Whenever anyone bought up the term vaporware or development hell, one game always sprung up: Duke Nukem. After the glorious hit that was Duke Nukem 3D, the next entry into the series, Duke Nukem Forever , began production right away by 3D Realms. It was going to be better and badder than the original. That was 12 years ago and the idea that Duke Nukem Forever was going to released was always an inside joke among gamers up until PAX Prime 2010. Former 3D Realms employee, and now Gearbox Software CEO, Randy Pitchford made the stunning announcement causing gamers everywhere to cheer and cry that the biggest piece of vaporware known to man was going to actually be released. After a slight delay from its original April 2011 release date, Duke is here and he is BAD. No, not good bad, more like "OH MY GOD, WHY IS THIS GAME SO BAD" bad.
After his heroic victory over the aliens in his previous adventure, Duke has become a worldwide icon with his own burger chain, casino, statues everywhere, and several movies. He's a hero to millions and after playing his own video game that took 12 years to finally come out; another alien attack has occurred. Women from all over the world are being transported by an outer space nemesis to who-knows where, so it's up to Duke to save the world and the ladies in a totally original story...or at least it was 15 years ago when Duke Nukem 3D was released.
LONG LIVE THE DUKE
Duke is Still Da Man - From the original Duke Nukem game back on DOS on the PC to Duke Nukem 3D, Duke underwent a considerable change from being a cutesy platform character to the epitome of a badass encompassing every character trait that defined over the over-the-top action heroes of the 80s and 90s. In Duke Nukem Forever , the badassery gets turned up to motherfucking 13. DNF is filled with more one-liners, quotes from movies with his twist added to it (such as the quote from Starship Troopers "I'm from Las Vegas and I say Kill 'em All!"), and priceless reactions to the events as they happen. My personal favorite occurs after taking down a giant boss: Duke gets thrown on his back, slowly raises up his right hand, and gives the now dead boss the finger.
The Duke's Got Good Taste in Music - Hardly anyone would blame you for thinking this game would feature non-stop balls to the wall rock n’ roll from beginning to end, but you would have been mistaken. Several stages of the game have some great pieces of music playing to go along with all the gore on screen. In one stage, I could have sworn that I was hearing an orchestral piece from one of the many, many World War II games out there. There's also a charming piece of music that plays during puzzles that reminds me of a piece from the Ghostbusters movie.
DUKE OF HURL
30 DAMN SECONDS! - Every loading screen is approximately 30 seconds. Whenever you start the game, whenever you die and whenever you finish a "part" of a stage, it always takes 30 seconds to get back to the action. Oh yeah, I said "part" of a stage because each stage is split into parts. This wouldn't be a big deal if each "part" was filled with loads of action or a big world to play around in. Instead, each part only lasts a good 10-15 minutes. That is absolutely pathetic, and with each death adding another 30 seconds of starting at the screen, Duke Nukem Forever can get frustrating pretty fast. During boss battles, you could get the boss down to half health, die, and have played for less time than it took for the game to re-load. With a game that's around 8 hours to beat, if you die a dozen times, then you're looking at almost 15 minutes of waiting at the loading screen (don’t forget all the mid and in-between level loads). Compare that to more modern games where you see the loading screen just once or twice throughout the game. The excuse that this is a 12 year old game just does not hold up. No one from Gearbox Software and their QA team should have let this slide. Nothing about this game deserves such exorbitant loading times.
Yeah, It Doesn’t Look Like 1999, But Sure Don’t Look Like 2011 - When the first video of duke Nukem forever was shown at PAX Prime, everyone was amazed with the graphics. Like most paintings, the amazement wears off when you take a closer look at it. Backgrounds hardly have any texture or detail to them, character models have very little variety and water/smoke/other effects looks like they were done back on the first Playstation. My biggest gripe comes with the animation, or should I say, the lack of it. Characters talk with hardly any mouth movement, the pig cops jump through the air like statues of Michael Jordan doing his famous dunk without a single twitch of movement, and then there's Duke's jump that offers no fluidity of motion. Instead, Duke moves up in the air, bends his knees, and then drops back down like a robot. It's ridiculous to look at and would have been fine back in the 90s, but today, it's simply unacceptable.
Can I Please Shoot Something?! - For a first person shooter, there is not a ton of actual SHOOTING in DNF. Several areas involved a lot of jumping around from one place to another. From one loading screen to another; it was all jumping and hardly any shooting. Of course, I don’t need to tell you how much fun platforming in an FPS is. There’s a whole stage where you drive in duke’s monster truck, run over some enemies and jump a gap, only to run out of gas leaving you to find more gas. Find the gas, fill ‘er up, and repeat. That’s almost the whole stage and it goes on for almost an hour. Rarely did I feel overwhelmed by masses of aliens. Instead, I was annoyingly distracted by aliens that were keeping me away from reaching the next loading screen.
Duke Don’t Need No Friends - Duke Nukem Forever's multiplayer is atrocious. I am convinced that this is the multiplayer mode from the original build. Every player has control of a Duke, but Duke looks like he did back in Duke Nukem 3D. Simple as that. Nothing about multiplayer looks good, and it’s far from anything special when you play it. You have your traditional death match, team death match, king of the hill, and capture the flag...er, I mean babe. To top it off, it’s not even fun. Yes Duke has some one-liners yet the gameplay is all about whoever grabs the weapons first...also like Back In The Day. There is nothing special here: nothing unique, zero strategy, no skill involved, NOTHING. You gain xp for killing enemies and completing objectives, but there is no gratification gained from playing for an extended amount of time.
Abortion Jokes? Really, Duke? - I’m far from being the type of person to quickly get offended at any subject. Hell, people have criticized me multiple times for things I’ve said on this site. I HAVE laughed at some abortion jokes that people have said when they were actually funny. In the case of Duke Nukem Forever and its stage involving chicks being impregnated with aliens followed by Duke’s abortion jokes, it was shocking for the sake of being shocking, and devoid of any humor.
I have 3 theories as to why Duke Nukem Forever is such a pitiful game. First, Randy Pitchford at Gearbox Software had a complete infatuation with this game; he thought it was his destiny to release it. Although that is a noble sentiment, the game was simply revamped for the next gen rather than rebuilding it completely from scratch with the quality that Gearbox Software is known for.
My second theory is that this was a simple cash-in for Gearbox. All the legal wrangling that happened probably made it worth the effort to scoop up the game, make some improvements to the build, and make millions off the infamous "game that was never supposed to be released." Not only that, ‘remastering’ goes along with the current trend of other popular old-school FPS games that have been rereleased with only high-def touchups like Serious Sam 1 & 2. But with those games, they were sold only for $20, not for $60. My reasoning is that Gearbox was looking for a quick cash-in, followed by redeeming themselves with the release of Borderlands 2.
The final theory is that Gearbox Software is filled with a bunch of sick, twisted people that get their jollies off releasing 12 year old games with hardly any improvements. They did this to quench their thirst with the tears of the many fans that were hoping to relive their childhood. Instead of getting a fun new game to play starring their favorite character, all those fans will open up Duke Nukem Forever’s shiny box to find a steaming pile of crap.
This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.