Monday, July 25, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Review: It's a Game

Duke Nukem ForeverAfter a pitched battle early in Duke Nukem Forever, our hero shouts "I am the duke! I am A-number one!" That gets a thumbs-up from me because it's a quote from Escape from New York. For you youngsters out there, that's only the best movie ever made.

In fact, several of Duke's post-combat ejaculations made me chuckle for a moment.

Thus ends the positive portion of this review.

For a game that spent fourteen years in development hell, Duke Nukem Forever feels strangely rushed and, in the end, not worth the wait. None of its elements feel up to modern standards, and the end result is a mediocre first-person shooter.

Needless to say, you play as Duke Nukem, a steroid-addled meathead who is nonetheless well-equipped to repel an invasion of pig-like aliens. You solve a few puzzles, admire yourself a lot, and shoot your way through waves of aliens with a variety of weapons.

Duke Nukem Forever adds a few modern elements to its classic first-person shooter gameplay. For example, it features regenerating health ("ego" in the game), so no foraging for health packs. And you can only carry two weapons at a time.

Surprisingly, the game features a lot of puzzle-solving. This makes for a welcome break from the combat, but the limited physics engine and the clunky interaction you have with your environment often make this aspect of the game frustrating rather than fun.

Beyond that, it's very old school: fight your way through a level, kill the boss, repeat. The enemies look sharper than they did 14 years ago (though not as good as many other games), but that's about the only difference.

Unfortunately, it also suffers from old school problems as well. Duke often gets stuck trying to walk through a doorway with allies, for example. And don't get me started about the unconscionably long load times... 

But Duke's all about the attitude, right? Fair enough. Duke Nukem 3D was essentially a Doom clone with dick jokes and misogyny thrown into the mix.

Those were the days...
Duke Nukem Forever throws down the gross-humor gauntlet from the very beginning, opening on Duke's frothy stream of piss splashing into a urinal, and it never really lets up (until you press a button to stop it! Ba-dump-bump!). You increase your ego by admiring yourself in the mirror or stopping at the weight bench, and you take steroids and drink beer for combat boosts. All the while, the dick and tit jokes never really stop.

I'm not above all that. I liked the humor in Bulletstorm for the most part. This just didn't do it for me.

It would be churlish to complain about the game's immature sense of humor. The developers clearly were aiming to piss off people who didn't get it. And sometimes they hit the mark and made me chuckle. For the most part, though, I've grown out of the demographic they're aiming for in the past 14 years.

In better times...
However, one level takes the humor to a weirdly dark place. In an underground, visceral alien lair, Duke runs into several "babes" who had been kidnapped and impregnated by aliens. Duke has to kill them before horrible monsters erupt from their bellies. You had last seen these girls giggling and giving Duke (unseen) two-girl blow jobs; now he's euthanizing them. Then he goes on to slap giant breast-like growths on the walls for ego points and to fight an end boss with three giant breasts.


Duke Nukem Forever presents the welcome return of a beloved obnoxious icon, but it doesn't give him a worthy platform to urinate stand on.

Pros: Juvenile humor, and plenty of it; old-school FPS action.

Cons: Mediocre, glitchy gameplay; uninspired enemies; long load times.

Verdict: Skip it. Or if nostalgia gets the better of you, wait a year until you can pick it up for half price.

* * *
Check out more Shame Pile reviews, if you're so inclined.