Duke Nukem Forever Review

Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem is back, as raunchy as ever.

After a long and storied development process, Duke Nukem Forever, the highly anticipated follow up to the 1996 FPS classic Duke Nukem 3D is now available. The end result is surprising, to say the least. Gearbox Software, having taken over development responsibilities of the game following 3D Realms' downsizing in 2009, made a bold decision - that is, to keep the game as true to 3D Realms' original vision as possible. The decision to keep Duke Nukem Forever true to its roots is simultaneously its greatest asset and greatest liability.

Duke Nukem Forever

The game opens with a brief tribute to its predecessor, pitting our titular hero against a cycloid foe in a battle ripped right out of Duke Nukem 3D. Later revealed to be Duke playing a game based upon his likeness, the camera shifts to reveal two buxom blondes servicing him. In the first of many self-referential nods, one of them asks if the game is any good, to which, Duke cheerily responds: "Yeah, but after twelve f**king years it had better be." Retirement, it would seem, has been good to Duke, as he now resides in the penthouse level of his own casino.

Over the course of a series of (mostly) weaponless introductory missions, the basic premise unfolds; aliens have invaded earth once again, and this time, they're after our women. Abandoning much of the cinematic trappings of so-called modern shooters, Duke Nukem Forever is perfectly content with this kind of simplistic, b-movie inspired plot. Fittingly, the gameplay follows suit. Current-gen niceties such as radar, advanced AI, and a cover system are nowhere to be found here. In their place are over the top weapons - including fan favorites like pipe bombs and railguns, bounce pads, and a heaping dose of run and gun style action.

Duke Nukem Forever

In another departure from modern convention, the game features heavy usage of puzzles; a combination of physics based ones, where the player must add or remove certain items to proceed, lever based puzzles, and jumping puzzles. While the first two are well implemented, jumping puzzles are to some extent over-utilized. Not necessarily in quantity, however; more in duration and level of difficulty. For instance, while they are all mechanically sound, the series of jumping puzzles in the second part of the Duke Burger level go from being novel to frustrating in a matter of moments. The same can be said of the Duke statue puzzle in an earlier mission.

Regardless of the number of puzzles present, Duke Nukem Forever is still very much a first person shooter. As has become a staple of the Duke Nukem franchise, the player is tasked with mowing down hordes of aliens in gruesome fashion, complete with occasional end of stage bosses, often requiring heavy firepower to be dispatched. As always, Duke is up to the task, maintaining the quick wit and chauvinistic attitude that has made him an icon over the years. Love him or hate him, Duke is still the same alcohol imbibing, babe loving, smack talking bad ass he has always been. Series regular Jon St. John returns as Duke Nukem's voice, delivering dozens of one-liners with snarky bravado. Unfortunately, the game does have a tendency of repeating them on occasion, and while amusing at first, the same quip about Duke's balls gets old after awhile.

Duke Nukem Forever

Like its predecessor, DNF thrives on low-brow humor. Expect a veritable swarm of potentially offensive content here. Wall boobs, foul language, nudity, and graphic violence are littered throughout the game. That said, with the exception of one particularly racy scene involving alien impregnation, the line between deliberately pushing the envelope and being nauseatingly offensive is never crossed. Surprisingly, even though Duke is a perpetual narcissist, a softer side does still come out from time to time; most notably when the player opts to put an alien infected babe out of her misery, in lieu of allowing the babe to bear a deadly alien spawn. In this rare circumstance, instead of an off-handed remark about being spent, Duke quietly tells her: "Trust me, it's better this way."

When our hero isn't busy laying waste to the evil swine, there are a handful of levels that depart from the standard kill everything that moves formula. For instance, several vehicular scenes, either in a remote controlled car, or a monster truck later on in the game take place. In addition, a series of amusing mini games - such as weights, air hockey, pool, and pinball are present. Most of them are little more than a fun distraction, but beating each game's respective high score increases Duke's Ego (health) bar.

Duke Nukem Forever

While much of Duke Nukem Forever's deliberately old school design works to its advantage, there is one area in particular that does not. The choice to use an older version of the Unreal Engine, was unfortunate. Even when set to their highest graphical detail, textures are frequently bland and minimalistic. Strong weapon and boss design does offset this fault somewhat, but an overabundance of dark, earthy tones hurts the overall aesthetic.

As has become expected of any first person shooter, the game features a multiplayer component, as well. Available modes include Duke Match (Death Match) - in regular and team variants, Hail to the King (King of the Hill), and a unique, potentially controversial spin on Capture the Flag, entitled Capture the Babe. The object is the same here, only the "flag" to be taken from point to point is now a scantily clad babe in a schoolgirl outfit. A total of 10 maps are available - some specific to multiplayer - such as Hoover Damned and Erection site, as well as some from the single player campaign - such as Morningwood and The Hive. Multiplayer offers a number of challenges, many with subsequent unlocks, ranging from new clothing for Duke, to mini games, to furniture that can be added in the 'my digs' area.

Duke Nukem Forever may not be a game for everyone, as some may be put off by puzzle heavy play mechanics, dated visuals, and the franchise's signature brand of raunchy humor. Fans of the series, however, as well as anyone looking for something different than the now standard Call of Duty esque fare have much to enjoy here. A substantial single player campaign, a tongue in cheek protagonist, and insane boss battles solidify Duke Nukem's return.

Duke Nukem Forever
An unapologetically old school run and gun style shooter, with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek.
Jon St. John reprises his role as Duke Nukem, but some one-liners are played a little too frequently. Much of the soundtrack from Duke Nukem 3D has been retained, and digitally re-mastered.
Environments are often bland, and lacking a strong color palate. Solid weapon and boss design accommodates, however.
Standard First Person Shooter controls, with the option of WASD/Mouse Combination, or the use of a gamepad.
Rife with bosses, over the top weapons, and Duke's signature low-brow humor, Duke Nukem Forever is complete fan service. Bland visuals and limited mulitplayer modes hurt an otherwise entertaining game.
Voting statistics:
Click to share thisClick to share this