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Forever is finally here, after 14 years of delays and poking fun at both the
studio and the game itself, you can finally play Duke Nukem Forever. The
question that I imagine people want answered the most is whether or not the
game has been worth the wait, the short answer would be a resounding "No" and
more importantly, the game is just plain bad across all fronts. I’m sorry to
say that what follows is not going to be easy to read if you were hoping that
this game would deliver on over two generations of promises.
Let’s get the story element out of the way first, it is basically exactly the same as in Duke Nukem 3D. Aliens have invaded Earth and only Duke Nukem can stop them. Armed with nothing but guns, beer and random, referential one liners, you’ll battle your way through several different locations fighting the same four or five enemies over and over again for around seven hours or so. Granted this isn’t a game that you come to expecting a compelling story, but at the very least it should be entertaining. The campaign just feels like a chore that you’re completing to inflate the ego of Duke himself and substantiate the apparent claims of the developers that all the out-dated mechanics that are present aren’t precisely that. The character of Duke Nukem seems as if he is constantly trying to convince you that the game you’re playing is awesome and that this style of shooter is still relevant. It seems as though far too much effort has been put into having Duke Nukem assure you that the game is good, rather than the actual game doing so.
That brings me to the biggest problem with the mechanics of the game, everything just feels so clunky and unresponsive, this certainly isn’t helped by the terrible frame rate either. Aiming feels incredibly sluggish and the enemies are just plain boring to shoot at, Duke’s arsenal has been toned down heavily also. You can only carry two weapons along with pipe bombs and mines, which are essentially your grenades. A vast arsenal is one of the most defining aspects old shooters, and Duke Nukem Forever is constantly drowning you in these older features, so why leave out the one thing that would make the shooting more enjoyable? I must emphasise though, being able to hold more weapons would not even begin to fix the problems this game has at the core of its shooting. Chief among the aforementioned old school mechanics are jumping sections, which are pretty notorious in shooters for being bad and have stopped appearing in recent games for a reason. The most frustrating of these are the sections where you are shrunk down and must navigate death trap filled areas with what has to be some of most awkward jumping mechanics that I have ever seen.
One of the many, many turret sections in the game, this one doesn't completely suck though.
There are also
plenty of bland turret sections to be found in the campaign, these are the
sections that really highlight how bad the game looks. There just doesn’t seem
to be any substance attached to them, they’re just thrown in for the sake of
having them. Another, truly awful aspect of the game in the later stages are
underwater sections. These are by the far the most frustrating parts of the
game, the collision for everything when underwater is horrendous, you will
constantly be bumping into invisible walls and getting stuck on objects.
The monster truck sections aren’t as bad the rest, it’s actually really fun to plough through enemies and watch their bodies be propelled sky high. All of these out-dated and half-hearted mechanics come together in a way that makes the game feel so disorganised on a development level. There has been no effort put into pacing or considering how to get the player from one bland, awkward encounter to the next and it really grates on you after a few hours.
Environment interaction is a big part of the game, using certain objects will increase your ego, which is your shield in battle and there are more than enough to keep you searching. Unfortunately, that’s about all there is to find, there are very few opportunities to explore and even when there is, there’s nothing to find. Yet again, this is another aspect that would be expected to be in a Duke Nukem game and is absent here with no good reason.
See, it's not just me. Even Duke himself can't think of any reasons
multiplayer is plagued by the same gameplay issues as the single player, the
sluggish shooting just makes everything feel random. There’s never a real sense
of out-playing your enemy or vice versa, especially if you happen to wielding
the extremely broken shrink ray. Add to this the fact that the majority of maps
areunbalanced and you have a multiplayer mode
that offers a level of quality that isn’t anywhere near what you have come to
expect from the genre.
I was holding a little hope for Duke Nukem Forever, I must admit. Even after all the warning signs of the demo I was hoping for at least a good shooter and if not, an entertaining one. I am sorry to say that Duke is just a very poor quality game that doesn’t even come close to the standards that are expected for its genre, or games in general. Duke Nukem Forever isn’t even a good game by 14 year old standards, it doesn’t consider the evolution of first person shooters over the course of its development and it seems oddly proud of that fact throughout. Unless you have to really (and I mean really) satisfy whatever curiosity you have left over, there is no reason to pick it up. Whether you measure it by a game that took 14 years or 14 months to make, Duke Nukem Forever is a very poor quality game that isn’t worth your time or money.