Duke Nukem Forever, PC

Duke Nukem Forever is the long-awaited sequel to Duke Nukem 3D that was in “development hell” for over a decade and was finally released in 2011. It was developed by 3D Realms and Gearbox Software (with contributions from Triptych Games and Piranha Games) and published by Take-Two Interactive. The game is a first-person shooter that satirises all-American action heroes, with over-the-top weapons, giant explosions, and puerile humour. Jon St. John once again returns to voice Duke himself.

The game has a single-player campaign, as well as a multiplayer component for deathmatching and team play. After starting the campaign you choose one of three difficulty levels (“Piece of Cake”, “Let’s Rock”, and “Come Get Some”), and are then ‘treated’ to a humorous sequence in which Duke finishes up in the bathroom before returning to his squad, who are in the middle of a fight with some aliens. A funny moment with a whiteboard gives some indication of the level of interactivity the game provides, before resuming the destruction. A few short minutes later and you’re faced with a boss battle in the middle of a stadium football field. And this is just the warm-up…

Instead of a health bar, Duke this time has an “EGO” bar, and the EGO bar is designed to discharge and re-charge quickly, rather than act like a traditional health bar. When Duke takes damage his EGO goes down and he must hide or take cover for a short while, to let it re-charge. If the screen goes red then he’s in danger of dying if he takes more damage. Duke‘s EGO can be temporarily inflated by interacting with certain things in the environment (by hitting a punchbag; receiving flattery from a hot girl, or by admiring his reflection in a mirror). Duke‘s EGO can also be permanently increased by defeating bosses.

Of course – this being a Duke Nukem game – the onus is all on the shooting and destruction, and the game gives you a variety of weapons to use, starting off with The Destructor, which was one of the last weapons you got in Duke Nukem 3D and returns here for the first boss battle. You unfortunately don’t get to keep it, though – it’s just there for the warm-up. After a short excursion you then get the patented Duke shotgun, which is inside a glass case that you have to break (because it’s an emergency). You then get a wide variety of weapons that you can acquire from defeated enemies and allies, and can switch between during combat. These range from pistols to rapid-fire lasers, rocket launchers, trip mines, and even a Rail Gun. The familiar triple-barrelled machine gun and Freeze Gun return too.

The enemies you encounter are a mix of familiar opponents from Duke Nukem 3D, and also a few new ones, and the AI does make them quite challenging to beat. They certainly don’t stand still for you to pick off at your leisure, and the hog enemies in particular are much more agile and aggressive in Duke Nukem Forever. They leap toward you to attack you and even frenzy when their health is low.

This is the first Duke Nukem game to use full 3D graphics, and it has to be said that the modelling, environments and animation are all first class, and the game also has some spectacular lighting effects. There are some issues with the visuals, though, which I’ve mentioned below.

Duke Nukem Forever does have some great little features and segments, like using a Remote Control truck to push a reactor fuel cell toward a vent; drinking beer to “make yourself tougher”; driving the RC car; executing enemies (which instantly recharges your EGO); the various turret sections; Duke scanning his arse on a photocopier (for an EGO boost); large-scale set pieces like the Mothership battle; using a wrecking ball on a crane to knock a hole in a wall, and being shrunk down to become a miniature Duke. And, of course, Duke once again dishes out the wisecracks to defeated enemies (mostly “borrowed” from films such as Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Escape From New York, They Live, Aliens and Full Metal Jacket).

The various boss battle are challenging and fun too. Bosses can only be hurt by explosive rounds or turrets, and once you’ve whittled their health down to zero you can then close in on them to administer the killing blow (usually by grabbing a part of them and mashing Space to rip it out). And after that you can even go a step further by humiliating them (usually by punching them in the balls, or drop-kicking one of their body parts). Which is funny.

The game does have some issues, though. Like, for example, only allowing a maximum of four weapons to be carried at once (and only if you have Expanded Inventory enabled, otherwise it’s just two), which I think is a big mistake. This is Duke Nukem, for Christ’s sake – a game that glories mayhem and destruction – restricting you to four interchangeable weapons! Whoever thought that was a good idea does not deserve to be working at a game development company… Also: some of the graphical blurring effects are absolutely horrible, resulting in some awful background visuals that just don’t look right. You can turn these “Post” effects off, but the game doesn’t really look much better. What the developers should have done is have toggles for the individual effects – not just lump them all under one tick box (which is what they have done). These two issues alone are worthy of a good moan, and it seems to me that the general reception to Duke Nukem Forever has been mixed, for more than just these two reasons.

Considering how long it took to make Duke Nukem Forever: it really should have been better, but overall the game is still fun to play, in spite of its faults. It does have some memorable moments, but is nowhere near the top of the First-Person Shooter tree. And it really should have been. I guess that this game has been a victim of two things: confused leadership, and too many cooks spoiling the broth. The sheer number of people involved in making it, and the number of times the game has been re-designed, means that far too many man hours have been wasted trying to make something ‘epic’, rather than simply trying to make something great.

More: Duke Nukem Forever on Wikipedia
Steam: Duke Nukem Forever on Steam
Steam: Duke Nukem Forever Collection on Steam

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