Duke Nukem Forever
In 1997, two men had an idea: create the first online gaming site in Belgium. A few months later, in December, Fragland.net came to exist. That same year, two other men also had an idea: create a sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, called Duke Nukem Forever.
We’re now 14 years later and the original founders of Fragland have left the building. 3D Realms’ George Broussard and Scott Miller are only now and then heard off. Gearbox Software has taken over development and Duke Nukem Forever has finally arrived. But enough with the history lesson, there’s been enough talk about all the engine changes and Duke’s history already so let’s take a look at how the game turned out.
Duke is having fun and enjoying his celebrity status when the aliens who’s asses he kicked after running out of bubblegum years ago return to Earth. The US president is convinced they have peaceful intentions, but of course you know better. Before long the aliens attack Duke, trying to settle their score with him, and when they even abduct his girlfriends he sees no other option than to kick ass again.
The story is simplistic but who cares? Modern day shooters tend to either go for a full multiplayer focus or add some sort of “background story” that gives you a reason to run around and shoot everything that moves but it in the end it always comes down to having fun and just kicking ass. No? Serious Sam did it a couple of years ago in a similar way and became a huge success.
Graphically Duke truly isn’t of today’s standards. The game looks like it was released in 2007 and totally can’t keep up with the competition. The good news about that is that you don’t need a hi-end PC in order to play it with all bells and whistles turned on. And to be honest: we’ve seen worse. Yes, it’s no Battlefield or Modern Warfare, but at least we didn’t spot any annoying bugs that totally ruin the gameplay. And gameplay is what a game like this is all about.
The game is split into different levels and between these you get loading screens and checkpoints for saves. Yup, again a very oldfashioned style that’s been surpassed a long time ago. Luckily, on PC these loading screens only take a few seconds and give you the possibility to take a breath and reposition your hands after some fierce combat. Every negative point has its upside sometimes, right?
The most important things about a game are whether it’s fun to play and how long you can keep playing it. Well, the singleplayer campaign can keep you busy easily 10 hours and that’s on easy difficulty and without spending too much time on the extra’s like the slots machines, playing some snooker or doing a few games of poker. Turn up the difficulty and try earning all achievements and you can easily add several hours to that. If you compare that with the average time you’re busy with the singleplayer campaign of a modern shooter, you get a lot of value in time.
But how is that time spent? DNF has levels that cover most of the basics. The standard indoor shooting action is of course the largest part of the game, but there are also outdoor levels present, you’ll get to drive around with vehicles and there’s even some minor flying involved. I hear many people nagging about the fact that Duke can only carry two weapons, but I didn’t really find that a negative point and see it more as a strategic option where you actually have to think about which weapons you prefer and want to use.
Not that the gameplay is perfect. The driving levels can become a bit tedious and some of the indoor levels are somewhat generic. The boss battles, however, do make up for quite a lot. Although they too are quite oldfashioned in style (big monster, duck and cover until you get time to fire, …) they deliver quite a challenge, especially in a harder difficulty settings, and the final boss fight is definitely one you don’t want to have missed due to its unique setup (and I’m not going to say more as I don’t want to spoil anything).
Once you’ve finished the singleplayer campaign, you can get going online in some classic multiplayer modes with a Duke twist. Dukematch (classic DM), Team DM, Capture the Babe and Hail to the King (King of the Hill). These are all pretty standard but do provide some fun thanks to the tongue-in-cheek nature we know and love from Duke and although we didn’t find tons of servers a couple of weeks after release, we haven’t really had any problems finding a match we could join.
After so many years of development, nobody can in their right mind expect that Duke fulfills all expectations. However, if you start off without prejudice and just look at the game with a neutral mindset, you’ll find that although technically outdated, Duke Nukem Forever delivers when it comes to pure fun and gameplay time.
On PC, Duke Nukem Forever manages to rise just above average thanks to its lead character, the crude humour and the long lifespan of the singleplayer campaign. There really aren’t any true negative points to the game other than the really outdated graphics and oldfashioned gameplay that keep it from competing with current standards.
Duke Nukem Forever will never become the classic that Duke Nukem 3D was and will for ever be remembered as the game that “could have been, but wasn’t” due to its long development time, but with its release now behind us there’s potential to make a new sequel that brings Duke into the modern era and delivers Duke the honor he deserves.
Let’s get the obvious criticism out of the way: the console versions, with their mind-numbing loading times, dodgy framerate and blurry graphics are decidedly worse than the PC version of DNF.
However, that still doesn’t redeem the game. Duke Nukem Forever is simpy, well, boring. Even though this is supposed to be a shooter, you fill nearly half your time doing everything but unloading your shotgun on Pig Cops and Octobrains. There are several uninteresting turret and vehicle levels and you’ll come across countless jumping puzzles and alien-free corridors.
If this game didn’t have the words ‘Duke Nukem’ stamped on it, no-one would have given this kind of run-of-the-mill shooter any attention. Duke Nukem Forever is not a total disaster, but it’s not good either. It can give you a laugh or two, but otherwise it’s totally forgettable. Poor Duke.