Finally released... Well boys and girls, it's been nearly 15 years since this project started. Through heaps of overhauls, redos, development team switching and just generally taking forever to produce because heaps of shit behind closed doors went on, we finally get Duke Nukem Forever... about time, eh? Here's the thing, though - it's just a mediocre first person shooter. It takes elements of both eras of shooters (the retro Doom era and current Call Of Duty era), and just gives us the basics of them. I suppose it's not BAD by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not good either.
Finally telling the story. 12 years after the events of Duke Nukem 3D, Duke is called to be interviewed on a talk show, but the show is cancelled because they want to report on the aliens that have landed on Earth. They initially appear peaceful, but later when Duke is about to leave the "Duke Cave", hostile aliens attack him, and it's up to Duke to - dare I say it - kick ass and chew bubblegum.
Where it's easy for me to simply dismiss the story, everyone knows that Duke steals the show. He did so in Duke Nukem 3D, so vicariously, he will here... well, yes and no. Yes because his one liners, performed by John St John (the guy who might as well change his name to Duke Nukem), are still at least chuckleworthy. Yeah, they're still corny and "bad", but at the same time, they're funny. However, I did say "yes AND no", and unfortunately, the reason for "no" is because most of these are pop culture references, which will immensely date the game. Imagine if somebody, hundreds of years later, dug up this game and played through it - they'd be like "what the *bleep* are they talking about" because they wouldn't get it! Given all of this, the story is entertaining enough to keep you going through the campaign with little to no filler, and the only thing stopping you storywise is the tendency for Duke to spout references that people get laughed at for saying.
Forever shooting. As expected, it's a first person shooter. Basically, it's weapons gallore... oh wait, after this reinactment of the final boss of Duke Nukem 3D where I do have some guns, I have to spend nearly an hour with just my fists and some objects to throw? You're *bleep*ing kidding me, right? So basically, if you're going by first impressions, you'll enjoy the re-enactment, but then find yourself wanting to return the game based on the gameplay, even if Duke is keeping you awake.
Don't worry, you get a weapon after a while, and from there, it becomes even more apparent that it's trying to take the piss out of shooters by mimicking them. From the two weapon limit to the lack of secondary fire, with the addition of quickly regenerating health... as a first person shooter, it's to be expected and I guess you could all still be perfectly content with that - granted, I've always found this silly; like why would you ditch a weapon when you find a new one - but at the same time, this game felt like it was aimed for old school Duke fans, and I'm sure that once the laughter is out of their system, they'll see this as just silly.
The actual arsenal of weapons is still as Duke as it gets, with conventional weapons like shotguns, to more sci-fi shit like shrink rays and freeze guns, and like Duke Nukem 3D, you'll have to use the right weapons in order to defeat the bosses as well as enforce crowd control. The only problems are ammo supplies, which are about as tight as you'd expect from a survival horror game, and the fact that you can only carry two at a time, which makes the whole ammo supply thing worse because you'll only have two weapons at a time, and the only weapons you'll get are either from enemies or ones that are just conveniently near the bosses.
Speaking of the bosses, man, this is pretty hit and miss. There are a couple of bosses whose only problems lie in tedium, but then there are some that are tedious to the brink of insanity. The good ones just require a lot of rockets to the face. They take a while to beat.. maybe a little too long, but I'd rather that than have that and heaps of enemies alongside the boss. The bosses themselves are okay, but when they decide to bring all of their little buddies into the fray, it's like “what, you ain't challenging enough on your own you bitch!?” because it's like they saw Duke, shit their pants and got all the minions to do their dirty work.
Forever finding something else to do. Duke Nukem Forever isn't above giving you some variety. While it's welcome, it's not that great. The platforming is alright. It starts off pretty fun, but like most action games ala God Of War, the platforming feels tacked on more than it does like it actually belongs. To be fair, it's better than most action games, but the ones that it's inferior to like Mirror's Edge, ehh, just don't go there. On top of that, there are some basic block moving puzzles, but these are just... lame. They don't add much to anything except maybe a little break. Mostly, it's just finding stuff so you can get stuff done. At times, you'll get to be behind the wheel – whether it's a monster truck or an RC car, again, more variety is good when the elements are good, and the driving is adequate at best. I don't know, it just... doesn't feel exciting or anything worth doing, really.
But when it comes to interaction, it's actually fairly surprising. Whether it's a urinal or an ice hockey table, there are a fair amount of objects to interact with. Not only are they actually fun little distractions, but they also increase Duke's health or “ego”. Man, it's great when a game rewards you for doing more than the bare minimum... if only the developers could do the same when designing this game. It's also worth noting, if you haven't already picked it up, that health regenerates if you don't get hurt for a little while...
Like every first person shooter ever made, this game has multiplayer. From the usual deathmatch modes (team or lone), to king of the hill to capture the fl-- I mean capture the babe... yeah, if you haven't played a first person shooter online, then I don't know what rock you've been living under. The servers can either play like a dream or lag like shit, especially for Aussies, but if you can find a good server, you and up to seven other players can kick each others asses for... however long you want. The maps aren't too bad.. at least they're serviceable, although pretty uninspired for some reason. Blah. It's still fun to kill each other, that's all that really needs to be said... so long as nobody's lagging too much...
Here's the big issue - the only ways to describe most of this game are "competent", "mediocre", “hit and miss” and "well at least the game finally made it, that should be enough". What it all means is that there's almost no reason to play this over games like Crysis 2, Killzone 2/3, Serious Sam or the masterpiece that is Half Life 2. In fact, if this was a no name shooter and not Duke Nukem, I'd rather play shooters that are slightly above average like Bulletstorm and James Bond: Quantum Of Solace, but because it's Duke Nukem and I'm curious as to what we get for waiting over a decade, well, why not play it at least once? To be fair to this game, it is playable, and it has its enjoyable moments (mind you, they take place after the first quarter), but for every enjoyable moment, about 20 mediocre ones follow.
Forever waiting on console gamers. Just when you think the wait is over, BAM, minute long load screen. Oh goodie, a long loading screen... the sign of an unfinished or just unpolished game. It's understandable that this had to be rushed out, but I'm just not sure how Gearbox could've overlooked this when basically redesigning the game. Maybe-- You know what, I think I just answered that question. Regardless, the long loading screens are a *bleep*ing pain in the ass, because half the time, the game inserts these trial and error parts, which isn't bad because trial and error is an assessment of how well you can pick up on your mistakes and stop making them, but when coupled with loading screens after you die, that's when I lose my cool, and this game is split up into sections, so... yeah, this is just a stupid mistake on their part. If you're playing this on the PC, the loading times aren't as bad, but I think it's safe to say that you ought to go get a beer and be patient.
Sounds better than it looks. The lack of polish is emphasised further when you notice just how mediocre the graphics are. The game doesn't really look all that good. Sure, the environments look good... at first glance. The colors are actually pretty well chosen and applied, and the variety of locations is a welcome change from games only having two different environments, but looking at it further, the texture usage is pretty inconsistent. Some look *bleep*ing good, but others are flatter than a 12 year old's breasts. Character models fare no better, as most of them either have decently fluid animation or crappy jittery animation, and don't have much detail. They're about on par with most PS2 character models. Late or early into its lifespan... that's up to them.
At least your ears will like this game. Not love; just like. The soundtrack is like a mixture of metal and the usual orchestral stuff you hear in many games these days. Although it sounds good, that's when you actually can hear it. Unfortunately, the sounds of the guns and grunts overpowers the soundtrack - and don't get me wrong, the sound effects aren't bad, but this soundtrack is something that should be pumping the blood or something, not swearing under its breath in the corner. But I'll tell you one thing that never whimpers away; the voice acting. John St John just has that kind of voice that gives Duke Nukem a lot of character and just general badassery, and the rest aren't too bad either, but Duke is the one that'll stick out the most.
Did it deserve to take forever or should it have just been lost in the annals of time? Duke Nukem Forever is... okay. Loading times and general graphical glitches aside (moreso for console gamers than PC gamers), there's nothing actually wrong with this game. Really, all it is, is that it's a mediocre game that offers only an awesome character and some pedestrian gameplay. It's worth a purchase if you're curious as to what we've been waiting so long for, and to its credit, Duke is as awesome as ever, but if you got other games to play and couldn't care less for Duke, then play them first.
Story: 7/10 Enough content to keep us going and enough corny one liners to keep one amused... shame about all the pop culture references that'll make the humor hard to get when what they're referencing becomes irrelevant. Gameplay: 5/10 It has the elements of a good shooter, but it never goes beyond just having them elements. It helps if they were all around fun and not just a few moments every now and again. The ego boosts are fun little distractions and a pretty good idea, and mini-Duke moments are sort of fun, but everything else made me want to play other shooters. Controls: 7/10 The shooting controls are what you'd come to expect and work alright. All other times aren't that good, though. Graphics: 6/10 (3/10 for console versions) The environments look nice if a bit flat at times, but everything else looks like it was made back when this could've been on the PS1. Console owners will experience screen tearing and lag out the ass, while PC owners won't... as much. Sound: 7.5/10 John St John still has it as he brings Duke to life with every breath. The soundtrack, albeit quiet during play, was also fairly good.