Dumb, crude, unfunny, controversial, misogynistic, laughable...wait are we talking about a new Leisure Suit Larry game? No. This is Duke Nukem Forever. Believe it. After 15 years of troubled development, the King has returned to the gaming world. What was started by 3D Realms in 1996 was completed by three development studios (Gearbox Software, Triptych Games, Piranha Games) and embraced by publisher 2K Games before being shipped to retailers worldwide a few days ago.
Being one of the industry’s most discussed subjects since Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford announced that his studio was going to bring back the project and complete it, most people (particularly gamers) showed positive excitement. Who wouldn’t? The game became a running gag amongst us game enthusiasts. A meme for every single delayed product gamers came to see over the last decade or so. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if people who have never played video games before had at least heard about Duke Nukem Forever.
Having received a review copy earlier this week, I was aware of all the controversy that surrounded the game, from its revival to the questionable marketing stunts used to get people interested. Trailers objectifying women, vulgar language, poo flinging and of course, the macho character that is Mr. Nukem. No restraints, or at least very few. So when I loaded the disc into my console tray, saw the crazy opening sequence and met up with Duke in a bathroom where I was invited to make him urinate by holding the right trigger, I wasn’t surprised. When I saw that there was an Achievement (or Trophy on PS3) for grabbing feces off a toilet, I was a bit surprised, even though I already knew about it via a trailer. When two girls were giving oral sex to our hero while playing his own video game, I was caught off guard. But you know what? I expected all this. Why? Because it’s Duke Nukem.
If you never heard about this unique franchise up until now, think about a game that released earlier this year: Bulletstorm. Ready? Okay. First, remove the Skillshots feature. Done? Now, imagine it running on a low-end, glitched graphic engine. Okay now, add B-movie outdated humor, a very thin storyline and lots of sexual innuendo not adapted for the 21st century.
There. That’s Duke Nukem Forever. The difference between this effort and the one from Epic Games/People Can Fly is as thin as construction paper. One was done with the remains of an old franchise very few people cared for anymore. The other, by a reputed developer who succeeded at adapting an old macho-stylized first person shooter concept with fancy visuals and slapped on an addictive and immensely fun mechanic. Believe me when I say that I liked Bulletstorm. However, I didn’t care for the story, nor its characters. That’s not how I approached the game and it’s not how it was sold to me. All I wanted was a laid back shooter in which I could shoot bad guys between the legs, get a multiplier and curb-stomp their face. Don’t get me wrong, from a tech stand, Bulletstorm is a million times ahead of Duke Nukem Forever. The cooperative/competitive modes, the neat Unreal engine, the character animations...the whole nine yards. Duke Nukem Forever had a name. A reputation to live up to. How bad were the assets when Gearbox picked it up from 3D Realms? Don’t know. Did Randy Pitchford want to take an extra two years to work on it? Don’t think so. Did all development studios involved in bringing the project to term squeeze out the best out of themselves? I’m sure they did. You see, there’s a lot of questions up in the air despite having a “finished product”.
However, unlike some games I have played and reviewed over the last few years, I can say that I’ve seen worse than Duke Nukem Forever. This game doesn’t crash. It’s playable with no major technical hiccups from beginning to end. The controls are touchy, but solid. There’s no exploration. Long loading times. Levels are extremely linear. There’s very few collectibles too. The online play isn’t the most fun nor the most advanced either. There’s almost no replay value once the 12 hour campaign is completed. The storyline? Oh the same aliens Duke beat years ago are back on Earth and stealing women. Yeah, I didn’t care for it and you won’t either. To tell you the truth...I can list many reviews that have almost the same complaints I just enumerated. But for some reason, it sounds awful in a Duke Nukem Forever review. All that because the man has a name. Not once did I get bored playing the game. The same night I started playing, I racked five hours of continuous gameplay without putting the controller down. I can’t say the same for some of the other titles I’ve reviewed over the last two months...I can even include Bulletstorm on the list. It didn’t stop me from enjoying it though. Same for Duke Nukem Forever.
You’ve been a GameFocus reader for a while now, haven’t you? You know how we write about games. I know that this review is different from the others, but given the huge controversy surrounding the game as of this writing, I felt the need to take a more personal approach. Should you play Duke Nukem Forever? If you’re 25 and above, it’s almost something you just have to do. One day, you’ll tell your kids that you’ve played what’s possibly Duke’s last game. Should you spend $60 on it? No. To spend that much money on a game, whether it’s a notable franchise or not, it needs to convey the “must have, must play, must keep, must replay” feel, which this bad boy doesn’t have. Duke Nukem Forever is a solid rental. Maybe even a purchase once it drops to $30 or $20. Whatever suits you best. Reviews are opinions, so here’s mine, for better or worse.
Note this, if you never were into sophomoric humor, this game isn’t for you. Just in case you didn’t get the message yet.
Release date : 2011-06-14
Publisher : 2K Games
Developer : Gearbox Software
Gameplay : Action
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