What’s the Story?
What, are you kidding me? It’s a Duke Nukem game! Duke is awesome, aliens invade, Duke kills them all. Because he’s awesome. I feel like I’m repeating myself.
Less facetiously, this is a direct sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, which came out… 12 years ago? So long ago that they put 3D on the box because not many games were in 3D. Specifically, you play ultra-macho Duke Nukem, who shoots his way through the alien horde until they all run back to where they came from.
At the start of this game, it’s 12 years later and the aliens have come back. They promptly blow stuff up. You (Duke) promptly kick their asses. Because you’re Duke Nukem.
What’s the Problem?
Actually, there’s way less wrong with this game than I thought there would be (especially given some of the reviews), so long as you approach Duke Nukem with the right attitude. That attitude being, this is a game designed to poke fun at every stereotype and reference every pop culture (did I do that right?). It’s not supposed to be brilliant, multi-layered social satire, it’s supposed to be dumb fun. And it is.
Really, the main annoyances I had with it was that some sections went on a bit long and there was no sticky reticle – your gun sight didn’t stick to the baddies. On a PC, that’s fine because a mouse has much greater control than a joystick; on an Xbox, it means that the aliens are far slipprier buggers than they ought be.
Much criticism has been levelled at the character of Duke Nukem for being such a cliched, tired character. The somewhat-offensive, in-your-face, super-macho guy who beats the aliens up with his bare hands. In answer to this criticism, I present this fact:
This is a Duke Nukem game.
Did you expect it to be mature? Did you expect him not to swear? Not to make lewd sexual references whenever the aliens “kidnap our hot chicks/babes”. If they did that, then it wouldn’t be a Duke Nukem game! It’d be every other game on the market. Duke was all about making fun of the other shooters, and he still is. Those other shooters frequently include him (there’s a line early on when Duke’s playing a game and someone says it looks good. Duke replies, “After twelve fucking years, it had better be”. For those that don’t know, this game was in development or cancelled for about that long).
For some reason, every review of this game I found wanted Duke to have changed or evolved. Were they expecting a mature Duke Nukem going through his midlife crisis? Because instead they got a Duke Nukem who is middle-aged (as in, this game takes place twelve years after the first game, so Duke is now mid-forties) but is still the same character.
I suppose I should rant at the game, rather than the reviews, huh? Well, the enemies are a pain. Some of the bosses are enormous and it’s effectively chance as to whether they squash you or you defeate them. Some of the others I found a real pain to kill, but that was probably the sticky reticle issue. Mostly, though, the problem was the weapons.
See, Duke Nukem 3D introduced a whole bunch of new weapons: trip mines, pipe bombs, a jetpack, a shrink ray, and so on. Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t introduce any new weapons. And, rather than being able to carry all of them, you can only ever carry two, Master-Chief style (one in hand, the other holstered). This even extends to the powerups, of which you can only carry one. So hopefully you use it at the right time because if not… well… there’s no backups.
This isn’t in any way a criticism. Unlike most other games, Duke Nukem Forever lets you play around with the environment. You can piss into the toilets. You can draw on the whiteboards. You can use the vending machines. All those silly little touches of colour that video games used to put in there, back before they got all monocrome and serious.
I can’t comment much on this game because usually I rant on story and, well, this ain’t got one much. At least, not the bit I played. I’m assuming the last half is pretty much the same as the first, but I’ll wait until the price comes down a tad before I find out.
What’s the Solution?
Don’t expect Duke to be something he’s not. He’s vulgar, and offensive, and mocks everyone he can at every opportunity. If you know that going in, you’ll be fine.
If you’re an old Duke fan, yeah. You’ll enjoy the nostalgia and updated designs on the old aliens. And it’s been a while since I saw platforming this well-done in a first-person shooter (the bit where you’re shrunk and inside the Duke Burger kitchen is my favourite).
If you’ve never encountered Duke it’s harder to recommend. It’s fun, but not better than any other shooter I’ve played. Except that it has a sense of humour.