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 lard pirates dawt cawm  §  Duke Nukem Forever Review / by Spoony Spoonicus
 the waggoner  §  articles and general riff-raff exceeding your expectations of worthlessness.
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 ~Spoony Spoonicus on 01:57am 11/09/11 (02:50am 06/17/11) in 4h31m17s  §  2272 eyeballs
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We waited thirteen years for a boring, buggy Halo ripoff with crappy enemy AI and a narrative that's interrupted every ten minutes in order to force the player into yet another tedious find-the-key puzzle.

Before you ask, no, that sentence isn't an overraction to thirteen years of my own personal hype. My enthusiasm for this game (and that of everyone else I've ever asked about it) pretty much dipped to zero after the sixth or seventh straight year of delays, setbacks and reboots. But that said, everyone who had even a passing interest in Duke Nukem Forever certainly deserved something better than this uninspired mess. You would think after over a decade of development, engine changes and complete restarts, they'd have enough ideas to build a pretty damn good game on rather than having to resort to tedious filler at every single opportunity.

Just to punctuate my point, the point where I finally gave up and quit playing was when the game interrupted a moderately fun vehicle section midway through just to force me to hunt for a goddamn canister of gasoline. Wow, seriously guys? You couldn't just let me keep on having fun, you had to throw in that piece of bullshit busywork for no good reason? Did you lose your priorities somewhere among that big box of design documents or something?

Even worse than the boring find-the-key puzzles, though, are the frequent platforming puzzles, which - just like in every other shooter that prominently features them - are dull padding made to artificially lengthen the game and have the player get killed time and again due to one jump in a sequence of fifty being as little as a millimeter off. Or even better yet, there are the shrinking puzzles - even more monotonous platforming paired up with tedious box-shoving and having to run away from every enemy you encounter, lest they stomp you dead instantly! And every time you die, you get to sit through another of the game's excessively long load screens, which clock in at 30 to 40 seconds each. For a 2011 release, that's simply unacceptable.

Seriously though, why did they even bother with platforming puzzles in a Duke Nukem game? From its inception, Duke Nukem was the very definition of an arcade shooter - kill lots of monsters, find secret ammo caches to blow up more monsters, hunt for the occasional keycard (usually hidden in a relatively obvious place), complete the level, and move on to the next to kill more monsters. There was elegance in the simplicity of its design and the speed of its gameplay, and it was certainly a lot more entertaining than alternating between fighting groups of 2-3 braindead monsters and long bouts of tedious key-hunting. Hell, even the old, creative weapons and items that made Duke Nukem 3D unique just seem tacked on as a token gesture - the freeze ray and shrink gun are here, but so downgraded in power that they're practically useless. You can carry exactly one laser tripmine, so those are junk too. The Holoduke distracts enemies and cloaks the player so you can line up a free shot - key word being "one". You can fire exactly one round before the jig is up and they go right back to shooting at you. The jetpack is nowhere to be seen in the single player campaign. It's like they threw all that stuff in at the last minute just to say they had, not caring at all whether it replicated any of the feel of the original game or not. How do you do that to your own, beloved franchise that you sunk well over a decade and millions of dollars into making a "worthy" sequel for?

But what about Duke Nukem's trademark humor and controversial content? Surely they got that down, right? Well, sorry to disappoint, but no. Gone are the delightful moments of clever satire directed toward the big names in the industry. Oh, the satire is still there, but it loses all impact when you realize that the very things Duke makes fun of are in this game in full force - usually even moreso than in the games he's making fun of! For instance, does he just machine-gun or pipebomb his way past an "annoying Valve puzzle"? Nope, he sits there and spins valves for ten minutes until he finds the proper sequence and makes his way through. He drives an RC car (with terrible controls) through an obstacle course to push a key through a narrow gap. He engages in tedious platforming sections over instant death floors on a regular basis. Yeah, they were in Half-Life too, but pointing that out doesn't make you a comedic genius. In fact, it makes you look downright foolish when the things you're making fun of are much more prevalent in your game (and far less fun to sit through) they were in Half-Life. Oh, and he mocks Halo too, discounting the fact that this game is designed to play exactly like Halo with its regenerating shields (sorry, "Ego") and two-weapon gameplay. Also, do I even need to point out how wrong-headed it is for the developers to mock find-the-key puzzles early on in the game ("I don't need a fucking keycard!", Duke says as he rips a door open with his bare hands), and then force the player to spend much of the rest of the game hunting those very same keys? Yeah, that's some biting satire there, guys.

The controversial stuff (nudity, violence and toilet humor) is all there too, but no longer are they used as a platform for satire against the media or conventions of the genre; instead, make way for wave upon wave of cheap gags. "Oh look, you can slap the alien boobs for points! You can punch this whiny Christian Bale-esque figure* for an Ego boost! You can grab a turd and throw it around! That's funny, right?" It is, but only if you're nine years old, and even then you have to be pretty immature for your age.

*A real timely reference, by the way. That whole incident only took place three years ago. Not that it's the oldest joke the game throws our way, of course.

Another heavily-touted feature of the game is its interactive environment - many objects can be interacted with in various ways, from turning light switches and sinks on and off to even playing minigames like basketball, air hockey and pinball. Interacting with many objects often gives a slight health boost to Duke, and winning minigames gives an even larger boost (and unlocks achievements). Sadly, this doesn't result in a whole lot of fun for the player - the physics in the game are so jerky and unnatural that none of these minigames end up being any fun to play. How sad is it when the Atari 2600 has a far better and more playable pinball game than a big budget 2011 release?

I must also address possibly the single most bone-headed design decision ever to be implemented into the first person shooter genre - regenerating health. Talk about eliminating all sense of tension and gameplay strategy from the genre in one fell swoop. "No no, there's no need to evade hits and preserve health that you might need for a bigger enemy later, just hide behind a box for a couple of seconds and you'll be right back at full health! In fact, we can actively flaunt this by giving enemies cheap, unavoidable attacks! Hell, why even bother having environmental hazards anymore, they're no danger to you at all unless they kill you fucking instantly! Speaking of which, everything that's not a platform in this room will kill you and send you back to the checkpoint after an excessively long load screen, now have fun!" Kee-rist. Say what you want about picking up a health kit and being instantly healed, at least it added a feeling of danger and some forethought to the experience instead of just letting you muscle your way through without breaking a sweat. Hell, modern shooters might as well just hand you all of their single-player achievements for free - between the constant checkpoints and the fact that you heal faster than Wolverine, it's just a matter of time before you get them all anyway. To say nothing of the fact that playing duck-and-cover is not how Duke Freaking Nukem - a character made to parody and pay tribute to invincible, Schwarzenegger-esque action heroes - should act in his games!

In short, I simply don't see where those millions of dollars and thirteen years of development time went at all. We were promised an innovative and groundbreaking shooter - and it may well have been if it came out in say, 2001 - but what we ultimately get is a painfully mediocre modern shooter that combines the worst aspects of both old and new games in the genre while retaining virtually none of the positives. The game is laden with filler, the enemies aren't fun to fight (especially the bosses, which are all just monotonous and frustrating), the humor is forced at best and hypocritical at worst, and it simply isn't funny or much fun to play. Whether you were a Duke Nukem fan back in the mid-90s or not, you deserve something a lot better than this for your money.


So in conclusion, don't even bother with DNF. Save yourself some money and buy Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter instead. It's a far more enjoyable experience and much truer to the tenets of frantic old-school shooters. If you want something more modern in style, go for Bionic Commando (very underrated game, seriously) or Vanquish. Hell, I'm not even a fan of Halo beyond the first game, but I'd gladly recommend any game in that franchise over this boring slop.

But if you absolutely must have some Duke, then do yourself a big favor by heading over to Good Old Games and plunking down six dollars for the Atomic Edition of Duke Nukem 3D. I guarantee you'll have a much more fun and enjoyable experience than what's on offer here.
 rawks  §  rad comments, dogg.
 ~Azul Rojo  §  at 09:45pm 06/21/11
I'm surprised there were keycard puzzles, seeing as a few of the trailers seemed to show that idea being trashed: "Keycard? I don't need a fucking keycard!" *Duke forces a door open* This happens near the very start of the game. Then, apparently, that's it. You'd better find the fucking keycards after that.

At least they were decent enough to keep (and even up) the crude humor. Faggs Cigarettes with a dude in a leather bondage outfit on the pack? Push R1 to piss in a urinal? Punch a guy in the face because he's acting like a dickbag? Blow aliens up while Duke mocks them? Awesome! But I remember one of the older games allowing you to walk into a titty bar and pay the ladies to flash you. Now that's been replaced with "Hey, go find me some items and something cool MIGHT happen." Hooray. Fetch the item quests. Those are super fun.

If it wasn't for the crude humor and the occasional fun bits that popped up, I don't even think this would've passed for a Duke Nukem game in the slightest.
 ~FUN FACT  §  at 02:42am 06/22/11
A list of several better games that came out this month that you can play instead:

  • Shadows of the Damned (Xbox 360/PS3)
  • Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)
  • Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX (3DS Shop)
  • Donkey Kong (3DS Shop)
  • 3D Classics: Excitebike (3DS Shop)
  • Bangai-o HD (Xbox Live)
  • Wing Commander: Privateer (Good Old Games)
  • Ultima Underworld 1 and 2 (Good Old Games)
  • Crusader: No Remorse (Good Old Games)

    Gods Eater Burst also had some free DLC released today, so go check that out too.
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