At the outset of Duke Nukem Forever, the titular blond-haired, kill-crazy hero again embarks on a quest to wipe out lots of aliens. His reasons are simple – they stole his babes. The plot doesn’t make much sense at the beginning, the character development is limited to crude dialogue meant to elicit nothing more than cheap laughs, and the secondary characters do little more than spout nonsense laced with profanity. It tries to be Commando with extraterrestrials, which, as a goal, is just fine.
What’s bothering me after a few hours of play is how difficult Duke Nukem Forever makes it to enjoy the shooting parts. There’s an overlong introductory sequence that does nothing but awkwardly glorify Duke’s shallow, vulgar personality. Shooting sequences are constantly interrupted by weird puzzles and character dialogue that’s about as entertaining to listen to as the rattle of subway trains. Then there’s a bizarre vehicle sequence where Duke, after being shrunk down to a miniature size, needs to speed around in a toy car across broken floors and boost to clear jumps. The poor level design often makes stages unnecessarily confusing to navigate, and the inclusion of clumsy platforming sections is all the more off-putting.
When DNF finally does get to the shooting bits, it’s more entertaining, though can’t really decide whether it wants to be a pure nonsense murder-fest like Serious Sam or a modern shooter. Early in the game, Duke walks by a suit of Halo-like power armor and scoffs, saying he doesn’t need it. Yet he has a regenerating health bar and can only carry two weapons at once; modern shooter mechanics popularized by the very game he so enthusiastically disparages. You do, at least, get to run through linear shooting galleries plugging away at aliens with turrets, shotguns, machine guns and rocket launchers, though even this gets wearyingly repetitive early on.
The look of Duke Nukem Forever is most certainly dated, with a level of detail way behind the bleeding edge and, on Xbox 360, framerate issues and unreasonabley long load times. Even if that’s to be expected considering the game’s been in development for over a decade, it doesn’t make it any easier to look at. For sound, there’s forgettable grinding guitar music and a handful of crude Duke quotes, which unfortunately start to be recycled far too soon. It feels like a game ripped out of the nineties with a few modern mechanics wedged in, which I guess isn’t entirely surprising.
I’m still playing through at this point for review, so maybe Duke Nukem Forever will get better further in. So far, there’s little worthy of praise. It’s a clumsily put together game that, even when it tries hard to deliver exciting action set pieces like fights against giant bosses, feels dull and derivative. The only impressive part about Duke Nukem Forever is that it exists as a finished game.
Look for a review early next week, as I’ll be spending the next while getting through the rest of the story and trying out the multiplayer modes.
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