I don’t even know what the fuck is going on right now. I’ve just come off a 10 or so hour binge with what seemingly is Duke Nukem Forever… you know, the game that has been in development for over a decade? Though it’s hard not to dwell on that fact, I can’t help but feel the last few days have been some kind of weird fever-dream. To be quite honest, the 14 year wait has done no favors for Duke (aside from sales derived from it’s legend). You can tell this is a game stuck in the mindset of the 90’s – from the one-liners, to the classic feel of online Duke-match, Duke Nukem Forever is an old ass game. Will Duke deliver on his 14 year promise? Or will he toss us to the side like a fat chick who won’t put out? read on to find out.
Unfortunately for people excited about Duke’s latest adventure, it’s the latter. Don’t get me wrong, Duke Nukem Forever can still be an enjoyable experience, but from the get-go it’s very apparent that this isn’t the return to glory that Duke fans were hoping for. Both gameplay and visuals are very middling by today’s standards, and while some will argue not to compare it to other modern video-games, it still costs $60. Duke Nukem Forever at it’s core, is simply a basic first person shooter with loads of interactivity in the environments. While some interaction is mundane, like squeezing soap out of a dispenser or drinking out of a water fountain, other actions can improve Duke’s “Ego”, which is a fancy way of saying “life meter”
By doing “Duke-Like” things within the Environments, you will receive an additional chunk to your Life meter, ultimately allowing Duke to soak up more damage before dying. “Duke-Like” things include looking at Porn, shooting hoops or doing weights to name a few. The Ego system is arguably the only thing Duke Nukem Forever truly does right, and should Gearbox choose to continue the Duke Franchise, it should definitely become a core principle. The real meat of Duke Nukem Forever obviously is it’s shooting, and when I say 13 years has done no favors for the game’s development, the combat makes it very apparent. Like in the previous games, you’ll be fighting an array of invading Aliens, from the infamous Pig Cop, to the absolute gargantuan Cycloid’s. Of course, to kill these bad boys, Duke will need a varied Arsenal, right? Not exactly. I earned the trophy for finishing the game with Duke’s handgun, and let me say, that it was no challenge. The only time you’ll need the heavier weaponry is during boss fights, as they can only be damaged with explosives. However, for the grunts of the Alien forces, I found myself sticking to the Pistol/Shotgun combination. You’re given chances to diversify with weapons like the Freeze ray or the Ripper, but they rarely feel more useful then the aforementioned combo, and more like small gimmicky distractions. Also, unlike Duke 3D, you can only carry two weapons at a time now, who the fuck came up with that idea? Some pussy in green power armor?
The problem with the combat doesn’t just come with the lack of interesting weapons however, it just doesn’t feel satisfying, or fun. Pig cops will enrage after a certain amount of damage taken, dropping their currently held weapon, and charging at you like a wild bull. The animations make it a damn chore to even keep your aiming reticule over the pig, as the movement is choppy, unclear, and lacks a sense of dynamic movement. Holding down L1 (or left trigger on the Xbox version) will zoom your aim, however not in a way you’ve come to expect from modern day shooters. The zoom function chops half your weapon model off, and pulls in your field of view toward the enemy. It actually doesn’t help the combat, and while I’m not suggesting that Duke should adopt the typical “aim down the sight” trend, it sure as hell would have worked much better what’s presented here.
As I said, though Duke Nukem Forever lacks modern features in some departments, it certainly chooses to adopt the “Two Weapon Max” trend popularized by Halo. If you’re used to Duke3D, this change will feel quite weird when starting out with Forever. Though as you keep playing, it feels natural in relation to the map design. If you come across a Railgun, you know instantaneously that a long range shooting scenario is about to occur. Aside from the two weapons Duke can carry at any given time, he also has access to four different items which all have various effects on gameplay. The classic Pipe-bomb returns, gibbing any unlucky Alien who comes close to it’s detonation. Duke can also drink Beer, or pop some Steroids. Beer will increase Duke’s resistance to damage for a short amount of time, making boss battles less of a grind-like chore, whilst Steroids will shrink Duke’s ego (among other things), in exchange for the ability to run around like a maniac punching anything he comes across into pink mist.
Aside from being armed with Weapons, Duke’s also armed with his ingenious insults and witty remarks, or at least that’s what Duke thinks. Most of the remarks left me frowning with disbelief, or literally face-palming. Duke often throws out insults to other video-games, which feel especially weak considering the referenced games are indeed better then Forever. When offered Master Chiefs armor, Duke replies with “Power Armor is for pussies”, or when solving puzzles that involve pipes, Duke remarks “I hate Valve puzzles”. Though it’s definitely not insidious or disrespectful, given the state of DNF, it feels out of place and desperate. It’s not only the bad and outdated jokes that induced face-palming, the load-times are long enough for a complete power-nap. Alright, that’s an exaggeration, but when you’re forced to sit for 40 seconds reading stale tips like “Avoid bullets” or “Don’t fall off cliffs”, it makes it a little more tedious than it should be. If you have a capable PC, definitely get Duke on that platform, just to avoid turning 80 before the game loads.