6 / 10 banzai!s
This simple first-person shooter has, in fact, quite a long history!
Following the success of Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, 3D Realms announced that a sequel was in development. Two years later, a trailer for Duke Nukem Forever was revealed at a 1998 E3 press conference. Just as the hype was growing, news of a release date faded. It wasn’t until 2007 when 3D Realms released a new teaser for Duke Nukem Forever. Then in 2009, the developer was downsized for financial reasons, slowing down its progress on the Duke Nukem sequel. As a result, Take-Two Interactive – who owned the publishing rights – sued 3D Realms for not completing the game they’d promised. As a result, Gearbox Software took over the project, with 2K as the new publisher. Finally, after 14 years, the game hit the shelves in June of 2011. Wow.
So what was the end result of this mess? A very mediocre shooter which scored average ratings of 50% across most online game magazines.
What I Liked About It:
Despite what many other reviewers said, I didn’t have any trouble with the controls. Mind you, back when I played Duke Nukem 3D, I was using the arrow keys on a keyboard and hitting the space bar to shoot. But I found the controls in Forever fluid enough that they didn’t inhibit the game.
Some of the “puzzles” were inventive. For example, driving a remote control truck through a maze of shelves to reach a battery, in order to push it through a small opening where you could reach it. Or positioning a statue of yourself to climb and reach the upper level of a room.
I also found some of the shrinking segments amusing, such as running around a hamburger shop, hopping on buns sizzling over a stove while shooting shrunken aliens and dodging splatters of mustard and ketchup.
Duke Nukem himself is an over-the-top caricature of those muscle-bound, Go-America type heros from films of the eighties. And where would he be without those Schwarzenegger-like one-liners? While some of them might make your eyes roll, a few were quite funny. “Guess he won’t be in the sequel,” he says, after a soldier gives him a long deathbed speech. “Time to kick some ass and chew bubblegum…and I’m all outta bubblegum!”
Well, maybe you have to hear the lines in context.
What I Didn’t Like About It:
The biggest problem I had – which many other reviews also stated – was the overall redundancy of the game. It’s a first-person shooter, but there are many moments in which you’re just running down empty hallways and turning corners, with nothing to shoot at. Compared to, say, Uncharted which was also a combination of shooting and puzzles, they alternated between the two fairly. In fact, whenever you weren’t solving a puzzle, you had to watch your step – because each new area brought enemies with deadly weapons and explosives. But in Duke Nukem Forever, it felt like walking through an empty hallway and climbing some ladders was meant to be a stage in itself – because there were so many stages where that’s all you did. In fact, except for a single boss, you don’t shoot anything until level 3! Why? It’s a first-person shooter. I wanna shoot stuff!
The other serious issue I had was the loading time. And Oh-My-God, let me tell you about the loading time! It takes 42.4 seconds to load each scene (yeah, I timed it) and 38.9 seconds to reload the checkpoint each time you die. Maybe that doesn’t seem long, but each individual stage is pretty short. And when you’re playing on Insane mode, you’ll be dying a lot. Which means, almost half of your game play will be waiting for the damn thing to load! So make sure you’ve got a book handy to read.
Some of the dialogue in the “cut scenes” are not only long, but boring. After entering the Duke Cave, you have to hear a long speech by the president, then your senior officer, before you can continue the game. The speeches weren’t humorous, nor informative. And there are many other instances of these redundant scenes appearing. So I just muted the TV and read Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear while I waited. You know, that says something about a game; where you need a book to entertain you while you play it.
And not to spoil the ending (which I don’t think is possible) but between defeating the final boss, and the credit roll, there’s only about 9 seconds of cut-scene. I’ve seen better endings on 1980’s Nintendo games. Believe it or not, the loading time is actually longer than the ending! Wow. What happened? Did they run out of time? Was 14 years not long enough to tag on a better ending?
I found Duke Nukem Forever to be a very mediocre game, through and through. While there were a few specific pros and cons which I mentioned above, everything about the game was merely average. The graphics were nothing groundbreaking, but not terrible. The story was typical. The overall fun-level was meh. The game wasn’t bad, but nothing special, either.
I realize my banzai! score is a bit higher than most online reviewers. Perhaps they felt disappointed with a highly anticipated sequel. But to me, it was just a game I grabbed off the shelf without any expectations. I didn’t feel it deserved worse than a six, but certainly nothing higher, either.
To me, Duke Nukem Forever is like a rice cracker: It doesn’t necessarily taste bad, but lacks any real flavour. Maybe it’s better to see what else is in the kitchen.