Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Duke Nukem Forever: Worth The Wait?

After 12 years, and countless set-backs, Duke Nukem Forever finally graced the PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the 14th June 2011, but was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no. This time around, Alien invaders are “stealing Earth’s women” and drinking Duke’s beer. This hasn’t settled too well with the lady-loving, foul mouthed action hero Duke Nukem, who sets about “bringing on the pain” to these extra-terrestrial bad guys.

14 years have passed, and Duke is still the same cigar-chugging, insult throwing, and wise cracking hulk of muscle he was from the 1990s. Throw in the obligatory severe 90’s buzz cut and red tank top, and you have Duke. To add further ridiculousness to the already humorous protagonist, health can be regenerated by fuelling Duke’s “ego bar”, which can be filled in a variety of ways, such as signing autographs for his fans, checking his reflection in a mirror, and making his adoring female fans swoon. Duke’s phrases from the previous games are present once again here, and although at times they may be quite hilarious, it wears thin around the middle half of the game. Unfortunately, the scriptwriters never felt to write any new quotes for Duke this time around, which is a shame as he had  the potential to make us chuckle for longer. There is a sense of Duke Nukem Forever being somewhat out of date in terms of its pop culture references too. The most recent game that DNF refers to is Call Of Duty 4, which was released back in 2007. That is four years ago now, and there have been plenty of successful first person shooters recently which they could have referenced. DNF pays also pays homage to a series of films, such as Pulp Fiction, released in 1994. Although Pulp Fiction is considered a cult classic by many, this is a 17 year old film now, and newer films could also have been quoted in all honesty.  Still, out of date quotations and homage’s aside, Duke serves as a highly enjoyable character to play. He is essentially a hammed up version of the action heroes you play in many games, but it makes a nice change to play someone as outrageous as Duke rather than a more serious action hero.  

Those wishing for a real story-driven game will not really find it here. Duke Nukem Forever’s plot is simple, and very thin. However, the real enjoyment comes in blasting away countless aliens and listening out for Duke’s quips, and I found that I quickly forgot about the plot as I got involved in the shooting. Therefore, although the story is very thin, it is not going to dampen your enjoyment of the game as a whole.

As for the game-play, the story mode can be completed in around 10 hours. This seems incredibly short considering this is selling at full retail price currently, but this does not include the multiplayer mode which you are free to play as well. In the story mode, the game-play is frantic and action packed. Almost all of the weapons from Duke Nukem 3D have returned here, and each one provides a different way of obliterating your foes. New weapons have also been included, such as an alien laser, and all of these are incredibly enjoyable to play around with.  There is also the option to engage in some hand-to-hand combat here, using Duke’s leather gloved fists. One aspect that some gamers may not enjoy much is the physics and switch puzzle sections. Whilst some of these puzzles are very brief and easy to complete, others are rather long, and become mundane very quickly. Sadly, these puzzles do not work particularly well in Duke Nukem Forever, and feel somewhat unnecessary, as the gamer is taken away from a lot of game play they have already grown accustomed to throughout the game. There is plenty of action on foot here, but players will also get the option to drive in some vehicles in points, and operate turrets against enemies.

Duke Nukem fans will remember the strip club sections in the previous games. Fear not, this is back in DNF. Be prepared for a lot of nudity here, as rather predictably for a strip club, there are plenty of girls wandering around topless. The strip club level also allows players to try out pinball, air hockey, billiards and poker before returning to the alien invasion. The end of level bosses provide a challenge for players, but once you learn their strategy, you’ll be able to beat them soon enough. Each boss is large, ugly and rather spectacular looking. This one of the moments where the level of detail which should have been evident all over in the game is at its strongest.  The bosses are also very different from one another, which stops the boss fights from becoming repetitive and unoriginal. One great aspect of the game play is that the environment in which you are in is interactive. Walk up to objects and sometimes there is an option to press X on your control pad to interact with it. For instance, enter a bathroom and you may fill up the sink, turn on the hand dryer, look in the mirror, or use the urinal (a somewhat amusingly gross moment which involves steering a stream of Duke’s urine into the trough).

Once the main storyline is complete, the multiplayer function adds Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Babe (much like the Capture the Flag mode from games such as Halo), and King of the Hill. Much like the single player, the action here is fast and frantic, but with the absence of a story, this makes for mindless, enjoyable fun. Racing to beat your online buddies to the top score is somewhat rewarding, and results in being one of the most enjoyable aspects of Duke Nukem Forever as a whole.

Overall, Duke Nukem Forever is a good game, but it is by no means amazing. Since it has been in development for over 12 years, it definitely looks a little dated. The graphics are not as overly impressive as I thought they would be, and do not translate that successfully on a HD screen. Characters and scenery have a fuzzy outline, and overall the graphics needed a good polish. The game also suffers from some frame-rate issues, and tends to freeze sometimes, especially if there are a lot of enemies on the screen at one time. Whilst this may be a common problem in many games, it is something that is still incredibly frustrating. Duke’s wise-cracks reference older pop culture references, and would have been more hilarious if they referenced newer material. However, despite the criticisms, Duke Nukem Forever is still an entertaining game, and I am sure there are many fans who will still enjoy playing this through. Despite the very mixed reviews it has received so far, DNF appears to be selling well. Take Two representative Strauss Zelnick has hinted at future Duke Nukem media coming from this company in the very near future, so I am sure that Duke will be back to “kick ass and chew bubble gum” once again very soon. 

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