Duke Nukem Forever Xbox 360
Part of me didn’t want to review Duke Nukem Forever, I don’t know what I was thinking when I volunteered for the job. The game has been so long in the making it passed in to legend, there’s no way the finished product could ever live up to the legacy it has earned.
The first, and probably most important to some people, thing I have to say is that technically it’s not good. Anybody who was expecting some revolutionary new shooter is going to be seriously disappointed and should just walk away now. This was never going to be that game, and anybody who thought otherwise was just kidding themselves. It’s a twelve year old game that’s had a bit of work done now and again, and it just doesn’t match up to games being released these days, not technically anyway.
Technical performance isn’t everything though, I could list a number of recent games that were technically excellent, but no fun whatsoever. To me fun is far more important than quick loading times, a consistent frame rate or realistic character models. Duke Nukem Forever may suffer in the areas I just mentioned, but it is fun, and lots of it if you are willing to overlook its technical issues.
The game starts in typical Duke fashion, with a big fuck off boss battle – not a tough one, they’re saved for later – but something to give you a taste of what’s to come. Take the big fella down, and kick his eyeball across the stadium for a field goal and you’re treated with a little twist. None of it was real, it was just the Duke playing his new game that he’d been waiting twelve years for. The game certainly isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself, as well as plenty of other big gaming franchises, and shows a character and humour that is so often lacking in games these days.
Following the self referential intro there is a lull in the action to set the story up. And it’s as big a cliché as the Duke himself, the aliens are back, but this time the President is attempting a peaceful outcome through diplomacy, like that’s ever going to work. Meanwhile the Duke is all set to appear on the biggest chat show in town, an appearance that is cancelled right at the last minute because the aliens have kicked off. Now the Duke is pissed, those aliens have not only ruined his big night, but they are kidnapping all the worlds women too, not a smart move.
So, it’s straight back to the action for the Duke, time to save the world, and more importantly its women. For the most part the game is some good old fashioned run and gun gameplay, quite linear, but there is a little exploration to be done. And exploration is a must really, not just to find objects to solve some of the games puzzles, but to find the many ‘ego’ objects that you can interact with. There’s loads of these littered throughout the game, from pinball machines to girly mags, all of which give you a little ‘ego’ boost when you use them.
This brings us to one of the concessions to the modern shooter that has been added to the game, instead of a health bar the Duke has his ‘ego’. This acts as a recharging shield, and whilst it’s appropriate for the Duke to use his ‘ego’ as a shield, and clever that it would actually be something that would replenish by not being shot, it detracts slightly from the old school feel of the game. Another concession to modern gameplay is a limitation on how many weapons the Duke can carry, two is just not enough. The Duke Nukem franchise has some of the best weapons in a game ever, it seems silly to put a limit on them.
These don’t hurt the game too much though, and it retains most of its old school feel. It would have been nice if they were features you could switch on and off in favour of the traditional schemes instead of making them mandatory. But I guess they have to do something to appease fans of more modern shooters, we should be thankful these are the only things they’ve changed really.
There’s quite a bit of variety to the gameplay other then the obvious shooting and puzzles. You’ll also find some first person platforming thrown in to the mix at points, and unlike some games of yesteryear it works quite well here. There’s also vehicles to drive to break things up a bit, which act as a nice change of pace if you’re jumping canyons in a monster truck, or running over aliens in a fork lift. Boss battles are of course plenty, and varied, with the aliens throwing some massive monsters at you. It all makes for a nice blend of gameplay that never gets stale along the way, and leaves you feeling nicely satisfied when it all comes to an end.
When the story is over and the world is saved there’s always multiplayer to add a few more hours of fun, and it is as old school as it gets. There’s nothing fancy, just Duke themed versions of the standard deathmatch, king of the hill and capture the flag, no silly perks system or anything like that. You do score points to unlock extra hats, glasses and vest for your Duke character model, and levelling up adds furniture to Dukes digs for you, but other than that it’s pure vintage FPS action. Sadly the online engine isn’t what it could be, and you will occasionally end up with really bad lag or get thrown out of games, but it could be worse.
I don’t think anyone who had realistic expectations about Duke Nukem Forever will be disappointed with what we’ve finally gotten. It’s not brilliant, but it is a good solid old school shooter, which feels like its predecessor. I just hope this isn’t the last we’ve heard from the Duke, and that we won’t have to wait so long next time.