Duke Nukem Forever
It seems unbelievable that people would wait 12 years to get their hands on a sequel to, well, anything. And yet fans of Guns N Roses waited for Chinese Democracy, fans of Indiana Jones waited even longer for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For gamers, Duke Nukem Forever is their Chinese Democracy. Now it is finally on the shelves and in our faces, was 12 years too long to wait or was it worth every second?
From the moment the game begins, it is like nothing has changed. Duke is still the beer swilling, trash talking, babe loving muscle head that he was back in the 90s. For those who haven’t played the game before, imagine Rambo with a sense of humour and a love of strip clubs. Set in Las Vegas, in a time where Duke single handedly saved the planet from Alien-pig monsters, everything appears to be going swimmingly. That is until the aliens return wanting revenge, and this time they kick Duke where it hurts – they have come for the babes!
Not one for sitting back and taking it, The Duke sets off on a rampage to save the world and the babes once again. Duke Nukem Forever continues the first person shooting dynamic as seen in Duke Nukem 3D. As with any modern game of this genre, the control system is key and while the Duke has a similar layout to other FPS games, they feel too unresponsive and slow to use. Reloading takes so long that it is a distinct possibility that Duke will be on the floor dead than being able to finish off a nasty alien.
Clumsy controls aren’t the Duke’s only problem either. He has to contend will an uninspired environment that looks as old time itself. Outside in Vegas, the post alien invasion scenery is an array of grey concrete and grey buildings with a few upside down cars. Inside things do not get much better. Dark and gloomy corridors look flat and boring as there is nothing to interact with. If a painting is shot, a grey bullet hole appears, instead of exploding into a million pieces. It feels as if no attention to detail was carried out when putting the game together.
It isn’t all bad though, Duke Nukem Forever does have redeeming features. The health system that has been built into the game is a touch of genius. Rather than relying on health, Duke relies on his “Ego” to save the day. When hit, his Ego takes a bruising. If it gets hit enough, then he will die. However, Ego can be gained by interacting with items such as looking in a mirror or killing the boss at the end of a level. This presents a style that only Duke Nukem can pull off.
Furthering Duke’s style is that it’s not just blasting aliens in the face with a big gun, no. Throughout the game, players are advised to conserve ammo and use melee attacks instead. While presenting more of a challenge, this means there aren’t any of those annoying moments where Duke is cornered by a big son of a gun because he wasted all his ammo on the smaller and insignificant Alien scum.
Getting to the action is another problem encountered when playing Duke Nukem Forever. The game has severe loading issues. Each level is typically broken down into 3 parts with a boss at the end of it. The loading times between each part is appalling as it takes a good couple of minutes to load. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the levels were huge and open, but they are not. Also, if killed in battle, the game will reset back to the last checkpoint but will have to load the entire part again, so gamers are kept waiting. There are interesting facts about the game to keep players occupied but this does little to calm the frustration of seeing yet another loading screen.
The length of the levels may seem linear but The Duke does a lot to keep occupied. The classic one liners such as “Good, Bad, I’m the guy with the gun” Or “It’s time to kick some ass” are all back and it is nice to be hearing them once again. Other new features include beer swilling, which makes Duke more durable and less susceptible to damage. Steroids increases the strength of melee attacks. The negative side to taking drugs and drinking beer is that the screen does blur and makes it harder to focus the attacks. The Holoduke is a more comical weapon. When activated, a holographic Duke will appear and draw attention away from the real Duke. This is especially handy when fighting a big gaggle of aliens as the real Duke becomes invisible. Holoduke does have the same one liners in a robotic voice but does tend to fluff them. It doesn’t affect anything, it’s just humorous to watch.
That is the thing with Duke Nukem Forever, it is a fun title in the sense it’s Duke’s humour and even after 12 years, the slightly sexist vibe in the game is still funny and brings the old saying to mind: “the don’t make them like they used to.” However the rest of the game proves why they don’t make games like this any more. It is unfortunately an average game. The level design and control system is something that would have worked 12 years ago on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox. But in 2011 gamers demand tighter controls, bigger levels and less loading to have more fun. 12 years ago, I would have had no doubt that this would have set the standard of First Person Shooting games. But it just appears dated and boring. It does however have a few moments of pure joy, the one liners, the gags and the story are all good but they are counter balanced by the negative. If there is a follow up, Duke should learn a lesson from this outing: don’t stay away too long so that next time it will be a more relevant and appealing attempt.