Publisher: 2K Games (2010 - )
I sat staring at the copy of Duke Nukem Forever that was resting on my desk not quite believing it was real, after all 14 years of problems, delays, and waiting's a pretty long time! Once I'd got over the initial shock of actually being able to reach out and touch the game, I decided it was time to load it up. A cool introductory sequence sees Duke standing over a craps table with a couple of babes whilst a generic rock track plays in the background, Mr. Nukem rolls a set of dice displaying the developers names before declaring "I'm back baby!". Following this, the game's logo pops up and the familiar theme tune blares out of your TV speakers. Needless to say, it grabs your attention and fires you up for a roller coaster ride of action mayhem.
The plot's about as straightforward as they come; the aliens that Duke previously defeated return to Earth and he's ordered not to go charging in guns blazing by the President. However, once the extra terrestrials start stealing babes and taking pot shots at him, Duke decides it's time to kick their asses again! As you'd expect from the Duke Nukem series there are plenty of scantily clad women, loads of guns, the humour's crude, it's frequently offensive, and to wrap things up there's a good amount of blood and gore to boot, it's definitely a boys game; the Yorkie bar of the gaming world you might say. Unfortunately things go a bit downhill from here!
Now, whilst Duke Nukem Forever isn't the worst shooter in the world, it's nowhere near the top of the list. The aiming system is quite frankly abysmal, in fact, due to its light colouring, there are times when the target reticule might as well not be there, which sadly means that the biggest challenge you'll face in the game is accurately targeting your enemies before they get a chance to completely destroy you. There isn't a proper cover system either, so you'll have to look for something that's roughly equal to Duke's size to run and hide behind if your ego bar's starting to diminish. It's a real shame because if both of these aspects were better, I wouldn't have found my irritation levels steadily rising throughout the game and I might have been able to sit back and enjoy it a bit more, instead of frantically trying to get to the end so that I could get away from the experience, which isn't really what you want.
The levels are incredibly linear, which means that the breaks you get from shooting pigcops in order to solve puzzles, particularly when you've been shrunk, don't exactly last very long. The only other distractions come in the form of ogling babes, hitting arcade machines, trying to top your score on pinball machines, taking on an opponent at air hockey, shooting a few hoops, or sinking some balls on the pool table. Once again, if these mini-games had been thought out properly and the gameplay had been given some more polish, they could have been a nice offshoot to the main game, but as they stand they're just a good example of quantity over quality!
Duke needs vehicles that are capable of matching his flamboyance, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear you'll take control of a flash RC car, his very own monster truck "The Mighty Foot", as well as sitting behind the gun of a chopper. The driving's passable, it's nothing special, but it is quite amusing to see your enemies fly across the screen when they take even the smallest of nudges from The Mighty Foot. I also thought it was a nice touch when Ride Of The Valkyries started playing when you're gunning people down in the drop ship.
Most of the levels are split into parts, so instead of seamlessly passing through one area, you'll find yourself having to stop and wait at a load screen from time to time, which wouldn't have been quite so annoying if they weren't so damned long! On the plus side, when you're killed, which'll happen a fair amount, you'll have enough time to review your tactics and come up with a new strategy to punish your enemies.
The boss battles are pretty much all the same, you need to find some cover to avoid their attacks and defeat their minions with a rapid fire weapon like the ripper, until you've penetrated their defences at which point you need to bombard them with as many explosives as possible. Are they challenging? Not really, their defeat is inevitable, you'll only find yourself in trouble if they manage to hit you, which is a problem because most of the bosses only need to hit you once to strip your ego away.
One good thing about the game, for movie and game trivia fans at least, are the vast amount of references that have been thrown into the single player campaign. You'll see and indeed hear nods to films like Predator, Commando, Army Of Darkness, 300, Eraser, Pulp Fiction, Team America, Highlander, and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, in addition to the gaming references which include shout outs to Halo, Valve Puzzle games (so Portal & Portal 2), Donkey Kong, Dead Space, and Mortal Kombat.
Once you've completed the game you'll unlock several extras that range from screenshots taken between 1999 and 2003, a development timeline from May 1996 to June 2011, a sound board where you can select and play Duke's lines, and a load of videos related to the game, which I suppose isn't all that bad.
The multiplayer is chaotic to say the least, as people scrabble around to find explosive weaponry like the RPG and the Devastator to turn each other into steaming piles of meat, which means that it's firepower you'll be needing rather than any skill. Finally, the customisation of your online character and your digs is pretty basic and I lost interest in the process remarkably quickly.
It's a real shame because Duke Nukem Forever could have been an amazing return for an iconic video games character, but instead we've got another bland shooter that lacks any wow factor whatsoever and is stuck so far in the past you'll assume you've taken a trip to the 90s in Doc Brown's DeLorean whilst playing it. This is an especially big problem when you consider the length of development because after all this time the game really needed to blow us all away, instead of feeling like the developers just contested defeat with it and decided to churn it out now rather than never. Looking at the year ahead and the months that are already behind us, I can safely say that this one'll probably be the most disappointing game I'll get my hands on, and I can't wait to trade it in for either Child Of Eden or Alice: Madness Returns next week.
- Loads of film and game references
- You get to step into Duke's shoes again
- It'll occasionally put a smile on your face
- The aiming is awful
- There isn't a cover system
- It feels incredibly dated
The Short Version: Unfortuntely, it's definitely not worth the wait!