Duke Nukem Forever (PC) Review – Junk Food For The Soul

I originally intended to skip doing a review on DNF on account that I just plumb don’t have the time.  Then I started to see the reviews come in and […]

I originally intended to skip doing a review on DNF on account that I just plumb don’t have the time.  Then I started to see the reviews come in and I thought, “Surely this can’t be the same game I played at PAX?”  Hell, even then I saw that the 360 build wasn’t going to be the best. I knew that the PC build was going to be superior just for the control issues alone (at the time, I considered the load issues had to do with the build made for the show floor.).  What ultimately pushed me to spend my time on the review were the words associated with it.  Words like ugly, hateful, misogynistic.   We’ve already gone over this topic before, but it suffices to say if you’re reading any review that tells you, the reader, that the game is hateful. Stop reading.  The words you are reading have an agenda and that is to burn any game that even dares to produce a similar work such as Duke.  The version I received to review is the PC build.

Graphics

Like the rest of DNF, visually, emphasis on certain sections had greater detail applied.  At certain points I found myself amazed at the amount of detail they went in one area and the compete lack of attention in others.  For instance, when you blow out the glass in the bathrooms, you can clearly see the adhesive that was used on the wall.

 

Actually, pretty much every instance of glass was done very well.  Points of impact leave a gaping hole followed by realistic spidered glass.  The enemies (including the bosses) are fully realized models that are (for the most part) properly animated.  The only instance that I found to by awkward is when the pigs lunge at you and have this still frame of animation during the middle of the jump.  However, outside of that, enemy animation seemed to be complete.

 

Funnily enough, the risque part of the game that features nude women is actually pretty poorly animated considering that there was definitely much more care in creating the female models of the game as opposed to the male models of the game.   The male models of the game, frankly, look completely unfinished in every sense of the word.  INCLUDING Duke.  A bit more care was taken in regards to the appearance of Duke from the first person PoV, but it almost seems that the character you are looking at in the mirror is someone else.

The only other negative thing that I could say regarding the visuals is the water.  The water just doesn’t look right at all.  As if almost completely forgotten.  Outside of that, everything else is pretty positive.  There are a lot of little details added that make me smile when I see the inclusion of them.  Such as, when miniaturized if you break a bottle of ketchup or mustard, the correct contents of liquid get splashed on the screen.  It’s just a little detail, but they matter so much.  They really vexing part is that they went through the trouble of including these little details and missed some big ones along the way.

 

Sound

A recurring theme in DNF is sections that are complete but the whole picture isn’t 100% done.  The audio in the game has pockets of activity with small looped tracks.  Going through your Vegas penthouse you’ll continually hear your fans cheer the same thing.  When looking out at the devastation of Vegas, there is a dull helicopter-fins-beating sound and outside of that, sound only happens when it appears.  There are very few instances of sound building in relation to your position.  It pretty much happens everywhere, when you go to rescue ‘the babes’, there is a looped tracked of moaning and disapproval at what is being done to them.

Sound can almost be treated as an entity in Duke Nukem Forever as it’s pretty much, “Hey I’m here.  Okay, I’m going now. Hey I’m here.”  Provided, of course, if that particular sound file finds you.

 

Story

The game starts off with you, Duke Nukem, playing a video game as yourself during the ending of Duke Nukem 3D.  After the narcissist replays events in his history, he decides to watch a little tv with a pair of twins who have just finished their performance of fellatio upon the Duke.  Surfing through channels, Duke stumbles across a news channel that indicates that the aliens have come back and the mothership is currently flying high above Las Vegas.  Curious to find out what’s going on, you spend the next thirty minutes fumbling around a building whose inventory and wares seem to revolve around Duke Nukem.  When you finally reach your command center, you’re briefed with the General of the EDF (Earth Defense Force) and the President of United States.  The President doesn’t want the same thing to happen all over again with the aliens and informs Duke that he has a direct line of communication opened with the new Cycloid Emperor and is discussing a peaceful coexistence.  In the meantime, the President makes it very clear he doesn’t want you getting involved to mess things up.  When you get back topside is when things get crazy though and you’ve already been attacked by the aliens.  Since you’re Duke and you aren’t going to take any shit, your first goal is to take down the Mothership.  After taking down the Mothership is when things start to get hairy, the women are being kidnapped, so you need to rendezvous with the General ASAP.  Upon meeting the General, you are made aware that the aliens have taken the women to the Duke Dome but they’ve also taken over the Hoover Dam and are using the generator to power some type of warp device.  What do you think Duke decides?  Save the babes, first, natch.

What are the aliens doing with the kidnapped women? What type of device are they powering at the Hoover Dam?  Well, it’s pretty much just like Duke Nukem 3D and is predictable in every juvenile and sophomoric way.  This is a popcorn video game.  Enjoy it for it’s simplicity.  You’ll find 80’s action movie lines, quips targeted at most of the current shooters in video games, popular culture references and memes.  If you are thinking at all while playing Duke Nukem Forever, you’re doing it wrong.

Gameplay

Ahhh, the meat (heh) of the game.  Let’s start with the bad portions of the game first.  They are level design, questionable interactivity portions, AI and pacing.  More times than not, I found myself completely lost as to where I was supposed to go.  And I even had the option enabled to give me hints on where I was supposed to go.  Perhaps it’s a real problem when you have a linear game experience and I somehow get lost.  I must have spent fifteen minutes in the first duct scenes just because I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the fire (hint: you don’t turn off the fire, you go around it.)  But the only reason I couldn’t figure that out immediately is because I couldn’t see shit.  There was a ton of mist in this section and to make matters worse, an effect was applied on top of your viewpoint to fog up the lenses on your glasses.  I had to max the brightness in the options AND my screen just to pass that section.  More or less this type of thing happens a few times during the game as you’re left wondering, “what the fuck do I do now?”  Another point that needs to be made is that at no point in time is it ever okay to go in one direction in a game and then schlep all the way back unless you have a very compelling story reason to do so.  I was saddened that I had to trek all the way back from the point that I initially hopped into the little RC car when I shrunk down in size.

On to my second gripe, I realize that you could flip lights and flush toilets and shit in the first DN3D but I wish this were toned down a little bit.  I suppose if you are diagnosed with A.D.D. the variety of shit that you can mess around with and interact with is staggering.  Want to make some popcorn? Sure, just open the nuker and pop it in.  Want to open the cupboard doors?  Go nuts.  Want to play pinball, do it.  How bout air hockey?  Feel free!  I can’t help but feel if they removed the interactive portions of these time wasters they could have devoted more time to resources towards completing other things.  All of this interactive stuff works.  But it doesn’t add anything to the game.

Third and lastly, the AI and pacing of the game.  As a rule of thumb, I tend to play games on hard.  For one, it helps me remember games a little bit better because sometimes I have to do a scene over again.  Another is to test out the AI. Generally, there are four things that happen with difficulty settings when it comes to AI.  They can either be done stand alone or in combination:

  1. Boost health on enemies
  2. Fast regenerating health on enemies
  3. More enemies
  4. Harder hitting enemies

It’s very rare that a game institutes an AI routine that actually gets smarter when you increase the difficulty, but I’m generally used to one or a combination of the methods listed above when cranking up the difficulty.  Those are all fine and well, my problem with the AI regarding difficulty is the propensity in DNF to situations of magnetized enemies or arsenal.  How is it that when the pigs lunge at me that despite my best efforts at zigging and zagging, they land RIGHT in front of me and begin to assault me.  Or the projectiles from the Octosquid things.  I don’t know.  It just seemed overly cheap.  And this leads me to pacing.  The checkpoints are not designed properly in Duke Nukem Forever.  They just aren’t.  Please game designers, don’t make us go through all of the easy parts just to spring the hard stuff at the very end.  Just put the check point at the start of the hard part.  It’s a waste of time otherwise.

That’s it.  Other than that the game is mindless fun.  Everything about DNF is completely pastiche and tongue-in-cheek.  And holy shit is the shotgun awesome in DNF.  More like ShotFUN, amirite?  All of the weapons from Duke Nukem 3D make the transition over as well as the edition of a few alien weapons such as an alien rifle/machine gun/rocket launcher.  Sadly, all lack the impact that the shotgun has.

There are some genuinely cool and fun parts in DNF.  I enjoyed most, not all, of the sequences that reduce Duke in size.  Favorite moment in the game had to be getting in the little RC car and frantically racing away from all danger and trying desperately to reach some end point.

This happened. And it was good.

 

The action sequences are action-packed and numerous.   The exploring sequences are pretty dull.  The only two exploratory portions of the game that I actually enjoyed going through were the Duke Burger scene and inside-the-engine scene.  In the Duke Burger scene there is a part where you use a toaster to launch yourself onto a shelf.  It may seem like nothing to you, but I thought it was pretty neat.  But the inner engine sequence was actually a lot of fun to go through and I felt well executed.  Everything else felt like you were just going through the paces.

 

Summary

Again, the over all feeling of the game is mixed.  You have some parts that feel complete in an isolated sense but nothing that is gelling it all together.  There was plenty of times that I thought to myself, “Oh that’s pretty cool”.  But it existed as a bauble.  Perhaps this is the only way a Duke Nukem game can exist.  It’s base form is a hodgepodge of awesome imitations.  A collection of “That’s cool” ideas without a narrator.  Duke Nukem Forever is meant to gorged, utensils be damned!  It may not be nutritious, but damn is it tasty.

 

Verdict

70/100: Duke Nukem Forever is junk food for the soul

 


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About Phawx

Reviewer and Idea Man extraordinaire, Cary Golomb plays the role of jack-of-all-trades behind the scenes as a part of the Brain Trust and ownership of the site. At 11′ 7″, Cary is the tallest man ever to win the Boston Marathon. He is a large, predatory reptile known to attack livestock and drink their blood. Witnesses of his handiwork claim he is able to drain a cow of all of its blood and most of its internal organs in less than 30 seconds. His name literally translates to “The Goat Sucker.”