Let’s just move on from the Duke Nukem Forever taking forever puns, shall we? They were old long before Gearbox took control of the franchise and rescued it from development limbo. Hell, they were old a decade ago.
The problem with Duke Nukem Forever isn’t that the subject matter is tasteless. It’s that this shooter urinates on the memory of the series a whole generation held dear, through sheer banality. Kind of ironic, since Duke pissing is exactly how the game opens.
In the time it’s taken 3D Realms, and then Gearbox to develop Duke Nukem Forever, Nintendo has announced three home consoles, we’ve had four general elections, and most tragically of all, everyone who played Duke Nukem 3D has grown up.
The problem is, ol’ Duke here simply hasn’t. He’s still the ripped, testosterone-dripping pastiche of 80′s gung-ho action heroes he was in 1996. But in 2011, he’s even more of an anachronox.
Duke’s brilliance a decade and a half ago was the ability to combine crass humour with Doom-like gameplay. Here, Duke is still throwing faeces, but it’s not enough when the game is fundamentally broken. Indeed, it seems all the more pathetic because of it.
Every level of Duke Nukem Forever is a dull slog through dull textures and boring levels. Targeting is jerky, and if the game was intended as a puerile, pyrotechnic extravaganza, it’s not.
“For Duke Nukem it seems, 9/11 never happened, and that’s the greatest tragedy about this game. He’s been wasted.”
With a Halo/Uncharted style two weapon limit, it’s all to easy to run out of ammo in a gamebreaking kind of way, and you’ll spend much of your time darting behind boxes that you can’t crouch behind. How Duke Nukem Forever can mock the current shooter stereotypes (ripe for the taking of the mickey, we might add) while trying and failing, to copy them, is testament to how badly this game has been botched.
Those weapons, too haven’t changed. Shrink-rays, devastators, and absolutely no new guns of interest. The same lack of originality is true of the aliens you fight, the level layout (which you’re often blocked from moving through by invisible walls until a certain event has panned out), and even the gimmicks that did make the cut, such as the level which sees Duke miniaturised and hopping across a kitchen, are exercises in frustration, and a reminder that first person shooters aren’t also jumping platform games for a reason.
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It’s just mundane, and it doesn’t help that it looks uglier than a pig cop ( Admittedly, we tested the PS3 version of Duke Nukem Forever, and by all reports, the PC version looks sharper and loads much quicker). Multiplayer fares no better, with plain deathmatch and questionable capture the babe modes – but you can read more about those here.
Instead, all the effort appears to have gone into letting you messs with the surroundings. You can boost your health bar (Or Ego bar) by doing anything from looking at porn on internet to putting rats in the microwave.
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Throughout all of this, of course, the voice of Duke, Jon St John, is dropping innocuous remarks about blowjobs, bodily fluids and genitals, and laughing at rape. We’re not going to complain about it being offensive, when Duke 3D was entirely about playing to the Mary Whitehouse crowd (Remember just how scared people were of video games in the 90s?).
The odd comment will make you chuckle (It says a lot that the most amusing thing in the whole game is the opening sequence, which combines 007-style animation with strippers, and Duke punting limbs of aliens), but for the most part, when paired with such drab gameplay, it just feels sad. So much has changed in the last decade, in pop culture, in geo-politics, in gaming, that Duke’s quips simply seem to be missing the target entirely.
No, for Duke Nukem it seems, 9/11 never happened, and that’s the greatest tragedy about this game. He’s been wasted.
Looking back, Duke Nukem, the Duke Nukem, the one we remember, was only ever Duke Nukem 3D. The first two instalments were merely throwaway, shareware MS-DOS platformers. For one game, and maybe an expansion pack, Duke Nukem burned bright as a hilarious, concentrated example of everything that was refreshing, everything that was exhilarating about gaming. But it, he, was a supernova. Time has not served him well, and in truth, that should have been the end of it.
Duke Nukem Forever may have taken an eternity, but that name is still bitterly ironic: with it, Gearbox and 3D Realms have laid to rest a legend created by their own incompetence. Play this only if you must see his ghost one more time: we doubt he’ll be back.