We all thought he was gone forever, but Duke Nukem is back! Twelve years in the making, it was thought we would never see him – Gearbox made sure that that was not the case. Can Duke still hold his own after twelve years out in the development wilderness? Or has he now become something of a joke, out of place in this modern time of gaming? Let’s dive in.
Forever is played in a first person perspective, a slight change from the third person that has featured in previous outings of Duke, but it’s not that jarring a change, just different. What is a jarring change is to being limited to only two weapons – while there is plenty of ammo, and you get the chance to find new weapons every two minutes, Duke has rarely, if ever, been limited in how many guns he has in his arsenal.
In Time to Kill, I have fond memories of getting all the weapons through a cheat code, and having trouble picking what weapon would be the most fun to use, so if this was meant to be for Nostalgics, they missed out a detail here. A lot has been made of the loading screens, and they remind me of Portal 2 – the difference between them is that the Forever loading screens ((Hey, I made a funny!)) have random comments scrolling at the bottom and filler music, while Portal 2‘s were largely silent, with a blank screen. Portal 2, however, did not make you watch the loading screen every time you died.
I played this on Normal, and I kept looking back to make sure this wasn’t on hard – the game is a challenge, no doubt, but at times it goes from being a challenge, to taking delight in watching you die. One example is the mandatory water level – you need to get to an air pocket after a tricky swimming part to not die – the game has four mini enemies that push you back and block your path come out of the corner. If you weren’t ready, then you die. If you don’t have your sensitivity set high, you will be doing a pirouette, jumping in desperation avoiding the flying enemies that fly over your head. A 180 button would have been of great help, but there isn’t one, so I’m pointing this out as a flaw.
The gameplay in Forever feels…done, there’s nothing unique, and I don’t mean in terms of previous Duke Nukem games, but games that have been released in the past couple of years. As well as the prior mentioned loading screens of Portal 2, it has the kind of awkward platforming from Mirror’s Edge, but without a grab onto ledge button. It has the wit style and carnage of Bulletstorm, but without the pretty visuals – just brown and grey and red from blood. It has the unshameful nudity that GTA4 had, but with both male and female people – not kidding. Bulletstorm is one game in particular that I kept drawing parallels with, and one I kept thinking about despite the fact I was shooting Pigcops, listening to Jon St. John…Bulletstorm was Duke Nukem substitute, and possibly, what Forever should have been.
As per usual, the story starts off with what previous Duke games have done – Duke is in his hotel in Las Vegas, and was busy getting lucky with women, the aliens pop in to say hello and generally wreck his stuff, Duke is a tad upset, and goes to exact revenge on said aliens. Okay, it’s a bit more than that – they try and kill him first, then steal the women. The cutscenes paint Duke as a war hero from saving the world twelve years ago, and talk how he has been in retirement ((Or what we know as Development Hell)) – they serve no real purpose, and just get in the way of shooting things. Duke never speaks more than one line, no discussion, no nothing – just one liners, he communicates in them.
The objective is rather simple, Duke needs to get to the Hoover Dam but actually getting there takes more or less half the game. There seems to be some contrived ways of adding gameplay while forgoing common sense. I’ll give you an exapmle – one section of the game has Duke driving his monster truck to the Dam, but three times during the drive, you run out of fuel and must find the convenient gas container nearby. Now, this does split up the driving and shooting, so this was a good idea…however, twice there is more than one gas can – why not take them all so you don’t run out again?
I won’t talk about what happens during the story or what happens at the end, but the fight does feel finished in a sense. You sit back and think “The Journey is finished” The Boss fights are tough, and you will die – I will admit to dying on all of them except for the first and last ones, so when you see the health bar, be ready for one hell of a fight. A nice little bonus is that if you beat the game, you have access to cheats such as Invincibility and Infinite Ammo, a Soundboard and the timeline of Duke Nukem Forever’s development, to name a few.
The multiplayer – the factor that can decide whether a game is traded in, or kept for longer than just the story mode. Duke offers us the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, as well as Capture the Babe (Capture the Flag) and Hail To The King, which from what I gathered during the round I played of it, was King of the Hill. You gain experience and try to level up not for perks, but to decorate Duke’s Pad – the higher in levels you get, the more artwork, statues, toys and babes you get. A weird incentive, but a nifty one if anything.
The multiplayer reminds me of the days of Quake where there was one almighty weapon on each battlefield, and it was a fight to get that weapon. With DNF, it’s the Jetpack – yes, the classic Jetpack returns, but only in Multiplayer. I couldn’t find it during the time I played it, but it’s not invulnerable – a well timed Pipe Bomb with remote detonator clears that right up. It’s a solid multiplayer, and will probably be better and populated when released in the US. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but as I mentioned earlier – nothing is in this game.
I want to love this game. I want to say that even if Mass Effect 3 was being released this year, Duke Nukem Forever would still win any and all Game of the Year awards. I can not, the game, while not bad, is not the perfect game that many had built up in their heads, and maybe that’s where some of the disappointment stems from. It’s something that I call the Hype Effect – if a games is rated in someone’s head to be a ten, and they go in thinking that it will be a ten, but discover it to be a seven, then the disappointment will take it down to a four. It is a good game, and there is enjoyment to be had, but you will swear and you will get frustrated at points.
Despite all that has been said in this review, and the score I’m giving the game, I implore you to buy or even rent it. As much as Duke Nukem has a place in my heart, this has to be his last game. I say this as I cannot see what a new game could offer – Gearbox, thank you for carrying him home to us, but we, as a gaming community, should act as the pallbearers for the Duke. Duke Nukem Forever is a fitting farewell, so rent the game, you’ll beat it within a few days. It’s worth the journey.
Hail to the King, baby
- Trademark Humour is Still There
- Doesn’t drag, beatable in a weekend
- Offers a Challenge
- Feels unoriginal
- Multiplayer is old school frantic scramble
- Game plays unfair at times