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As most any PC gamer in the ‘90s, I played Duke Nukem 3D. My first encounter with the game actually came at a Comp USA, and while I didn’t know what the game was, I knew I liked it. When Duke Nukem Forever was announced back during the Clinton administration, I was intrigued. However, after a 3D engine change, a developer change (or two) and it’s devolution into vapor-ware legend status, I’d long given up on seeing this game came to light. Now that it has, I’m kind of sorry it did.
Duke Forever isn’t what allot of industry experts describe it as. It’s not a good game, but it’s not horrific. It is, however, tedious and uninspired. Writing on a white board and shooting hoops are fun diversions and could have added something – anything – so the gameplay but instead seem wedged into the game. Lifting weights, using a urinal, or punching a punching bag are all fine, but you’re almost required to take part in these mini… things. They’re not mini games, but I’m not sure what else to call them. By doing these Duke-like events, you gain ‘Ego,’ which stands as Duke’s regenerating armor (a la Halo). Without the extra Ego, you’ll die quickly as the game progresses – hence the sensation that these should-be-optional actions are anything but.
The next biggest issue lies with the gunplay. Some people say that the guns are fun to use but I just don’t see it that way. They seem to lack any punch since the aliens absorb bullets like nobody’s business. The teleporting aliens are the biggest pain since you’ll have them dead-to-rights, and they’ll teleport away only to reappear right on top of you. My biggest gripe with combat is the arena-style feel. You enter an area and get stuck there until you kill everything in the area with your crappy guns. Repeat ad infinitum – unless the game throws a poorly implemented jumping puzzle at you. Seriously, the game doesn’t control that well to start with, and now you’ve got to pretend you’re Mario? No thanks.
The graphics have a few nice touches but ultimately look like a polished up graphics engine from 5 or so years ago. Sound-wise, other then the occasionally funny one-liner from Duke it’s all forgettable. Whoever scripted the soldiers you meet needs beat, though. Instead of sounding like tough, take-no-crap men of war, they sound like that guy you know who tries way too hard to be cool by swearing allot and using painfully unfunny (unless you’re 12 years old) euphemisms all the while laughing at his purported wit. It’s sad that the funniest things in the game are the tips on the loading screens. Lines like “Take less damage to avoid being killed” are entertaining in their own stupid way.
About the loading screens – they’re annoying as hell. I hate loading screens period, but they’re way too pervasive here. Every couple minutes you wind up staring at one and while they don’t take real long, they’re almost the most dated part of the game.
Duke Nukem Forever will be best known for it’s delays and it’s lackluster final product to most. For me, it’s the disappointment and frustration that I’ll remember most. DNF is a game that had a huge mountain to climb to be a success, but it ultimately decided it didn’t want to put forth the effort, and that’s a real shame.