Hands-on – Duke Nukem Forever

There has been a lot of buzz on the internet lately about Duke Nukem Forever and the majority of it wasn’t even positive. Wether it be through Fox News or Totalbiscuit, Duke Nukem has been a regular topic of discussion. Well now, since the game’s release on the 10th of June I had the chance to play through a good chunk of the game now, and I’m here to give my thoughts on it. Enjoy.

When you come home with some games you just have to stick ’em in your pc or console and start playing immediately. There’s no need to think any further. But sometimes you get to play a game that’s more special than others. Duke Nukem Forever falls into the last category, at least before having played it. What was the joke of the decennium in the video game industry has now became reality. Duke Nukem Forever is being released after 14 years of development. But did those 14 years pay off, or did they just set mile-high expectations that aren’t met?

Firing up Duke Nukem Forever is an exciting moment. First of all because it’s a piece of video game history, but most of all because of the hilarious introduction. DNF starts of with a cartoony compilation video where Duke beheads the characteristic aliens that looks a lot like pigs, reads a newspaper, kicks eyeballs away and blows up floating octopus-things. And with that, the tone of the game is set. Lovely!

If this didn’t convince you that Duke Nukem Forever is not to be taken serious in any way, then you really need to see a doctor or something. The first level, Duke Lives, starts off with the well-known sound of the Duke Nukem theme. Couple that with a black screen and the well-known quote ‘Those alien bastards are gonna pay for shooting up my ride’. How the actual gameplay starts is quite characteristic for a Duke Nukem game, I won’t spoil the fun for you though (a quick search on YouTube will do that for you, if you so desire)

Shits and giggles

Believe it or not, Duke Nukem Forever has a story. After getting head from the most outdated joke in the game, the Holson-twins, Duke visits a talk-show. Once there, he finds out that the earth is being attacked by aliens, which prompts Duke to kill them all one by one. The president, however, forbids him from doing anything as there is a chance for peace. Well, let’s just say that this doesn’t stop Duke from kicking ass and chewing bubblegum. Sadly, he’s all out of gum.

The game is not just a Run ‘n Gun game as platform and puzzle elements are fairly common in the game. From this point of view Duke Nukem is as traditional as can be. Whereas most shooters just give you a nice, high-paced experience, Duke Nukem offers the weird (but not annoying) combination of action sequences and puzzle/platform elements. Nope, Duke Nukem Forever is not Super Mario 64, but it’s not a mindless FPS either. Even though the style and humour of the Duke might indicate that. Together with the interactive elements in the environment (you can throw poo, ’nuff said), you’ve got a pretty decent and varying single player experience.

Having said that, shooting alien brains out is still the main activity in the game. And there’s plenty to shoot at – the game will keep you busy for around 10 hours. Although this might have something to do with the pretty high difficulty the game offers: Every once in a while you encounter enemies without actually expecting it. It could be that you’re surprised by a horde of aliens. You often end up dying because a) you don’t expect the danger, b) enemies are often more powerful than you and c) the AI is incredibly stupid as enemies just come running at you and end up blocking your way out. And don’t think you can just scroll through dozens of weapons to find the one that will blow all of them to kingdom come because the Duke can only carry 2 weapons at a time. Not to mention the game often dictates what gun you should use.

Grandpa Duke

The weird difficulty level is not an annoyance however, but it is an indication of old game design. And that’s something you’ll encounter a lot in Duke Nukem Forever. Fo example, the game is graphically very outdated: the faces are pretty standard, objects at a distance are not clear and the textures are ancient. Also, everything seems covered with Vaseline. The game tries to offer a wide variety of environments but in the end they all end up looking pretty brown. Duke Nukem Forever really tries, but it’s still the Meg Griffin of the modern video game world.

In any case, it’s not surprising anymore: the 14 years of development took its toll on Duke Nukem. Both in gameplay and appearance, but also on the technical side of things. You’ll get annoyed at long loading time between levels, trust me. Every 5 minutes you’ll be looking at a loading screen for a minute, which became really annoying after playing a while (for me at least). But even picking up stuff from your environment can be a hassle as you almost have to get your cursor exactly on the object to achieve any form of interaction.

The verdict

In all fairness: Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a very good game. Even worse, in comparison with modern-day shooters it should be mildly ashamed. It’s ugly, technically behind and doesn’t try to do anything new (on a single player level at least, I haven’t played multiplayer). But when all is said and done, Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a normal game. Gearbox didn’t release the game with the illusion that it’s a really good game. The linearity, lack of more than 2 weapons and the pretty generic graphics are its downfall. However, Duke Nukem Forever is an ode to gamers and Duke fans across the world, and from that point of view it does not let anyone down. The humour is still awesome, cheesy and childish as ever. The gameplay does hold up fairly well and the single player will keep you busy longer than a modern-day shooter will (in general, I’m looking at you Call Of Duty: Black Ops!). I enjoyed the game and I had some good laughs, and if you expect nothing more this will be a good game to keep you busy for the weekend.

You might not want to buy at full price though, but I don’t have any doubt that the price will drop fairly soon. If you want a similar experience to Duke Nukem Forever with better graphics, the same kind of humour and more guns I suggest you take a look at Bulletstorm which is dirt cheap by now.


Author: Niels Van Hellemont

Hi, my name is Niels and I'm a long time fan of movies, anime, comics, games and whatnot. Could say that I'm a bit of a fanatic when it comes to the above mentioned things. I'm currently studying for a Bachelor After Bachelor in Advanced Business Management - Human Resources Management.

2 thoughts on “Hands-on – Duke Nukem Forever”

  1. I liked the fact that your last article was bitching at me for not liking the game and then you go and point out exactly the same issues that I did once you’d played it.

    Very unwise to critique something you know nothing about 😉

    1. It wasn’t the fact that I disagreed with you, on the contrary even. I enjoy watching your video’s, but I have to say that repeating the same issue over and over didn’t come across well for me. And it’s not like I was bitching at you since you do make valid points as I said:

      ‘He makes some valid points when saying that carrying only 2 weapons is nothing for a Duke Nukem game, and he’s right’

      ‘Another thing he mentions is that people seem to be complaining about the graphics’

      The only thing I really criticised is the fact you thought it was too hard, but you were playing on hard. Furthermore, that article is based on your demo playthrough and not on the video where you highlight good and bad points.

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