I love action movies, especially from the 80’s and 90’s. Sure, they are over the top and often mindless, but there’s something about watching someone else do bad-ass stuff that fills me with adrenaline. It makes sense to incorporate those same elements into a video game, that’s what our industry is all about. Now, ill be honest, up until recently I had never heard of Duke Nukem except in a few vague references.
Turns out that he was an extremely popular character some 12 or 13 years ago, famous for spouting out one-liners from action movies. After some research it also seems “The Duke” has been through a very rough and long development, going through several engine and publisher changes. Well, after all this time Duke is finally here, and as he says: ”Ready to kick some alien ass”. Hit the break for our full review.
It becomes apparent from the get go that Duke Nukem doesn’t take itself to seriously. A great number of things in the environments are interactive, and you actually start the game while standing at a urinal taking a piss. And yes, you can even grab a turd out of a toilet and throw it around while Duke questions what he is doing. These sort of actions boost Duke’s “Ego”, which acts as his shields.
After the first level to get you familiar with the controls, and the first boss battle, the camera pans out to see that Duke was playing as himself while getting pleasured by two Olsen twin rip-offs. It was at this point that I began to think: “you know, this could be fun”. It’s unfortunate that first impressions aren’t always right.
I couldn’t really say that Duke Nukem is a “bad” game. There are moments sprinkled about that are fun and challenging, and occasionally Duke will say or do something funny. But these moments are too rare and the space in between them is full of a whole lot of boring. Essentially, the world just feels dead and bland. Areas that should be populated with screaming citizens running away from the alien invasion are instead filled with, well, nothing.
Even Duke’s strip-club feels dead, and whatever few NPC’s are standing around act stiff and don’t have much to say. This wouldn’t be so bad if there was some flashing lights and music to fill in all the quiet time, but instead we have to listen to Duke wheeze around between firefights.
The gunplay works fine, as should be expected, however I was disappointed with the lack of weapons and the decision to only let us carry two at a time. The developers could have taken a few notes from Ratchet and Clank to create some fun and interesting weapons, but aside from the shrink gun which makes enemies the size of rats, there is only a few other more straightforward guns and rockets to mess around with.
One other big problem with the gameplay is the very uninteresting enemies you have to fight. The bosses are barley passable and entirely underwhelming, while the regular enemies don’t do much to mix things up. With a game like this I was expecting some more variety, but instead we are given a few weapons to deal with a few enemies, and this gets very dull after a while.
Again, Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a total failure, even though its flaws really stand out. I suppose anyone who was really looking forward to it 12 years ago would be disappointed no matter what, but Duke does have some redeeming qualities. I found the puzzle and platforming sections to be somewhat fun, and the gunplay, while lacking in variety, was satisfying.
Yes, I am grasping at straws, however I do see the potential for greatness in Duke Nukem. Perhaps the game need more time (yes, I see the irony in that statement), or perhaps the developers should have scrapped the unnecessary multiplayer to focus on improving the single player. Twelve years is a long time for things to go wrong. The fact is that I wish Duke Nukem: Forever was better, but it’s not. Maybe in another twelve years someone else will take a shot at giving Duke the game he deserves.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this game was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes.