Pure, simple, fun. For a game that has taken 15 years, multiple court hearings and four developers to complete, Duke Nukem Forever (DNF) is a glorious throwback to classic 1990’s first person shooters, and as stated by the Duke himself, “forever takes a long time” but thankfully not much has changed.
If you have never played the original Duke games, or more specifically Duke 3D, then this installment may not hold the same appeal when compared to the modern genre defining titles such as Halo, COD or Resistance. But if you are prepared to open your heart to one of the most iconic characters of the 90’s, and allow yourself to be absorbed into the Duke Kingdom, then you will find a fun, fast paced action adventure with alot of humour thrown in.
Voiced once more by Jon St. John, Duke is called back into action following the return of the aliens, who have started taking the earth’s babes hostage at the Duke Dome in a scene very similar to that of the residence of LV-426 in Aliens. Unhappy at such an insult, you take control of Duke as he fights across various maps and locations, all predominantly owned by, or in homage to the big man himself and his exploits from Duke 3D, you are a legend! The goal is simple: rid the world once more of the alien threat, clean up after the EDF, and generally ignore the ramblings and requests of the US President, after all you are DUKE NUKEM!!! Hail to the king baby! As I’m sure you are probably gathering, DNF is all about being a bold, brash, humorous and distasteful in equal measure. Whilst some may find this very juvenile, for many it will be a welcome escape from the rinse and repeat shooters, and for the more nostalgic, a window into what gaming was all about almost 2 decades ago.
The single player campaign is well paced with, a great balance of power weapons, trip mines, pipe bombs, shrink rays and rocket launchers. Enemy AI is solid, with clear differences in the tactics of each, but all will succumb to a heavy dose of the Devastator. Explosive barrels, weapon crates, mounted turrets and simple puzzles all make an appearance and certainly help to keep the entertainment value of DNF at a constant high. Missions are frequently interspersed with set-plays which lend themselves well to building the tension, as well as providing a stage for the Duke to reel off some more killer one liners, whilst the Duke Monster Truck/Highway missions have been kept in place, first featuring in the E3 trailer for DNF back in 1998.
Every gaming cliché has been pulled into this one title, and the Duke light-heartedly ridicules modern heroes and movies. Most note worthy included an entire re-enactment of the infamous Christian Bale rant, and when offered a Halo suit, the Duke simply replies “power armour’s for pussies”, many more nods are placed throughout the campaign all of which brought a smile no matter how subtle, with even Duke himself ridiculing the development time of DNF.
The controls are tight and weapons nicely varied, with possibly only the freeze ray being slightly underpowered, but having an unlimited supply of ammo in between cooling off periods goes a little way to making up for this. Enemies will gib according to what weapons are used, but our favourite has to be under the influence of steroids, where the Duke downs tools and goes back to his fists for a short period of time. Unlike Lionhead’s recent titles, Duke once again restores the value of smashing into crates that still litter each of the levels. Whilst many may contain nothing, the rewards of the occasional holo-duke, beer can, pipe bomb or trip mine make it a worth while activity in the long run.
Health is measured as a recharging “EGO” meter, and can be extended by interacting with the many distractions throughout each level, from benching weights, playing basketball, pinball machines, taking a pee or burgling turds each will have its own effect on your maximum within a given level. Although trivial, this really restores the fun elements of exploring within each of the worlds to try and find these little extras that the developers have included, distancing itself from the linear nature of some of the more modern and story driven titles.
Whilst everything about the campaign is great, and brilliantly fun for the 8 hours it will take you to complete, the online is slightly more disappointing.
In true Duke style the game types range from capture the babe, to team duke match, with customisable options around the weapon types available and map limitations. Some classics have been included, but this did feel slightly dated. Matches were easy enough to find, but we frequently experienced lag in matches, which when you only have your fists to rely on, made for some very frustrating moments. One of the elements that was particularly nice for the online component was the ability to unlock additional items, and interactive games for your virtual Duke Apartment. Levelling up in the multiplayer not only unlocks new outfits for the Duke, but also the classic games, statues and paintings from the single player to decorate your pad, all of which are tended to by your scantily clad buxom French maid.
Overall Duke Nukem Forever is a must buy for any existing fan of the series, or FPS lover who is looking for a break from the norm. This game is not necessarily going to become your new favourite online shooter, but will give you a hell of a fun single player campaign to waste away a few afternoons and weekends. This is a classic 90’s throwback title with a modern facelift, and has quite possibly been the most fun title that I have played so far this year.