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Duke Nukem Forever Review


by Stuart Davidson - 13th June 2011
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Duke Nukem Forever Review (PC)

Duke Nukem Forever Review (PC)


So it's here... finally... the long awaited (12+ years??!) "new" Duke Nukem game. It has been said that no game could live up to the hype generated in that time and that is probably true however that doesn't mean Duke Nukem Forever couldn't be good... an enjoyable nostalgic blast. So the question is, can GearBox Software's attempt to rescue a game which has been stuck in development hell be successful in a world which has seen the release of titles such as the original Call of Duty (Medal of Honor: Allied Assault as well), Bioshock and even Quake 3 Arena redefine what we expect from a FPS since the last outing of this franchise. The answer is no, but by how much have they failed?



Gameplay
As we should probably have expected due to the game first being designed in the late 90's the core gameplay of Duke Nukem isn't too different to FPS of old. Walk, run, occasionally jump, perform basic interaction with some objects, tap space bar repeatedly to open stuck doors (very tiresome), shoot a lot (hold down the left mouse button for a short while for smaller enemies, ages for large ones). There are sections where we hold a fixed location gun, moving the mouse slightly and holding the left button down. Oh, and sections such as driving around in a remote control (or real) car, sometimes speed boosting, occasionally jumping, performing basic interaction with some objects... you get the picture. There are also some bland mini-games/puzzles dotted around the game which were maybe originally put in for a purpose but actually end up feeling like they are here to waste time and make the game feel longer than it is... a bit like the constant boring sections of travelling in lifts during the first portion of the game, or walking through empty corridors waiting for something to happen. In fact, after a semi-action packed first 5 minutes we spend the majority of the first hour of gameplay doing pretty much nothing other than walking. There is a chance that part of this is an attempt to let us see how shallow Duke's life is, how he is essentially a caricature of himself (signing autographs for kids as we walk to a TV show interview) but essentially the tone is completely missed and it goes on for too long... it's boring. That said when the action does kick off things don't get much more exciting. All of the key aspects are here, shotgun, steroid pills to enhance close combat, toilet humour, one liners etc but there is no skill, thought or originality involved. We move, we hold out mouse button, things die... rinse and repeat. Even the humour is for the most part recycled.


Occasionally in games which are heading the way Duke Nukem Forever is we find some glimmer of hope that makes the game worth playing, maybe some impressive AI for example. That's not the case here, the enemies Duke faces are idiots and that just serves to reduce the challenge even further. They are so thick in fact that rarely do they even realise that there could be a chance of success if they would attack in numbers, several hours into the game for example we are still in the realm of 2-3 bad guys on screen at any one time. And those that are, unless they are already in attack mode have zero awareness. We could walk up behind them, do a dance, murder a song at the top of our voice (if the game let us) and they wouldn't become "active" until we interact with them by shooting or hitting. When they do become active, surely they think about taking cover, working against us in a way that's not essentially standing still blasting. Not a chance.


So that's single player... maybe there is a kick-ass multi-player option. Maybe some cool mode where a single Duke has to hold position and stay alive against swarms of other players working as the games bland enemies? Nope. What we get here are some basic multi-player modes, Duke Match and Team Duke Match (which are obviously death match style), Capture The Babe rather than capture the flag and hail to the king which is a capture/hold base style of gameplay. Admittedly these are more action packed than the single player mode but there are a few issues which stop multi-player form being enjoyable. Firstly we have a game browser which more often than not gives a "game is full" message when the player count disagrees, then we get failed connections frequently. When in the game, in for example a 4vs4 team death match the re-spawn point will often be smack bang in the middle of three heavily tooled opposition which results in an instant death for our newly spawned character with a pistol. Level design is also nothing special and overall multiplayer feels like Quake 3 Arena with all the fun and skill removed. Oh, and there are currently a very small number of games visible on the browser, with a small number of players active. An indication of first weekend sales?


Graphics and Sound
A quick look at a few of the screenshots which we have included in this review will show that Duke Nukem Forever isn't a bad looking game. There is nothing spectacular about it, even in cases where there are large enemies on screen... or extra-large ones... the actual detail level is quite low. For example the large space-ship which we attack with a gun turret looks quite good in still form but in gameplay is essentially a big block with one moving section. When that explodes rather than shower the area in a cool physics powered debris shower be get a small amount of blocks exploding in a less than satisfying way. The inside of the Casino where we spend the first part of the game is also incredibly bland and often lacking in detail with endless similar looking hallways and gambling areas... though in a way that is true to life. The outdoor environments are an improvement on this but as before, they are functional but not spectacular in any way.

Sound wise the game is ok, there is lots of gunfire and some decent explosions. The voiceover is ok, though somewhat soulless and the score occasionally works well... offering a sense of grandeur but equally it is often just "there".

Summary
There are a couple of things Duke Nukem Forever has going for it. The shooting mechanic works with no noticeable issues in terms of bullet collision detection. The controls are responsive, the graphic/sound acceptable and we noticed no bugs when playing the PC version (we had expected a game with this development history to be littered with them). Past that though there is very little to say about it in a positive way. The game is bland, even with all the toilet "humour", enemies are an irritant rather than a challenge and there is nothing new to experience that we haven't seen before. It also seems very little time has been spent building a working, well balanced multi-player.

In the end we are left to wonder why... why 2K and Gearbox bothered to finish the game, why they felt it was worth anything more than £10/$10 (if that!), why we bother to play past the first hour, why we are so bored while doing so... the list goes on. But hey, we play games like this so you don't have to. So here to save you some time are three "highlights" from the game... a urinal, some badly rendered girls kissing and a toilet. Enjoy... then go buy something half decent.



Gameplay 40/100 Essentially takes the genre back a decade or so and does this without offering a fun, nostalgic trip. Boring gameplay, boring level design, boring enemies and no challenge. Bonus points for it having no noticeable bugs (on PC) and the fact it works... oh and the menu is functional, some developers even mess that up.
Graphics 60/100 Average, nothing special.
Audio 50/100 The score doesn't stand out, other than once or twice and the voice acting has little character. Explosions and gunfire are ok.
Value 30/100 A less than average single player campaign, no DLC (so far) and average multiplayer. Therefore no reason to play more than once, if that.
Overall
(Not an Average)
35/100 Video games inspire violence... we didn't think it was true but it is because Duke Nukem Forever makes us want to stab ourselves in the eyes.
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