Duke Nukem: Forever Review

Duke Nukem Forever
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: June 14, 2011

Unless constipation is at hand, defecating is nothing spectacular. The only reason I could think of that could add any sense of awe to the situation is if it took over a decade to squeeze out. At a first glance it may be something to talk about but when you step back and think about it, it is still a piece of crap you are discussing. This specific duke, Duke Nukem: Forever, may not be the worst abomination in history, but it has a lot in common with a poop taking over a decade free itself.

Duke Nukem‘s plot is… well, there kind of isn’t one, or at least one worth mentioning. Aliens have come to Earth again and taken the women. Yep, that’s it. It’s that paper thin as you’d probably expect. You’re notified of the babe stealing and invasion when the incoherent president babbles at you for about five minutes over the television. I didn’t care who he was or what he had to say, I just wanted him to shut the hell up. That’s basically how Duke Nukem‘s heavy-handed story is told. You’ll go hours without any sort of direction or meaning, but once in a while some chump will shout at you to give a pathetic attempt to justify the aliens’ existence on Earth or why you need to go somewhere. You won’t care, I didn’t, and I don’t know who would.

If there was a dartboard of Duke Nukem‘s writing, a couple darts would be around the center but a large portion would be stuck directly in the side of the wall way off the bullseye. Duke Nukem would love to be funny. Hell, I bet he thinks he is but the writing doesn’t back it up. Most of the dialogue wasn’t overly offensive but almost every line had something in common: they all tried too hard to be funny. A lot of the jokes are just plain lazy, be it ripping off lines from movies or just cobbling together unimaginative sex puns to try to make something work. For example, Duke is on top of a tall building and his first line is, “Whoa, I can see my dick from here.” That’s a little odd that you need to be that high up to see your junk, Mr. Nukem. Oh wait, that was supposed to be a funny? There are other lines that are groan-inducing but most of them fall in the middle ground of just being swears or references which just come off as lazy. Duke Nukem has the butthole jokes, but there’s just no class to them.

It’s not all bad. Some (and by some, I mean a few) jokes are clever and got me to chuckle because they were genuinely creative. Duke Nukem, along with all of the other cast, needed to have stronger writing for this game to be as funny as it wants to be.

As I played through every level in Duke Nukem: Forever, I could not get over how ugly of a game it was. In all of the locales that Duke is unnecessarily thrusted into, all of them have terrible, low resolution textures and poor lighting. As if that wasn’t bad enough, every other piece of geometry is incredibly flat and boring. Character models must have had to keep the shit-quality of the environments, because they are just as awful. All of the ugly souls you meet are stiff and wooden, with terrible facial and body animations. Everyone is in this horrific, nightmare of a world is a robot stripper or meat head scumbag whose eerily robotic animations would be right at home in Chuck-E-Cheese. At one point, Duke happily receives a lap dance from one of the strippers who may or may not have been a burn victim. I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be sexy for Duke, because her movements, along with a death stare and uncomfortable wink, did nothing but creep me out. If it is possible, I had an inverted erection.

In fact, just about the whole game can be called an inverted erection because, out of the many things you can do, none of it is satisfying. You can interact with the world in a bunch of ways but none of it is fun or particularly cool. Want to play a busted version of air hockey with some other worldly physics? How about a pinball machine which seems to hate functioning properly? None of these mini-games serve any purpose other than frustration and the much-needed health boosts you get for suffering through them.

While those mini-games can be ignored, the shooting cannot. Shooting, while functional on a core level, just isn’t as tight to make the moment to moment gameplay striking in any way. Except for the shotgun, weapons lack and sort of real weight or satisfaction. Maybe more satisfaction could be had if the enemies were any fun to shoot. Almost every single target put in your way has some stupid unbalanced quirk to cause firefights to be more of a chore than a fun war. There are enemies that have lunging, near-unavoidable melee attacks, small enemies that cause you to shoot at the ground like an idiot, bullet sponges, guys who teleport, and enemies capable of one-hit kills. The list goes on with annoyances with long loading after deaths being a top contender. Pepper in some horrible boss fights through the chapters, also with balance issues, and combat isn’t gratuitous, it’s just more of a relief to finally get it over.

As if everything else didn’t scream the game’s age, the platforming and underwater levels are some of the best reminders. Remember the last time a first person shooter had platforming? Yeah neither do I. It’s because it has been pushed out of modern games and for good reason: it’s terrible and inaccurate. Duke tries his best to get his Mario on but it all ends in failure and frustration. Don’t fret, Platforming didn’t make an appearance at the “Forgotten Bad Ideas of Games” party. He brought his deformed, drunk friend, Underwater Level. Fighting the unbalanced enemies while moving slower and tediously managing your oxygen meter is about as fun it sounds and it sounds as fun as a root canal.

In my two playthroughs with Duke Nukem: Forever, I couldn’t shake the thought that I was beta testing a half-finished budget game with a design document stuck in 1999. These old ideas stick out so vividly because games aren’t designed like this anymore and there is a reason for it. Some relics are better left in the past and I can’t figure out if Duke Nukem should be one of them. Does he need a fresh, modern redesign or does he need to be taken out back, Old Yeller-style? If he did get a new coat of paint, does his bravado character even play in the current age? Regardless, one thing is for sure: I’ve satiated my morbid curiosity of Duke Nukem: Forever and I don’t want to play or talk about this gaming relic again.

+The game is functional
+Few jokes are good
-Humor comes off as lazy or forced
-Ugly, ugly game paired with poor animation
-Combat is underwhelming
-Platforming and underwater levels are a pain
-Basically nonexistent story
-Difficulty spikes unnecessarily and enemies aren’t balanced
-Loading is atrocious
-Stupid, petty tasks to complete

Final Score: 4.5/10

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