There were, of course, haters that I saw coming a goddamn MILE away, like every third commenter on every gaming blog, Kevin VanOrd from Gamespot, who I’ve always kind of disagreed with, and Jim Sterling from Destructoid, who constantly wavers between destructively incompetent and profoundly inept, while still managing to douche it up no matter where on his sliding scale of unawareness he is.
For the record, if you don’t care about my problem with these reviews, just scroll down to the picture of the “Duke of Newcombe”. You’ll know which one.
Point is, these people all seemed to make the same mistake (except Kevin VanOrd, who described the game quite accurately, then gave it a much lower rating than his description warranted). They thought that Duke was supposed to be taken seriously. I don’t know WHY this was the thought, but it appeared to be. I guess it’s just been decided that unless a game actively mocks the stupid character, then the idea was for you to idolize and love that character. This is, in a word, asinine. Duke Nukem is obviously an asshole. The fact that he’s in a world where his ridiculous actions are not only accepted, but celebrated, simply serves to highlight this point. The game works much better as satire when you take it as satire. It doesn’t work when you think that satire has to claim that it is satire. The finest satire has masqueraded as legitimate, serious work. Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Is Duke Nukem on the same level as these? OF COURSE NOT. Being satire does not restrict it from also being extremely juvenile. But the numerous reviewers that have lambasted it for not “properly” mocking the character’s chauvinistic attitude and ultra violent behavior misidentify the nature of the work. We are not meant to agree with Duke Nukem, or even scoff at just him. We are meant to disregard his entire world as idiots. They must be. They look up to Duke Nukem.
The first part is kind of neat. It’s an update of the end of Duke Nukem 3D, done with tech that was modern in 2007. It is here that we first encounter a problem. You are treated to an interactive urinal, or so it seems. You can hold R1 to pee (for a ludicrous amount of time, I might add), but that’s about it. What, I can’t aim? You could do that in Postal 2 for god’s sake. Whatever. I’ll just turn around and…wow. This game looks like recycled textures from Doom 3. Not good. I can see myself in a mirror though. I should try jumping or something.
Oh god. That looks bad.
First glaring flaw. When Duke jumps, he’s got his arms at his sides. Other than the movement of his legs, which is more of a tuck then a jump, he doesn’t move. At all. He jumps into the air without moving his upper body in any way, shape or form. Also, he looks like shit.
Oh well, forget all this. Forget the fact that throwing poop, while amusing, adds nothing but a knowledge that texture and paint effects are also garbage here. Forget all of that. I’ll just go get the Devastator and kill the Cycloid Emperor. Hell yeah. Okay, now it’s loading.
Oh dear god.
The load screens are RIDICULOUS. Like, average of 40-45 seconds per load screen. It’s just awful. This is going to get old FAST.
Now, I won’t journal the rest of the game, because it’s pretty long. Lets get down to business. Core mechanics. These are not great. They’re not bad, just not great. Two weapon limit, which flies in the face of Duke tradition. Limited sprint that doesn’t show a meter for when it’s going to run out and how long it recharges for. Jumping, as a mechanic, is bad. Like, “I’m constantly drunk and on ice” bad. Bosses can only be hurt by turrets and explosives, which sucks, especially since the RPG holds 5 rounds and it’s easy to miss, even with the auto-lock. And I’m not super huge on iron sights, they’re not that important to have in your game, but the zoom function sucks ass. It doesn’t make it that much easier to shoot, and the guns are inaccurate as all hell.
We already know the graphics are bad, but how bad are they? Just…bad. REAL bad. “Shouldn’t be in this generation” bad. Textures look fuzzy, the terrible depth of field effect is made worse by the fact that it’s prone to just not working. Character animation is atrocious. The gibs that enemies explode into look like rejects from Fallout 3, a game not widely praised for character graphics. Simply put, I don’t know what Gearbox was doing when they polished this game, but they didn’t do it right.
Voice acting is…fine, actually. Jon St. John returns as Duke Nukem, and he does a bang up job at it. Wish I could say the same about the writing. The references he makes are all at least a couple years old. Plus, they’re not references to underground cult movies, but things like “300” or the upcoming “Christian Bale Is A Huge Asshole”, based on Christian Bale being a huge asshole. Duke Nukem 3D rewarded you for being familiar with the unfamiliar. Duke Nukem Forever feels like it would give you a wedgie for it. And yes, I know there are some “obscure” references made, like Commando and that one GI Joe Youtube video, but seriously? Those are old and no one cares. Plus he says them ALL THE DAMN TIME AND THEY STOP BEING FUNNY AT ALL. If Duke is going to run his mouth the whole game, write more then 10 things for him to say.
Level design is a strong meh. Uninspired and bland for the most part, there is one part that was clearly a Half Life 2 reference, but other than that, the whole thing was just pedestrian. It wasn’t impressive.
Was it fun? Yes. I enjoyed myself, and that’s where this game picks up some points. For all my complaints about it, I still had fun. The game usually threw just enough enemies to keep me on my toes, but not so many that I got overrun. USUALLY. There were some times when I got swamped by Octabrains, and one time in particular where I got SWARMED by them in three waves with no cover. That sucked. The Octaking boss fight sucked because he kept blowing away your cover and you couldn’t consciously avoid his attacks, only apparently getting lucky once in a while. Also, in keeping with video game tradition, EVERYTHING underwater sucked. It wasn’t fun, the combat was shitty and imprecise, you never have enough health, bullets or air, and it was boring as shit. But the game had enough simple shooting that, as a whole, I’d give the core shooting and killing aspect about a 6.5.
But how is the whole package? All together, it was astoundingly okay. It was about what I expected. A game that feels dated, looks dated and acts dated. It is, for all intents and purposes, an old game. Hell, the game was technically finished in 2009. And it stopped making tech advances in 2006. Frankly, it’s a miracle it even exists. Would I suggest it? If you played Duke Nukem 3D, yes. It’s worth it just to close the long, horrible chapter of life it represents. Otherwise, rent it. It’s still worth a playthrough, despite all the flaws. I got the special edition and I don’t regret it one bit. I’m just looking forward to seeing where Gearbox takes it.