Off top, we have to say that 3D Realms and 2K Games get props like Black Moon in ’94 for finally getting Duke Nukem Forever in stores. That being said, it would be nearly impossible for the game to live up to the hype that has generated over the last 16 years—and to keep it completely 100, DNF falls a bit short of expectations.
To be fair, we live in the age of political incorrectness, so a beer-guzzling, steroid-addled, threesome-having antihero ain’t exactly taboo any longer—we see that type of behavior from professional athletes and actors on the regular. And when done right, Duke’s attitude and propensity foul language is welcomed and expected. What we didn’t expect, though, is the somewhat dated gameplay.
By Branden J. Peters
Duke is the man, he lives in Las Vegas, and has carte blanche after saving the world from an alien attack. As you probably guessed, the aliens are back for some revenge, retaliation and get back. Being the bad-ass that he is, Duke decides to fight back despite the President’s wishes. Aaaaaand...that's it. Cue the firefights and threesomes.
DNF’s Achilles heel is also its strong point. The mixing of genres is cool for some gamers but hardcore shooter fans will be frustrated by the long stretches of puzzle-like gameplay. In order to make it through each level Duke has to shoot, problem solve, evade enemies and use structures.
Driving is also a big part of the game, which breaks the monotony but it also takes far too long to get from point A to B at times—not to mention Duke has to fix, flip, and gas up the whip from time to time. Creative weapons are sprinkled throughout to help push the missions along (you can also pick up dead enemies’ straps)—the freeze ray will quickly become a favorite.
Shooter fans are also going to hate the fact that Duke is on his own in battles, especially considering that U.S. soldiers are strewn throughout each level. Unfortunately, they spend more time getting murked and talking amongst themselves than fighting. And while the magnitude of the boss battles live up to current-day standards in size and scope, they're far more run-and-gun than strategic. You'll be popping in and out of shelter more often than you'd like, for an experience that stops short of being satisfying.
The deathmatch format is ubiquitous, and Gearbox keeps it simple: Players are thrown into a kill-or-be-killed environment where weapons are plentiful and murders are easy to come by. The only twist is that players can equip their own personal Duke with gear and layout his mansion as well. Think of it as Call of Duty: Cribs.
Just because DNF doesn’t live up to expectations doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent game. The fun factor is high when the gameplay is rolling. The variety of different types of levels is on point as well—simple straightforward action is mixed in well with multi-level, highly interactive environments. On the flip side, the targeting system/hit detection could be better, and it would help to have some sort of enemy indications on the HUD. At the end of the day, though, trying to compare DNF with the crop of regular first-person shooters is like apples and oranges. What other game could you pick up where the main character drops “pussy,” “motherfucker” and "douche" with flair? Duke may no longer be king of the gaming world—but at least for this gamer, he still holds his own.