Duke Nukem Forever Review

PLATFORM: Xbox 360
Triptych Studios/Piranha Games/
Gearbox Software
ESRB: Mature
MULTIPLAYER: up to 8 online
RELEASED: 6/14/2011

If you’ve been a gamer since the early 90’s, you’re probably familiar with the egotistical badass known as Duke Nukem.  If you haven’t, then you’ve probably at least heard of the new Duke Nukem game and are wondering why there is so much buzz surrounding it.  After a 14-year hiatus in development hell spanning three console generations, Gearbox Software has finally done the impossible.  Gearbox Software has finally recieved the rights to Duke Nukem and has finally finished development on Duke Nukem Forever.  Duke Nukem Forever picks up after the events of Duke’s last adventure Duke Nukem 3D, which released on the Sony PlayStation in 1996.  Duke has saved the world from the perverted alien race abducting earth’s chicks and has now become somewhat of a celebrity hero.  However, this celebration of Nukem’s heroics is cut short when the aliens return to earth once again to impregnate the women of earth. 


     The introduction of Duke Nukem Forever starts out relatively slowly. Most of the early moments in the game wallows in Duke Nukem’s past achievements by having groan-inducing conversations with fans of Duke.  The dialogue is intended to be funny with Duke’s egotistical charm and some are worth a chuckle. However, most of the jokes fall flat and are generally not very funny.  This brings me to the voice acting, which is actually quite terrible.  Its great that they brought back the original voice actor for Duke Nukem, but his one-liners will make you wonder why the developer’s tried so hard to be funny.  If you can excuse the developer’s attempts at humor, the action more than makes up for it.  Once the alien-invasion kicks in, Duke Nukem Forever becomes somewhat enjoyable.  The weapons are fun and responsive which range from your typical military gear to advanced alien weaponry.  I had a blast blowing away aliens with twin arm-cannons and shrinking enemies with the shrink-ray.  Duke is also able to use power-ups such as beer and steroids, which increase Duke’s offense and defenses.  These power ups are essential, especially since the latter of the game can become quite difficult.  While playing Duke Nukem Forever, you will die multiple times.  This is partly due to the lack of cover and the slow regeneration of health.  Dying multiple times wouldn’t be so bad if the load times weren’t so painfully long!  I figured installing the game onto the hard drive on my Xbox would reduce the problem but I barely noticed any difference at all. 


     There are a variety of alien baddies to blast throughout the 8-12 hour campaign.   Some of the aliens you encounter are classic revamped models from Duke Nukem 3D such as the pig cops. There are also others that are new to the series and just as deadly.  The only problem with the enemies in Duke Nukem Forever is their Artificial Intelligence.  The enemy AI in Duke Nukem Forever isn’t very intelligent, and that’s just putting it mildly.  Some enemies’ just charge right at you and avoid cover all together, while others just stand in one spot and fire.  Enemies don’t work together or even try to flank your position. Some enemy character animations are also laughably stiff and robotic in nature.  The real highlights though are the boss battles encountered throughout Duke Nukem Forever. When encountering one of these huge beasts, you often have the chance to humiliate it before it dies.  Boss battles are fun and some are more challenging than others.  However, most of these boss encounters are limited to strafing back and forth while dodging bullets and collecting ammo when you can.  Duke Nukem Forever’s gameplay isn’t always just running and gunning down aliens.  There are definitely some much needed action sequences sprinkled throughout the lengthy campaign such as driving a small RC car around a destroyed building or driving a monster truck off cliffs and broken freeways.  There are also a couple of puzzles thrown in, but nothing really special.  These sections help add some variety to the overall experience.


     The visuals in Duke Nukem Forever are definitely not it’s strongest selling point.  In other words, the game looks horribly dated when compared to other recent releases.  This is especially noticeable when you get close to a wall or enemy.  There is simply not enough detail and most surfaces look fuzzy or just plain ugly.  The environments and character models could have used much more polish.  Although the graphics are not intolerable, they will definitely distract graphic whores from the overall experience.  In addition, Duke Nukem Forever suffers from poor game design choices that might have been revolutionary for their time but cannot hold their own today.  Who here remembers having to swim underwater and waiting by an area releasing bubbles just to catch their breath?  How was that even possible?  There’s also a valve puzzle in the game where Duke states, “I hate valve puzzles”.  Me too Duke.  Me too… Duke Nukem also sports a multiplayer mode for up to 8-players which is playable online, but it’s offerings won’t hold your attention for too long. 


     It seems the developer’s wanted to stay a little too close to the source material for Duke Nukem Forever.  The humor and game design might have fit perfectly in the 90’s but the same just can’t be said today.  Gearbox Software really had a chance to reinvent an icon from gaming’s past and bring Duke to a new generation.  Sadly though, Gearbox Software failed to do so by delivering a game that feels somewhat unfinished.  Duke Nukem Forever seems like it was intended for those of us who grew up playing his games in the 90’s.  While others who are experiencing Duke Nukem for the first time will wonder what the big deal was about these games to begin with.  That’s a shame too because I enjoyed Duke Nukem Forever for what it was—A mindless yet fun shooter with its fair share of flaws.  Duke Nukem Forever is not a terrible game and by no means is it a very good game, but fans of Duke’s past will be pleased to see the “King” back on next generation consoles.  Duke Nukem Forever will appeal to fans of the series but for the rest of us, we’ll just have to wait for the inevitable sequel.-Steven Chapa

Score: 6/10

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