Home Reviews Entertainment Review: Duke Nukem Forever - 15 years wait for this?

Review: Duke Nukem Forever - 15 years wait for this?

dukenukemforeverNo longer vapourware, Duke Nukem Forever is finally available on shelves, but rather than a catch-cry of 'Hail to the King', many purchasers will be decrying 'Fail to the King!'


Apart from this opening paragraph I will refrain from using the phrase 'in this day and age', but the reality is that you could tack the term in during many parts of this review, see if you can spot where. 

We have been waiting a long time (close on fifteen years) for the Duke to make a [proper] comeback after the seminal Duke Nukem 3D introduced us to Mr Nuekem's less than PC ways during a more innocent period of video game development.

Being and on-again, off-again project, the intervening time has been a mix of tragedy and triumph for the passionate people behind the project.  The games development has been hand-balled between teams, publishers and financiers and unfortunately, the end result seems to be tragedy.

It was the most likely outcome though; a game that began life where the character and game-play were well known, the elapsed time has seen the potential audience for the single tongue-in-cheek joke that is the Duke move on.  Fans of the original have matured, and quite frankly so has the tastes of the new generation legally allowed to buy Duke Nukem Forever.

Even with a nostalgic eye, it is hard not to be offended by Duke Nukem Forever.  We get the joke, we understand that we are not supposed to take this seriously, but it is more than the objectifying of women and toilet humour that - though providing a link to the Dukes heritage - lets the game down [insert phrase here].

DNF contains a number of game-play elements that just don't cut it [insert phrase here].  Graphically the game oscillates between ok and very bad.  Textures contain little to no detail, pop-in is evident constantly (Xbox 360 version), water effects are non-existent, enemy death animations are truly dragged from the beginning of the century and shadowing is atrocious. 

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There are classic Duke touches,  mutant pig cop enemies, the shrink ray, humiliation finishing moves, Ego as a shield, pinball, shuffleboard, pool tables and [ahem] strippers as interactive objects within the rather short levels, but all in all this is a forgettable shooter by comparison to current releases. 

The in game weapons are a notch above average with plenty of pistol, RPG and shotgun action for the majority of the game but with a holoduke, freeze and shrink ray thrown in for needed variety.  Enemy AI is not much to write home about, and apart from the occasional roll the aliens that Duke must fight are a lamentable bunch, shooting into the cover or easily lured into a choke point for systematic slaughter.  Only occasionally will they make use of pipe-bombs to attempt to flush Duke from his hidey hole.

Graphical bugs permeate the course of the single player game, and the load times for levels or post Duke death on the Xbox 360 version are ridiculously slow.  (PC is ok, we haven't looked at the PS3 version, I suspect the Bluray version would be even slower than the DVD9 Xbox 360 drive).

Maybe I have no sense of humour; Dukes wisecracks would be kind of funny if we hadn't heard them all before.  A couple of fresh ones such as when Duke is manipulating some steam pipes and says 'Ohhh valve puzzles, I hate valve puzzles', were funny for their audacity.  Valve, the developers of Halflife and Portal amongst others do shooters a hundred times better than this release.

Drinking beer and taking steroids does not make you tough.  Slapping boobs and otherwise objectifying females is just not acceptable [insert phrase here], regardless of being issued under the guise of bloke humour. 

Nope, if the Duke turned up to a night club in 2011, he just wouldn't be allowed in, not in those clothes and not smoking a cigar.  Unfortunately, Gearbox Software, with many a great game under their belt (Brothers in Arms, Borderlands) have been tainted by taking on this project, and perhaps we would have all been better off continuing the Duke in the form of a vapourware joke.

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.