Duke Nukem Forever Review
It goes without saying that Duke Nukem Forever is an old game with a few new layers of paint slapped on for good measure — that’s how it goes when you’ve been working on a game for 14 years. Because of that, DNF feels like a legit throwback to the era of 90s PC shooters, and that’s absolutely a good thing.
Pacing is a lost art in current-generation shooters — few of them have any sense of pace whatsoever. Most of the time the games we call shooters these days are 5-10 hours of shooting shooting shooting with only cutscenes to break up the action, but DNF is a product of a time when shooters also had puzzles, when making it difficult for the player to figure out where to go next was an important part of game design.
Duke Nukem Forever (XBox360 [Reviewed], PS3, PC)
Developer: Triptych Games / 3D Realms
Publisher: 2K Games / Gearbox Software
Release Date: June 14, 2011
DNF is a brilliantly paced shooter by those ancient standards, and thanks to that it’s a game that lends itself to playing in long sittings. Just when it feels like all the shooting is getting a bit tiring, it’ll break up the action with a simple puzzle or a level in which you do nothing more than wander through an area. Sometimes you’ll get to drive a car. Or dick around in a strip club. It’s a game that never becomes exhausting.
The core gameplay, too, feels very old school. Duke is fast, even when not sprinting, the weapons have no recoil, it takes a couple shotgun blasts to kill the bad guys and the best cover is running around in circles and hoping the bad guys miss. The whole time I was playing I felt like it was 1997 all over again, even with a regenerating health system.
Not every old-school aspect of the game is good; human animations are hilariously stiff in a 90s kind of way, and all character models looks like they’ve just been retextured a half dozen times. Sometimes they look fine, and sometimes not so much.
DNF is being sold more on its “other” stuff than it is on gameplay. Yeah, it’s a shooter, but it’s not just a shooter. It’s a shooter with attitude, man. To be honest, most of the “extra” stuff fell pretty flat for me. Duke quoting movies gets old quickly — and I know he says other things but nothing else he says it memorable in the least — and watching women be ditzy isn’t funny unless you’re gonna be really clever with it — there’s nothing clever about it here.
There is an inspired moment here and there, though. There’s the part where some random soldier calls a friend a pussy for caring about the fate of his wife in the midst of the alien invasion. And there’s the visit to a glory hole, which is the only real “push the envelope” moment in the game. And it’s kinda awesome that you can stop for a pee break every time you find a bathroom. In general, though, the game isn’t very funny, but thankfully it isn’t cringe-worthy — it’s mostly shrug-worthy.
I really, really want to call the game out for depicting every woman as either an idiot or a stripper, but it treats men just as poorly, with every guy you encounter in the game being an over-the-top moron asshole. The game takes place in a heightened reality that only superficially resembles our own, so those depictions are, I guess, acceptable in the pursuit of humor.
That goes for the single-player campaign, only. I’m still uncomfortable with the Capture the Babe CTF online mode, really even more so after actually playing that mode. It’s not really funny and toes the line in a way that is just unnecessary.
Online in general is fun but slight, more of a fragfest than anything, with the maps often being too small to promote real strategy. I also found online games to be a bit unstable; my ping tended to be much higher than in other games, and occasionally I’d find a game that was so laggy as to feel broken. You can call that a consequence of not using dedicated servers, but I won’t — many other games use hosts instead of dedicated servers, and I rarely find games as problematic as those I found right off the bat in DNF.
Multiplayer is just a diversion anyway, and the campaign is the main attraction here. I’m honestly tempted to not even factor in the multiplayer into the final score.
One last complaint: the campaign is a solid challenge at times, which becomes quite annoying when each death is punctuated by a 30-45 second load before you can get back into the action. Loads that long are not acceptable in any context, and particularly not when reloading a checkpoint.
In all, I had a great time playing DNF, and I kinda hope they don’t bother making another Duke Nukem game after this, because the Duke character is pretty lame. Now that this game has finally been completed and released, let’s move on and put these guys on a new IP that they can work their old school magic on, because that’s where Duke Nukem Forever really shines.
Old school gameplay is wonderful
That rare well paced shooter
Humor mostly falls flat, and Duke Nukem is not a good character
Stupid long loading screens