Never was a game so appropriately named. Fans of the cigar-chomping, gum-chewing, babe-flirting alien destroyer have had to wait nearly 15 years for their wisecracking hero to return, in the process surviving near-extinction on several occasions. Question is, now he’s back, is he up to scratch?
When he first appeared, the Duke was a breath of fresh air in the first-person shooter genre, providing a welcome injection of irreverent teenage testosterone to a Doom-dominated audience. But has the lead character in Duk Nukem Forever adapted well enough to suit the the current generation of FPS fans?
Ego, beer and steroids
Part of the answer is revealed in the opening frame, where your first action is to pee into a urinal. So Duke is still an unreconstructed, non-PC male – only he now lives in a swish Las Vegas penthouse with a couple of Olson twins lookalikes, and is universally adored by the public. When an alien fleet arrives on earth again, he’s warned by the president not to take aggressive action against the visitors – cue full-on ultra-violence, as the conquest begins.
As you’d expect, our hero’s strength and prowess is increased by building his Ego meter (by looking in the mirror, doing exercise, etc.), drinking beer and taking steroids. You’ll recognise most of the weapons of old – Freeze Beam, Shrink Ray, shotgun, Ripper chaingun, rocket launcher – but you’re restricted to carrying only two at a time (a nod at Halo?), and the jetpack only appears in multiplayer. There are no health packs to pick up, so instead it’s an endless series of shoot-’n'-cover episodes to give you time to heal.
Varied gameplay, so-so graphics
The developers have made some attempt to try and emulate current trends, so our macho man can use Duke Vision to see in the dark. There’s also a Lara Croft-like underwater section, some turret-shooting and two extended driving sequences (one as a shrunk Duke). No shortage of nudity, either – especially in the chapter spent in Duke’s strip club – and you can play a host of games like pinball, slot machines and air hockey. You even get shrunk down in one sequence and have to take potshots at aliens while dodging behind food jars.
So it’s fair to say that Duke Nukem Forever has no shortage of variety in the gameplay. However, you have to deal with long load times, checkpoint saving and often wayward aiming. The graphics don’t feel dated so much as ordinary. There’s little here to wow you. Overall, you get the feeling that Duke is like the aged rocker who still thinks he’s a teen rebel and wants to be thought of as cool at his kids’ raves. He was great in his day, and there are still moments of fire – but sometimes he’s just embarrassing.
Company: 2K Games
- The range of gameplay variety.
- The unerotic 'erotica'.
While much has been debated over the long gestation period, the essential facts are that playing Duke Nukem Forever is like watching a musician come out of a long retirement - great to experience some of the old hits but you can't help feeling you're watching a dinosaur.