Duke Nukem Forever | Zombiegamer Review

In short: Fifteen years we’ve waited.  In that time we’d given up hope and found new thrills and thought The Duke would never return.  Fifteen years.  You’d have thought that in that amount of time he would’ve arrived a little more ‘refined’.

Developer: Gearbox Software

Developer: 2K Games

For fans of: Old school first person shooters, old school chauvinists and old school Playboy magazines.

Reviewed on: Xbox 360

Also available on: PS3 and PC

If we had to give it a numerical score: 6.9 out of 10…

What I liked

  • Not intellectually stimulating.
  • Doesn’t take itself overly seriously.
  • Simple old school shooter.
  • Some satisfying weapons.
  • Some satisfying eye candy – not talking about the graphics…

Not so much

  • Not exactly groundbreaking gameplay…
  • Or graphics…
  • Or voice acting.
  • Not intellectually stimulating.

Overview

Duke Nukem is a star.  After saving Earth in Duke Nukem 3D, he has made it.  TV shows, burger joints, statues, money and women all adore The Duke.  Of course, the Aliens aren’t quite so happy and decide to get revenge by stealing Earth’s (hot) women and drinking his beer.  Now that’s just not right.  Only one man can kick ass and chew gum, and he’s all outta gum…

Gameplay, Graphics, Sound and Features

I’m old enough to remember Duke from back in the day.  And I’m old enough to not have been underage when doing so.  So to start with, Duke Nukem Forever feels like Duke Nukem 3D, only with sharper graphics.  It actually doesn’t feel like there’s a fifteen year gap however.  More like two.  Sadly, the graphics feel like they’re closer to thirteen years old too.

Alright, I’m trying not to let nostalgia and a case of familiarity cloud my opinions here, but earlier when I said I expected him to arrive a “little more refined”, I meant the game, not Duke himself.  I love him as he is, but the game itself really needed another few years of polish. For a game that took as long as it did to be made, it feels – believe it or not – rushed.

The problem Duke faces is that a few months ago Bulletstorm was released.  At first glance some might dismiss that as an irrelevant comparison, but it’s not.  Both protagonists are anti-heroes if you will and to a degree, chauvinists who drink.  However, Bulletstorm looked like a game of this generation, and Duke Nukem Forever, sadly doesn’t.  Loading times, while not long enough to down a beer (at least not for me) are quite long, so the expectancy of high quality is destroyed when the textures are still loading once the new level actually starts.  Maybe I should’ve installed the game on my hard drive and there would be a difference, but not everyone can, so that’s not really an acceptable excuse.

Ok, maybe I’m being a little hard on the graphics.  It’s just that the sheer anticipation of a fifteen year wait kinda turns in to a letdown when it’s not state-of-the-art.  I do like that it is colourful – although who actually thinks a red tank top and blue trousers are the stuff of fashion heaven?  Miss June does look rather becoming in the calendar I found in the janitor’s room.  In the end, the graphics do exactly what they need to – take a backseat to the simple majesty of The Duke himself.

The moments Duke has something to say will either make you cringe or chuckle – depending on your disposition towards sexual innuendo.  The way he delivers the one-liners will elicit a similar response.  It’s meant in a completely tongue-in-cheek way (much like the whole game – except the quality of the graphics), but some may call it poor voice acting.  The rest of the voice cast may well be “poor” as the emotion portrayed is almost always stoney.  That being said, one should constantly remember while playing that Duke Nukem Forever (and Duke Nukem as a franchise) is a lot like those really cheesy, badly acted action films you simply can’t help watching.  I think that Gearbox, 2K and the original Duke Nukem creators might actually take that as a compliment.  And it is one.  Hey, don’t judge me because I like some mindless popcorn action film every now and then…

So what’s the gameplay like you ask?  Is it an intellectual shooter with RPG elements like Deus Ex?  Is it all about stealth – sneaking in the shadows and killing your foes silently?  Erm, no.  Like I said it’s an action film of a game.  A first person shooter that shoots first and asks questions later.  A cliché like that very sentence, but it does have some variety going for it.  But clichés first – there are guns, explosions, aliens, ‘end-of-level-bosses’ and boobs.  For variety, you get levels where The Duke is the size of a thumb (although it might be another part of his anatomy…) and levels where you drive and fly – well you don’t, the AI does and you just shoot.  There’s also puzzles, which started out to be frustrating until I realised I was over thinking them.  A lot of the ‘puzzles’ are played out while you’re the size of Tom Thumb and are quite entertaining sequences which involve figuring out that you need to avoid being shocked by the blue fuzzy lines on the screen.  There are, thankfully, other, slightly more taxing puzzles.  The driving offers some light relief too – there’s nothing better than ramming the alien pigs with a forklift.  Or shrinking them and stomping them.

There’s a few of what one can only describe as mini-games too.  There’s pinball, air hockey and, erm, ‘Alien Abortion’ (essentially whack-a-mole) in the strip club.  Bet you’re more than interested now?  The game as I have mentioned elsewhere is about fun and it is full of adolescent humour.  Steal a poo?  Girly calendars?  Drink a beer and take steroids?  Together sometimes?  All are in the game.  Along with Master Chief’s helmet…if you find it.

Final thoughts

I don’t dislike or love the game, it’s fun and doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not – unapologetically so.  If you want a game that adheres to old school principles and doesn’t pretend to be an expert in social commentary, then this is the game for you.  I’d just wait a little for a price drop.

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About Zombie Dredd

Wannabe gaming journalist. Wannabe zombie. And sometimes clan leader of OAP. Clint O'Shea when in his human disguise.