Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Game Review – Duke Nukem Forever

Formats: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Duke Nukem is an icon--an integral part of video game history and our childhoods. Some of us couldn’t wait to have Duke back on our screens, while others thought reminiscing over Duke Nukem 3D and Time to Kill was enough. Unfortunately here we are, in 2011 Duke Nukem Forever subjects us to what can only be described as a game that can’t decide what it wants to be. On the one hand it is clear that Forever is not to be taken seriously—the sexist and crude one-liners, virtual girls and over-dramatized action suggests we should pick up a gun, crack open a beer and let the ridiculous times roll. However somewhat embarrassingly, Forever also tries to enter the modern market by mixing in pointless car scenes and annoying puzzles—something that no one wanted from a Duke Nukem title. This unfortunate lack of dedication to the Duke Nukem franchise and what Duke does best, has left Duke in deep water with not many wanting to save him from drowning.

Duke Nukem is above-else, a shooting game—which is frustrating considering you don’t do anywhere near as much shooting as you should in Forever. When Duke gets his trademark Desert Eagle in his hand and you start blasting away at aliens and pig cops, you have a good time, there’s no denying that. The game’s frustrating pacing issues are exemplified by slamming on the breaks in-between shooting sections and forcing you to deal with horrifically comprised puzzles and car-segments. This stuff is not needed in a Duke Nukem game and for some reason unknown to me, happens all too often. If Forever was simply a run-and-gun adventure, I think people would have enjoyed it a whole load more—but this filler content does not provide Duke any opportunity to say or do anything entertaining whatsoever. The shooting mechanics themselves, although dated, are simple and fun. The variety in weapons is fairly small, but blasting the heads off of enemies is sweet and Duke does it in style—throwing out his trademark lines while wading through hordes of enemies.

Speaking of being dated; Forever looks like a game that would have been given graphical praise a few years ago. Unfortunately, in this day and age it doesn’t quite cut it. Again, this wouldn’t be such a problem if just some small things were cleaned up. For example, in the opening thirty seconds you can walk in front of a mirror and jump—showing how horribly animated Duke’s (the main character!) body is—with his upper-body staying perfectly still while his legs contract ever so slightly, it’s honestly painful to watch. The ear shattering grunt that Duke bellows every time he jumps is also a testament to how bad the audio in this game is. Then fifteen minutes later we find two school girls talking to Duke—this segment shows the dialogue and script are not only terrible, but the timing of the voice actors is abysmal too—with Duke taking five seconds to respond to the girl’s invitation to a party. Don’t get me wrong, the graphics aren’t bad, but they just aren’t pretty to look at either. Duke Nukem could have been forgiven for being a technical flop if it at least looked great and consisted of simple fun—unfortunately what was exhumed and used for production created a final product that just doesn’t deliver in these areas.

The story is nothing to write home about either—aliens invade, take Duke’s babes and he wants them back. At least it’s obvious that the story doesn’t take itself seriously but you will find that it really doesn’t matter as you stop caring about your final goal relatively early on. Perhaps this is because you start and stop so many times that you just forget—or you don’t think Duke’s reasoning for saving the world is just, whatever the case, shooting aliens in the face becomes your primary function sooner or later.

Forever does provide some entertainment in the online multiplayer. This takes the best bit of single player—the shooting and removes all the pointless filler content, allowing you go mental and dare I say it, have some fun. Lots of crazy weapons, upgrades and unlockables make Forever’s variants of death-match and capture-the-flag quite a laugh and is the highlight of this package. Unfortunately, some technical issues at times can slow this experience down and like the abysmal loading times in the campaign, you can find yourself stuck for quite a long period before a game becomes available—at least from my testing on the Playstation 3.

Ultimately you can say as many bad things about Duke Nukem Forever as you want and it’s apparent that critics globally have been very disappointed by the final product. I however, have respect for Gearbox Software and Randy Pitchford who took the remains of a game that must have been left in pieces over the ten-years of development before picking it up and trying to get it back together. They took an icon that everyone in the video game world loves, and tried to bring him back to us. Sure it wasn’t a great success, but they did it—some people thought that Duke Nukem was cursed and would never come out. Well I for one am glad to see the Duke back and although it’s not quite what I was hoping for and expected—I am still willing to pick it up and live through Duke’s American dream, by kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. Don’t take Duke Nukem Forever seriously, enjoy the experience, enjoy the twelve years of history that have gone into this game and keep in mind the hard work that went in to transform a ravaged idea into some form of a final product. God bless you Duke Nukem—despite all your faults, I still love you.

6.0 Gameplay – Run-of-the-mill shooting fun with Duke—shame that so much puzzle and car filler hampers the pace of the action.
6.0 Graphics – Dated graphics, but what did you expect? Could have been polished better to cover up the age.
7.0 Replay – Duke’s one-liners are priceless over and over—multiplayer is relatively fun too for a while
5.0 Tech – Controller has no issues, audio is pretty bad apart from Duke’s trademark lines. Occasional lag online on PS3.

Overall – 6.0
Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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