Cian Hassett
11 Jun, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever Review

360 Review | Oh Duke, how you've aged...
This review is a figment of your imagination. Duke Nukem Forever has not been released and you're still dreaming of the glory days. Until a copy of this game is physically in your hand, that's what you'll be thinking. In 1997, when development began on Duke Nukem Forever, the industry predicted something wonderful. In 2011, the industry predicted something of tremendous nostalgic value, and a lesson in the laws of traditional gameplay. And that's exactly what you're getting with Duke Nukem Forever, it's an old game with old rules, running on a new console. His presence has been sorely missed, his political incorrectness has become taboo, and his humour has become too crude for the public. But he doesn't care, and why should he? Mr. Nukem has risen up out of the ashes and into modern life, bringing with him almost fourteen years worth of development.

Duke Nukem Forever is a landmark moment for this industry. The fact that you can walk into a shop and buy this game is remarkable, and we have Gearbox Software to thank for saving what could have, once upon a time, been a great game. It's significant because Duke is a legendary figure, fondly remembered and adored by a legion of gamers. But that was over a decade ago, and our industry is now barely recognisable. Have you ever watched a movie where somebody goes to prison and emerges into society years later, feeling alienated and alone? Well, that's the impression you get from Duke Nukem Forever, a game that feels very out of place in the current generation. Duke mightn't care about what we think of him, but the public ought to know that his comeback isn't worth losing sleep over.

Try not to laugh. Go on, try.

Try not to laugh. Go on, try.
Two vital components in Duke Nukem Forever are simply outdated, and there's not much that Gearbox Software could have done to improve them. Graphics are the first victim, and there's no point beating around the bush here, this game looks bloody awful. The textures are terribly bland (sometimes not rendering properly), the animation is robotic and stiff, and all of the fancy effects look substandard. At best, Duke Nukem Forever looks like a launch title for the Xbox 360. Click on a screenshot, now multiply the muddiness by ten. You're getting closer. It's obvious why it looks so nasty, and Gearbox can't be blamed for inheriting a bucket full of withered Nukem, but it just doesn't hold up well. The frame rate can be shockingly bad too, and Duke Nukem Forever really doesn't have what it takes to compete with even the cheapest of shooters these days.

Although it's lacking several layers of polish, the reason for releasing Duke Nukem Forever has nothing to do with eye-catching visuals. What makes Duke so much fun is his personality, the man is genuinely hilarious. The humour is fantastic throughout, tongue in cheek, and he basically gives a big middle finger to the rest of the industry. Need a key to open a door? Hell no! Rip that thing open. Need a suit of special armour (identical to the one found in Halo)? HELL NO! Duke Nukem Forever could well be the most traditional game of this generation, and his no-nonsense antics are an absolute delight. The game is full of mature content: alcohol, drugs, sex, drugs, lesbians, alcohol, and lesbians. Yes it's offensive, yes it's crude, and yes you will laugh out loud. Not many games will do that anymore, but Duke Nukem Forever keeps on doing it. The attention to detail is non-existent in the visual department, instead all of the little details are found in references to the culture surrounding the Nukem franchise, and that's commendable.

Yeeeeeaaaahhhh...it looks nothing like this.

Yeeeeeaaaahhhh...it looks nothing like this.
You're not playing Duke Nukem Forever with a strong story in mind, despite the dialogue being fantastic; this is unadulterated, alien stomping fun. Well...that's what everyone was expecting. In reality, Duke Nukem Forever handles poorly. You control the lovable bastard just like any other shooter, with the added bonus of being able to urinate, get wasted, and throw poo at enemies. Otherwise, it's bog standard. All you have to do is follow the route and shoot anything that moves, primarily aliens. A few interesting set-pieces definitely help the pacing, but otherwise it's run-and-gun gameplay. The weapons here are one of Duke's better qualities, and they're all powerful. Shoot the enemy up close with a shotgun and they fall, there's no need to worry about unloading a full clip to kill something. That's a box ticked, but then for whatever stupid reason, Duke Nukem Forever copies the repetitive, button mashing garbage of this generation. Force open a door, mash the button. Get locked in by a warthog, mash the button. Duke didn't need to stoop so low.

Arguably the most saddening aspect of Duke Nukem Forever is the gameplay, and it's mostly weak. The guns might be effective, but using them is a far more clunky experience. Moving around the environment feels awkward, unnatural, and the enemies struggle too. Artificial intelligence is clumsy, not diabolical, but seeing enemies running into stationary objects is always concerning. We're willing to cut slack in certain areas, especially given the troubled history of Duke Nukem Forever and its legacy. But when that area is gameplay? You've got to approach Duke as you would any other shooter, it's only fair, and to be honest...Duke Nukem Forever is one of the most unpolished, unwieldy shooters in recent memory. Brutal executions are a nice touch, only to be ruined with flimsy mechanics. The banal shooting is broken up with vehicle sections, and they're not too shabby. But in all honesty, this is an extremely average game, masked by Duke's side-splitting humour.

Ride forth Duke, to a place where you belong.

Ride forth Duke, to a place where you belong.
The campaign in Duke Nukem Forever is considerably longer than your typical five hour shooter. Hidden easter eggs are scattered all over the place and exploration is rewarded with more laughter, and since that's the only true selling point, you may as well search for every joke. The single-player side of things is made longer with dreadful loading times, and you'll be forced to sit through them whenever you die. When the aliens have been flushed down the toilet, a horrendous multiplayer component is your final destination. Currently, it's a tad broken. You spawn, you die, you repeat the process. During a standard midget free-for-all, we were constantly spawned in the line of enemy fire. On the rare occasion when we caught a break and ran wild, environmental kills were the only saving grace. They're satisfying, whereas everything else is an ungraceful mess. And for a game that was supposed to deliver enjoyable, bare bones gameplay, that's a huge disappointment.

Duke Nukem Forever, after all this time, is not a success story. Nor is it a complete disaster. Gearbox had a difficult job of salvaging this game, and their efforts are appreciated, but the overall quality of the product was never in their hands. Do you know the Humpty Dumpty rhyme? Take away that name, and replace it with Duke Nukem. He had a great fall and Gearbox did everything in their power to put the pieces back together, but the cracks were too big and Duke Nukem Forever was never the same again. In the end, the Duke's return is bittersweet, serving as a great example of how much the industry has progressed. We still love him, but he deserves better.
The Score
Duke Nukem Forever is a miracle. It's also a poor game, saved only by its humour and nostalgic value. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
I am surprised about this. Only because i was expecting a 4 or below score.
2 years ago
Im not really suprised to be honest but at least the thing is out there now and for people like me who gre up play Duke Nukem it will be a trip down memory lane where games were different to what they are now.

I will def pick this up but after reading this I might finish what I am already playing and pick it up at a later date.
2 years ago
Couldn't have said it better myself. Good review Cian.
2 years ago
I want to read a review, of this game, from someone who loves watching B-Grade films like Evil Dead. Duke Nukem has always been a homage to those movies.


Graphics not so good? I wasn't aware of B-Grade movies having the best special effects.

Frankly, this game performs and plays out exactly as I would have hoped, and I think it's a fantastic game. Maybe most everyone didn't see past what Duke Nukem actually was back in the 90s, just saw Duke Nukem 3D as a game you'd shoot alien pigs and give money to strippers to see some pixelated boobies, and it was all in good fun. Nowadays video games try to set their foot in the similar sort of niche big blockbuster films set, more realistic, better stories and plot, better voice acting.

I only had two issues with this game: the long loading times, and the clunky aiming... The aiming I fixed by reducing the sensitivity of the joysticks in the options menu. But the loading times are just the same.

If you were looking for a big blockbuster game, you obviously were expecting the wrong series of games to be revived. If you were expecting and hoping for a B-Grade style game, you've got it! And boy does it deliver!
2 years ago
What a terrible game. This crap should not have been released, what a weak display... Playing on the minds of people who played the original during the good days. The developers should be ashamed of themselves.. Maybe go whiddle some wood instead and make some statues. Glad I pirated this piece of crap.
2 years ago
Cool story Bro.
2 years ago
Heh. Behrpaws having a sense of entitlement to a game he stole.
2 years ago
It's like when you see people on torrent sights having a go at the original uploader in the comments section because they can't get something working.

behrpaws wrote
The developers should be ashamed of themselves.. Maybe go whiddle some wood instead and make some statues.
Oh, and seriously behrpaws, if it's a statue you were originally after, you should have bought the limited edition. See that there on the left? A statue.

2 years ago
This isn't a game. It's a piece of history! The game industry's longest running joke is over...

I'm still looking forward to getting this. I know it'll be mediocre-terrible, but I'll love every minute of it.
2 years ago
RWS wrote
Graphics not so good? I wasn't aware of B-Grade movies having the best special effects.
Or 14 years and untold millions spent in development.

It's going to be the same song and dance with every review - it'll get reviewed with 14 years of anticipation, more hype than a CoD game, and 2011 standards for graphics and controls. And in that sense, there is a lot broken about the game. It should have been released before Half Life 2, it's very definitely a post-Half Life take on the franchise and certainly doesn't live up to the delay or the destructive glee of DN3D.

But I found myself not caring. It's straight up stupid fun, which can't be found in any other major console release over the last few years (Bulletstorm's dialog doesn't count). Duke doesn't want you to think, he wants you to get blown through a glory hole in a strip club called Titty City. It's stupider than the stupidest big-action Hollywood movie you can think of, and will probably benefit the industry as a whole simply by existing (Why so serious, games industry? Look at Duke).

With this one done and dusted though, perhaps Gearbox will push out a proper sequel. Western society seems to be getting increasingly nostalgic, and I can only see a Duke game done with an engine reminiscent of the first Geo-Mod revisions being a good thing.
2 years ago
This is why nostalgia sucks and I don't have any for anything :]

I think the huge ammount of people buying this game just because it reminds them of the "good old days" can't possibly be a good thing and means the developers can just be lazy and rerelease old stuff with a new coat of paint. These are likely the same people complaining that the Call of Duty games sell so well. My 2p ♥
2 years ago
PixieGirl wrote
"good old days" when games were uglier and stupider and unituitive.... same people complaining that the Call of Duty games sell so well. My 2p ♥
Are you saying Duke3D was uglier, stupider and more unintuitive than CoD? =\
2 years ago
Yeah I just edited out that bit, because it doesnt really apply to all old games and it was a bit blunt. But yes actually its a lot uglier and stupider (I just remembered thats not even a word, yay the irony) than Call of Duty in my opinion. Not unintuitive though... Most old games however are incredibly unituitive. First person shooters havent really changed much in that way though.
2 years ago
I have never played Duke 3D, but honestly I'm having more fun with this than other modern shooters I've played. I've never liked the feel of Battlefield or COD, and while Homefront had an interesting story, the rest was bleh. Sure, this game doesn't have the prettiest graphics, but honestly, that doesn't make a lick of difference. I'm just glad to see something that in my opinion plays well and isn't damn near identical to every other fps out there.

That being said, I'd probably say the same thing if ID released doom 4 using the same engine as the first 2 games.

Edit: also, the sound. This game sounds awesome.
2 years ago
GooberMan wrote
Duke doesn't want you to think, he wants you to get blown through a glory hole in a strip club called Titty City.
Yet there's a few moments in the game where you are given a puzzle to figure out. This game does want you to think.
2 years ago
PixieGirl wrote
Most old games however are incredibly unituitive. First person shooters havent really changed much in that way though.
Many old games went for the big elaborate manuals as there usually wasn't enough processing power or space to put in the nice tutorials and intuitive presentation we're spoilt with now.

But still. The first time I played Doom? Imagine if Michael J. Fox tried to paint a recreation of the Sistine Chapel. It's strange that I remember being so inept at it considering I'd played the first person sections of Jurassic Park quite a bit by that point. It seems to be a "riding the bike" scenario, as controlling a FPS is about as intuitive as keeping upright on a vehicle you're both powering and controlling.

Gamesta wrote
Yet there's a few moments in the game where you are given a puzzle to figure out.
Always one person wanting to mince words. An entire post where I equate not thinking to being stupid reduced to an argument about puzzles. You know how to read, right?
2 years ago
Thanks for the review Cian, I'll stay away from this junk (which is just as I thought it would turn out).
2 years ago
While the critic in me bags the game out for being broken and awful, I can't help but genuinely laugh my arse off at the gameplay footage of it with commentaries on youtube.

See I'm torn now. Duke3D was farkin awesome back in the day (and hell it still is, plays great), and this game is much like Too Human where so many rehashes and delays have torn it to pieces, but at the same time, I really just want to play it for the lols.

2 years ago
JackSlack, on September 5, 2010 wrote
... You know what FPSs were in 1997? Quake. That's what the model was... that mode of game has been dead for years! ... What the hell is Duke going to be? A throwback? A clone of the developments? If it's either of those, I say again, why should we care?
Yeah, I'm a little smug, and definitely not above an 'I told you so'.
2 years ago
I have not started it yet (seems to be a running theme, i havn't immediately started several games i have purchased over the last month), hesitant with doing so. I should play it for myself, but i am being swayed by both sides. My expectations are not sky high, just wanting a different game other than COD. If i don't get motion sickness (which hindered my enjoyment of Borderlands another Gearbox title), i will be really happy.

I do hope that if they choose to move forward and continue the franchise with a NEW entry, that they work out what they want the game to be - and go from there (just not another 14 year development period).

It has given me an even bigger retro hit, i have been playing the pc version of Duke 3D a lot lately.
2 years ago
The game feels as though it was rushed to be honest.
It feels like Gearbox tried to make it playable on current systems as quickly as possible without ironing out issues and spending the time to make it properly.

It's feels like a beta game.
Still fun though and I'm glad I got it, a good change from COD.

I hope they come out with another one and spend some time to make the game properly.
2 years ago
I cannot put down in words how awfully wrong you are with quite everything you say about the game. Your conclusions are wrong, your basic arguments are wrong, your explanations are wrong and your whole analysis makes me nothing but angry.
This is unquestionably the worst review I've read in my entire life.
2 years ago
Denny on Facebook wrote
2 years ago
Sanguineu wrote
This is unquestionably the worst review I've read in my entire life.
Heard of IGN?
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Australian Release Date:
  16/06/2011 (Confirmed)
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