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Duke Nukem Forever Review

Duke Nukem Forever pack shot
Developer:3D Realms / Gearbox
Publisher:2K Games
Genre:First Person Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.dukenukem.com/
Release Date:June 10th, 2011 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
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If the Duke Nukem theme tune started playing in your mind at the mere mention of the King, then you'll have been waiting for Duke Nukem Forever for about, oh, 15 years, right? I know I have been. I've been waiting forever to get my hands on Duke Nukem Forever. And after all this time, after being stuck in development hell for a decade or more, after being passed from developer to developer for time immemorial, what have the fanbase been handed?

A half-finished, clunky, ugly, clone of an ancient shooter with a few knob gags and an overblown impression of its own importance. Oh Duke. What did you do to deserve this?

I don't usually start a review with such disparagement, but this game was such a letdown. Granted, I didn't expect much but a balls-out shooter with a few cheeky gags (that's what Duke does best), but the game is let down severely by its poor mechanics, boring platforming, rubbish gameplay, bad graphics, abysmal sound effects, dated multiplayer and bloody pointless driving sections.

Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 1 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 2 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 3 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 4

So, diving right in:

Picking up a fair while since the events of the last game, Duke has become a worldwide legend. He's got it all - girls, a casino, movies, videogames, acres of money and his own book deal - "Why I'm so great", by Duke Nukem.

In short, things are great. Then the aliens come back, and they're not happy - within half an hour, they've captured reams of babes and transported them up to the alien mothership. "It's the babes. It's always the babes." Curses Duke, before grabbing his trusty gold-plated pistol and setting off on a babe-rescue mission.

So far, so Duke, but the problems are clear from the off.

The first portion of the game is mostly setting up Duke's new status as worldwide stud and action hero; however, it takes a good 40 minutes of play to get to the first real shooting.

Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 5 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 6 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 7 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 8

Need I remind the numerous teams of developers who made this game collectively that Duke Nukem 3D started the shooting after exactly one line: "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum... and I'm all outta gum". It doesn't need 40 minutes of wandering around a boring level - give me a gun and let me shoot.

Unfortunately, the shooting is the second problem with the game. The control scheme feels old and slow, the guns lack power and sound worse, the hit detection is off..

Despite Duke's apparent distaste for armoured suits (while looking at what's basically Master Chief's armour: "Power armour is for pussies!"), he can only carry two guns now. Bring back the deep pockets, I say!

While a few of the guns add variety - the freeze gun and the shrink ray being two stand-out numbers (mashing pig cops with the sole of your boot never gets old), the majority are much of a muchness, and don't bring much to the experience.

The enemies are pretty varied, however, and include some old familiars - the pig cops, octobrains and friends are back, and shiner than ever - and some of the execution moves are funny to watch - until you've seen them dozens of times: "You've got a lot of guts. Let's see what they look like!"

Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 9 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 10 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 11 Duke Nukem Forever screenshot 12

It also doesn't help that the environments you have to shoot through are pretty samey, and look worse. While there are some cool moments when Duke plays with jetpacks, the majority of the shooting is corridor-based - it's good then that the game, on the Xbox anyway, looks terrible.

The graphics are a big low-point for the Duke. They're shoddy, putting it simply. The animation is clunky and awkward, the texture pop-in is terrible, the sprites have more jagged edges on them than a medieval surgeons' instruments and the detail really shows its age at points.

For example, the posters on the walls (all of Duke, naturally) are barely legible once you get up close, and the turret shooting scenes (which there are all too many of) really show up the bad frame-rate.

Then there are the driving sections, which add nothing to the action. Whether driving a remote controlled car around a burning casino or steering Duke's monster truck through open deserts, the driving handles badly and kills the game in full stride. Without any directions getting lost is easy, and what is Duke doing driving about anyway? He should be mercilessly slaughtering aliens!

However, there is a multiplayer suite included in the game - if you get tired of mercilessly slaughtering aliens - but it's hardly a beacon of online goodness. Playing like a multiplayer shooter from 15 years ago (which is no bad thing usually), DNF's multiplayer is a badly-rendered melee of spamming rockets, one-liners and teams consisting entirely of Dukes in different T-shirts, which is rather Dukish anyway, and a high-point for the mediocre experience.

That said, the action is same-old, same-old, and other shooters, such as Half Life 2: Deathmatch, do the old fashioned run and gunning far better - and also without the bad framerate and worse sound effects. The lag is also messy, and the levels are too small. That said, miniaturising your foes and listening to them crunching under your boots never gets dull.


So, how to define something like Duke Nukem Forever. In a word, disappointing. I know the development cycle has been hell, but after 15 years I was expecting more than this. The Duke's (probably final) outing is a mish-mash of poor gameplay, bad driving and aged graphics, backed up with humour which, while still funny at times, is as dated as the game it's built on. In the words of the King himself: "This is taking forever. Time to stop pissing around and get this big guy back into action..."

The bottom line
4.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Old fashioned shooting fun
  • One-liners are still funny
  • It's finally here...

Not so good stuff

  • But it's pretty poor...
  • Bad graphics and sound
  • Boring gameplay

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