Duke Nukem Forever Xbox 360 Review

June 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher – 2K Games – Developer – 3D Realms/Gearbox Software – Genre – FPS – Players – 1-8 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3

Fourteen years is a long time, time enough for things to dramatically change and since 3D Realms first started building the aptly named Duke Nukem Forever, the FPS landscape has indeed changed.

In that intervening time recharging health, sprint functions and two weapon limits have all been introduced to the genre, whilst the rise of the scripted FPS has happened. Not forgetting the unfortunate demise of 3D Realms, which left the well regarded developer Gearbox to finish off development.

Duke Nukem Forever takes place twelve years after the much loved Duke Nukem 3D. Saving the planet from an alien threat has propelled Duke to celebrity status; he has his own casino, masses of admiring women and even his own statue and merchandise. But obviously Duke’s cushy lifestyle doesn’t last and the pig like aliens are once again invading America, leaving it up to him to once again save the planet.

Typically for a Duke Nukem game there’s lots of humour, often of the crass variety, along the way, some of which is amusing, one example being that at the beginning of the game Duke is playing a game that has had a similarly protracted development to Duke Nukem Forever, with the man himself saying that “it should be good after twelve years”. Some other attempts at humour aren’t as successful and are either cringe worthy or in bad taste, but I’d still much rather play as Duke than a generic space marine.

The shooting mechanics are more Duke Nukem 3D than they are a modern day FPS. The aiming is loose; Duke’s pace is quick, though elsewhere inspiration has been taken from contemporary shooters, and, in many ways, such modern features has diluted the OTT experience for Duke Nukem 3D fans.

For starters, Duke has a recharging shield, of which after taking damage takes an age to recharge, which in turn has a profound effect on the flow of combat, requiring you to hide behind objects to evade enemy gunfire, giving it the time to recharge. By comparison Duke Nukem 3D was a run and gun shooter, where the focus was squarely placed on fast paced action, leaving such a change in Duke Nukem Forever as a bit of an odd decision that won’t sit well with those looking for the full old school Duke Nukem experience.

The same could similarly be said for the two weapon restriction, of which could be frustrating for those that feel empowered by carrying around Duke’s entire arsenal of guns in Duke Nukem 3D. The series has always been focussed on being a juvenile OTT gore fest too, so it’s hard to argue that these steps towards realism are needless.

In regard to guns, Duke Nukem Forever has plenty to offer in this department. As far as conventional weaponry goes, the shotgun is particularly deserving of a mention, as it has such a satisfying kick to it. More unorthodox weapons include a shrink ray, which just as the name implies allows you to shrink aliens down (they look cute enough to pick up and take home) and then proceed to crush them beneath your boot. There’s also a freeze ray, which allows you to literally stop enemies in their tracks, though surprisingly there aren’t any fresh weapons to speak of, which is sure to disappoint some, though the ones that are on offer are largely enjoyable to use.

Unlike most modern day games in the genre, Duke Nukem Forever has some light puzzle solving elements, of which tasks you with doing such things as connecting pipes and finding the right route through an area. They won’t have many pausing for thought for long, but nevertheless it makes a nice change from shooting things in an FPS all the time.

There are platform sections too, and these often have you shrunk down and have you jumping across burgers, shelves, frying pans and such. Even though it can occasionally feel frustratingly imprecise, again they’re a welcome change of pace.

Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t have all the technical magic of modern day games that make them look absolutely lovely and it doesn’t really look much better than the fourteen year old game that it is. The abhorrent loading times are also frustrating, particularly on the tricky sections, and you’d think that its long period in the oven would have resulted in a better optimized game.

Unsurprisingly there’s an online component too. It’s very vanilla though, featuring death match’s (with solo and team variations) capture the flag and King of the Hill, all of which are enjoyable enough with the efficient core gunplay that’s on offer, though are held back by being so uninspired. It’s also difficult to imagine the Halo and Call of Duty masses migrating to Duke Nukem Forever’s servers, at least not for very long anyway.

Taking fourteen years to finally arrive, Duke Nukem Forever could very well have been one of the finest games ever, if not for the fact that the protracted development period was related to a troubled development. It’s not even close to reaching that level of quality, but it’s still an enjoyable game that, in spite of its part modern day inspiration, still however manages to be distinct and possesses a personality that is all too often absent from its genre today.

At least it got released before next year’s apocalypse, too.