that the graphics would have been better, right? Believe me, I’m not trying to excuse what could have been a half-baked job when I say that I looked past the graphics, because I genuinely loved every moment spent with the Dukester! If you can look past the obviously outdated graphics, I think some of you will actually enjoy yourselves!
In Duke Nukem Forever, the Sound factor is more of a mixed bag than other sections in this review, where I either said that something was close to perfect (Presentation), or kinda bad (Graphics). Really, I don’t have too much to say about this section, so let’s keep to the basics: voice acting and soundtrack. The voice acting in Duke Nukem Forever is actually really good, with Jon St. John returning as his famous role of Duke Nukem. Duke’s quips and one-liners are always really fun to listen to, and Duke’s voice always exhudes testosterone! The other characters also had good voice acting, for the most part, such as with Dylan the Gears of War parody or General Graves, Duke’s friend and head of the EDF. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is really nothing memorable, as although I expected a soundtrack similar to Splatterhouse where it is entirely heavy metal, what we got instead was a soundtrack that sounds like it came straight out of an action movie with some heavy metal themes sprinkled in. This is not a bad thing, but if you asked me to hum a tune from this game aside from the world-famous Grabbag theme, I wouldn’t be able to do it. The music is very fitting to what is going on, but unfortunately, it is nothing memorable.
A battle theme when you face down a Mothership.
Ride of the Valkyries?!
Of course, the Grabbag Theme!
At the end of the day, what is the most important thing that gamers should look for in a game? Gameplay: is it fun, are its controls smooth, does it ever get boring? These are all factors that need to be taken into consideration when assessing something like how fun a game is, so no matter how much charisma Duke Nukem Forever has, or how bad its graphics are, the one thing we should want to know best of all is if Duke Nukem Forever is a fun game to play, and if it is something that I would ever want to come back to play again in the future. Well, while many other aspects of the game are very rough around the edges, such as the graphics, damn it I really liked playing Duke Nukem Forever! It is what I would define as a fun experience! While I really enjoy playing games like Fallout 3 with giant immersive stories and some real drama once in a while, I think Randy Pitchford said it best when he said that “sometimes we want greasy hamburgers instead of caviar”. For me, Duke Nukem Forever is FAR from the perfect game, but what it may lack in Story and Graphics, it more than makes up for in both Gameplay and Presentation. While I already said what I thought about the game’s great sense of humor, I found the gameplay extremely entertaining. Shooting aliens has never been funner, as not only do you have an absurd arsenal at your disposal to kick some monster ass, such as a Shotgun, a Shrink Ray, and the Devastator, but they are all incredibly satisfying to use. When you shrink an enemy down, for example, you can quickly stomp on the little fuckers like a really aggressive bug!
However, something I have noticed a lot of gamers complain about is how Duke Nukem has gone down from being able to carry his entire arsenal to only carrying two weapons, and going from being able to run like a jet ala Duke Nukem 3D to only being able to spring for 10 seconds before having to rest for five. While I think that the latter complaint is rather nitpicky, seeing as the total sprinting time is greater than the rest time, and thus isn’t that big a deal, the downgrade from being able to carry the entire arsenal to only two guns is a really sensitive issue for a lot of Duke Nukem fans. They remember a time in Duke Nukem 3D when Duke could carry every gun he found, and use them whenever he saw fit, so Duke Nukem Forever lacking this ability may seem like a big blow to their gameplay experience. From their perspective, I can imagine how Duke Nukem conforming to Halo’s two-weapon system is a little annoying, such as a regenerating health bar, but personally I did not mind these so much because throughout the level, there are a large variety of guns laying around to be used, and the EDF ammo crates are also abundant and thus keep your weapons ready to blast some alien scum! Also, some people on the internet simply complain about the Ego gauge regenerating because “It’s not like Duke Nukem to hide behind a wall to wait to heal”, but I find this argument a little silly considering that players might have run away to avoid being killed in Duke Nukem 3D. That, and if you are a really good player, or actually search around the environment for Ego Boosts, then your health won’t be so badly damaged when an alien shoots you. Wait, what’s that? I didn’t mention the Ego Boosts yet? Well shit, what’s wrong with me? To encourage the players to look around the environment, the developers put in what they call “Ego Boosts,” activities that Duke can engage in that will increase his ego, and thus give him more resistance to damage. This can be activities like playing a pinball machine, admiring yourself in the mirror, or slapping alien boobies on the wall! I find this to be a really neat addition to the game because it adds a little more interactivity into the environment, and it gives you an incentive to wander off the beaten path and find some neat things!
The gameplay also never gets really old because there are some elements that break up the alien-shooting action. One such instance comes from driving sections where Duke must traverse either a giant casino in a little RC car, and where Duke needs to get to Hoover Dam in The Mighty Boot, his monster truck. At two points in the game, Duke takes control of a vehicle, and while these sections have controls that are a little unresponsive and difficult to master, they aren’t too bad and you can usually get through them without a problem. The fun comes in when you can run over enemies who are either stupid enough to get in the way, or have a death wish. The controls in these sections aren’t difficult to master, as B acts as an additional brake to make better turns, and holding down A activates the speed boost! Another instance in Duke Nukem Forever that spices up the experience comes from when Duke is shrunken down to the size of an action figure. These were probably my favorite moments in the game, and this is because of how surreal it is to traverse a giant version of the environment to get from place to place. Just like how the Happy Video Game Nerd mentioned that traversing an ordinary environment as a tiny character is unique and creative in its own way, Duke Nukem Forever makes these sections a really good time! One especially memorable part that I can think of is in the Duke Burger stage, where you have to save a woman who is stuck on an island in the middle of electrified water. While this may have been straight forward as normal-sized Duke, Tiny Duke has to go everywhere from giant shelves to giant grills in order to reach the circuit breaker. This was really surreal, but it was so much damn fun for me!
Duke Nukem Forever also comes with some physics puzzles to mix the game up a bit, and while some may be particularly primitive, others are actually really cool, such as Duke using an RC car to collect an item in another room by moving it around an obstacle course. The puzzles may not be particularly plentiful, but when they are there, they act as a nice diversion from the action! On that note, Duke Nukem Forever also has two special sections that act to add some pacing to the story, one at the very beginning of the game where you live the life of Duke, and one in the middle of the game after you defeat the Queen Bitch and you dream that you are in Duke’s Titty City strip club. These portions of the game are also surreal in that you don’t ever shoot anything, but it’s as if you’re living the life of Duke Nukem himself. At the beginning of the game, you wander around a television studio and do things like meet fans and autograph Duke’s biography. While some people complain about the lack of instant action, I actually found this introduction to be really immersive – it put me in the mindset of being Duke Nukem, so I didn’t mind that nothing exciting happened for nearly 30 minutes. After all, some stories don’t require constant explosions to keep their audience entertained. The middle section acted as a nice breather between one scene of shooting aliens and another, and you can use this section to find Ego.
Boosts while you look for three … ‘special’ items to have a good time with. I won’t spoil it for you! So despite the fact that these sections have no action in them whatsoever, I didn’t mind – they acted as a good breather between the intense insane action! Overall, the gameplay brings a lot of factors to the table that make Duke Nukem Forever an extremely enjoyable experience, ranging from a large variety of destructive guns and Ego Boosts to some cool puzzles and interesting intermissions from the action! Definitely one of the stronger points in the game!
Something I did not expect when I got Duke Nukem Forever was that there would be a multiplayer, but I have been wrong before with games like Dead Space 2. While some reviews have purposely left it out for whatever reason, Duke Nukem Forever’s multiplayer isn’t so bad for what it is! But what is it, exactly? Well, for me, it is what Conker: Live and Reloaded’s multiplayer mode should have been. That’s right, I strongly believe that Duke Nukem Forever’s multiplayer reminds me of what Conker’s Bad Fur Day brought to the table, and it was complete and total madness! I don’t know, something about it really strikes me as retro, and it reminds me of when online multiplayer modes did not have really annoying things like perks that would completely fuck up the balance of the game. While I can expect some gamers to come on here and bitch me out about saying that, they can listen to what the Dukeman says and blow it out their ass! While the Multiplayer for Duke Nukem Forever may not be the most revolutionary or innovative, I just found it a lot of fun. Just like multiplayer games from the past, like GoldenEye, Duke Nukem Forever does not allow the player to build a specialized class of their own like Call of Duty, but instead it cuts the bullshit by letting you find any weapon that is scattered all around the battlefield, and thus it really gets to what is most important about playing a game online: how well you can kill complete strangers. Don’t get me wrong, Duke Nukem Forever’s multiplayer is very simplistic, and there are a few gameplay options to choose from, many of which are what we have seen before: Death Match, Team Death Match, Capture the Babe, Duke Nukem’s equivalent to capture the flag, etc. While this approach might seem like a complete turnoff to online players who are used to systems like Call of Duty, there is just something satisfying and immensely entertaining about Duke Nukem Forever’s simplistic approach. There is also a level-up system where you can gain levels and some fun rewards for completing hidden achievements, and there is actually a feature where you can unlock items that you can decorate Duke Nukem’s flat with as you continue to play the multiplayer! While this isn’t for me, personally, I can see where people would want to collect these items and have the ultimate flat of badassery!
I can actually further discuss how it reminds me of an older multiplayer game becase you actually get the option to immediately respawn after you die! That’s actually something I really like about Duke Nukem Forever, as waiting for a teammate to respond in something like Team Fortress 2 can be the difference between a Victory and a Defeat. Something else I also like about the Multiplayer is that it has the spirit of older psychotic shooters, such as an announcer who takes a few cues from Unreal Tournament. When you play, you hear things like “Domination!” “Squashed!” and (possibly as a fun reference) “Holy shit!” Just like with the single-player campaign, Duke Nukem Forever’s multiplayer has a style all its own, so while it may have a simplistic approach that many gamers will hate, I found it an extremely enjoyable experience!
After all that has been done and said, what can we conclude about Duke Nukem Forever? It’s by far not a perfect game, but when you really analyze it not just from its bad graphics, or its subpar story, but from every possible aspect, then I think I can confidently say that the paid reviewers were way too harsh on Duke Nukem Forever, as I found it to be an incredibly entertaining experience! Even though Duke Nukem Forever failed to bring back the era of ‘psychotic fun shooters,’ mainly because, as many gamers say, it tried to copy the Halo and Call of Duty gameplay elements of regenerating health, a short sprint limit, and a two-weapon carry limit, some gamers still really enjoyed this game. Duke Nukem’s humor is mercifully intact and as funny as ever, the voice acting is really well-done, the multiplayer reminds me of the old days of gaming, and the gameplay is diverse and fun, such as strange intermission scenes throughout the game, inventive puzzles, great level design, and a fun arsenal of alien-killing hardware! Despite critical panning, it turns out Randy Pitchford was right in that the consumer loved Duke Nukem Forever, as it actually turned out to be the second-highest selling game in June! Sometimes, instead of chowing down on some fine caviar with a bottle of wine, gamers like to have a nice greasy burger and a tall glass of soda every once in a while! This is exactly what Duke Nukem Forever is: that greasy hamburger!