Monday, June 18, 2012

VGR Duke Nukem Forever

If someone took forever to make a cookie - the perfect cookie - no matter the ingredients or the intentions behind, it would taste disgusting. The eggs would turn out rotten, the sugar out-of-date, the chocolate spoilt. Made from expired products chances are it wouldn't be as good as it could if it was simply done on the moment.

Duke Nukem Forever is the longest rumored vaporware to have actually been released. It has been on development for the past 15 years, sometimes in and out of development hell.

But like a strange messiah, it finally arrived in store about a year ago. Now, I'm finally ready to review it.

Don't miss out my previous Duke Nukem-related reviews!
VGR: Duke Nukem Forever
From 3D Realms/Triptych Games/Piranha Games/Gearbox Software
Played on Xbox 360
Also available on PC, PS3 & Mac

Type FPS
Year 1996-2011

This is it!
It took various convulsed turns during production, but it finally became real!

It took about 15 of making of this game, various game engine changes, various co-developers and several publishers to finally make it true.

Duke Nukem Forever took, well, forever to materialize.
Like a bad joke turned truth, 3D Realms were simply too small a studio to handle this dantesque project. After all they came from the "indie scene" of PC sharewares of the early 90s.
And with expectations growing up year after year since the huge success of the original Duke Nukem 3D...
3D Realms wanted to have the best looking game ever. But year after year another more impressive new franchise kept rising. First Half-Life, then Halo, etc.
They even presented various builds of the game over the year, one pretty impressive in 1999 and another one at an E3 convention in 2001. 

Finally around 2010, struggling with financial problems, they were forced to shut down, sell out the Duke and close store. The IP was left with 2K Games, and the impossible task to finish this project and the copyrights to the character with Gearbox.

Without further ado, let's not delve into all that here, and check out the game itself right away...

What? Did you think I was gone forever? (

So, the Duke is back!
Thing start on the possible not with what is probably without a doubt one of my favorite beginning of a game in a long while.

The Duke is seen facing down the Cycloid Emperor, the final boss of the "original" DN3D...only to be revealed to be actually him playing this reimagined ending in a video game (in the game itself) of his past successes.
The Duke is actually at home, with these Holsen Twins girls (yeah...). Where it seems he's been hanging out this past decade.

From here on, it only goes downhill.

Duke Nukem is now a huge interplanetary star, everybody loves him. Men want to be him (and do him!) and women want to do him (and vice-versa I guess?).
Our super-macho over-the-top parody of an action hero is, well, still a parody. And a bit more so than ever.
Duke cracks jokes and one-liners like a gatling gun on fire.

But all is not great and sunny on this side of Las Vegas...

I'm from Las Vegas, and I say: kill 'em all!

Simply put, the aliens are back! Again!
What is it this time, like the gazillionth time? Where do all these guys keep coming from?!

Guys get turned into pigs. Girls are captured to bred more aliens. (yuck and - remember, this is a satire/parody, started in '96!)
Most of the original enemies are back, albeit grittier. Bosses are all back too despite being dead in the past game(s) for some reason.

It still is a fun simple FPS.
And all things should be right and work out like a charm like in the past, right?

Bonjour, le hot stuff.

Only it isn't like before.

The game simply looks dated.
There. I said it! It passed down so many different game engines over the years... The game wasn't nearly finished under his current incarnation when Gearbox picked up the pieces. They just tried their best to keep the current build playable, copy/paste all levels one after the other with a vague storyline binding it all together.

And when I say dated, I don't mean like the original Duke 3D looks "retro" and 16-bits-ysh.
But like it's a dated-current generation game. It's a completely different sort of first person shooter now actually.
Duke can now only carry two weapons at the same time (thank you Halo!). While others tried to stay true to their identity (like Half-Life 2 still used the multi-weapon system that allows Gordon Freeman to play identically as before only in a modern game), Duke here was "adapted" for a modern audience.
Duke can't "boot kick" enemies while holding a weapon, but use his gun for a melee attack. (pressing rapidly the action button to open up a door while sometimes use the kick animation though)
Duke can't run anymore, he only briefly speeds up for a second or two.
Duke reminds me of Danny Glover being too old for this shit.
Duke doesn't carry health packs anymore but regenerate his health like a Spartan now. Which makes the whole game way easier, like it wasn't built for it initially. (a problem? almost dying? crouch down a second or two, get your whole life back, and voilà!)

I'm lookin' for some alien toilet to park my bricks... Who's first?

And the game's not just easier, even on the harder difficulty. (which, by the by, just gives more health to enemies)
It's also completely linear. Simple.

The original Duke 3D, like Doom 1 or 2, offered large, multi-layered explorable levels. Even by today's standards, it took quite some time and know-how to complete them. Plus they had secrets laying all around to search for meaning replay-value.

DNF offers sometimes large open areas where you have to defeat wave after wave of enemies.
And the rest of the time, long corridors to walk down for hours and hours.
Or driving segments.

Weapon wise, all classic weapons are back. They were a bit upgraded visually, but they mostly react similar to their past versions.

And then there's the infamous "stand your ground" parts. Where Duke will be forced to hold a gatling gun and defeat hordes of monsters. It's not fun, it's just long and annoying. Dying while get you back a few steps, always.

Where you'll encounter this game's worst problem, the loading screens.
Understand me, I have a long love for the series and am usually able to stand the worst gaming as to offer. but here the loading times were so frequent and long, and annoying. And did I say frequent? The levels are basically very small mini-areas of the larger current "world" the story is taking place in. And you'll encounter loadings all the time each time you move onward a new segment. (street-> building area->first floor->floor->floor->floor->floor->out of building->street->driving segment <- all these separated by various loading screens, not counting you dying like an idiot here and there, adding more loading screens...)
No doubt the game reloading the entire levels/textures/engine each time, coming from the unnatural disjointed development behind Forever.

Another day, another disembowelment

Speaking of the driving parts, I cannot stress you enough how useless they were.
Like ID Software's Rage, they seem to compose most of the game for some reason.
But here they really detract from the core of this game. They're also long. Most of the time not really entertaining. It feels a bit tackled on. And I do remember from earlier versions of the game it seem they were "added" the more recently.

It really feels like they originally simply wanted to make the game bigger, in scope and epic proportions.
But perhaps it was too much to handle? 3D Realms just wanted to make the best sequel ever, making a bold new original title for the FPS genre, with such standards established by the classic Duke 3D.
But there's a thing to understand here, 3D Realms never was a big studio to begin with. They've never been as big as, say, Ubisoft Montreal who can pump out an Assassin's Creed-like game per year. And they aren't as big financially or professional as EA and other similar big name companies.

Also, they never actually had the pressure of an actual release date, being self-published. (though they were financed by external publishers for the would be-release) Unlike their brother company ID Software.
They produced their own engines and rebuild the games several times over.
But Duke Nukem Forever should have taken the time and resources ID took from Doom 2 to Doom 3. Nothing more, nothing less.

Damn it, why do they always take the hot ones?

I write a lot for a simple review, you might say I'm passionate about the subject.

The game at its core seems to be a less fun remake of Duke Nukem 3D than the actual so awaited sequel. 
The game isn't really "bad" per say. It looks dull, boring too. It isn't really that ugly.

It certainly pertains to another genre of FPS than Duke 3D. While Duke Nukem 3D was more about humor, puzzles, big open areas and exploration (Portal anyone?), Duke Nukem Forever is a more straightforward arcade experience with crass humor.
dall game looks boring not ugly

The multiplayer is basic. Very basic.
Quake 3 Arena basic, but good to my tastes. I actually found myself playing it quite a lot over this past year.

The best aspect is probably the sound area. Sounds are great, dynamic. From weapons to enemies grunt. The voice acting can be a bit stereotypical, but for a reason.
And Jon St. John returns, at his best! (though his lines could have been better...)

Gearbox retain the rights to character.
The game actually made quite a lot of money, despite bad press, reviews and hate from the community.
From the long development hell and name only I'm sure.

Overall, the babes are back, but Duke isn't at his top form. 
"Oops, outta ammo."

The game is fun, sorta, kinda. 
For such a bad example how to badly manage a video game production, it actually is playable which is already surprising.
3D Realms ended up releasing various different unrelated games over the years based on earlier prototypes during production. Such as Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project or Max Payne with Remedy.
Forever actually looks a lot like PREY another title spawned from this one.
Visually it shares many of its aesthetic, visuals and gameplay. Though Forever seems to be a parody of PREY, it is PREY that ends up looking like the better of the two.

Now that it actually exists... Duke Nukem Forever kinda lost a lot of its "magic"...
But oyu know what? I'm actually glad it does. It wouldn't have been the same to lose it and Forever never seeing the light of the day.
People might dislike and hate it, but you know it will probably never lose its legendary development status.

It took about ~15 years in the making, but I won't be surprised it another sequel is released in 2-3 years down the line...

Duke Nukem Forever is pretty fun.
Though it has some very bad segments, leftovers that needed to be smooth down a bit.

It is a very strange experience.
Easily tons of time better than all those military/realistic FPS they keep releasing all the time these days...
But I wouldn't call it great either.
Anyway, it's faithful to the classic Duke Nukem 3D in spirit only. It's a completely different kind of FPS.
Duke cracks a lot of jokes, but not as clever as before. Gaming/meta jokes, with Duke playing a game in the game (the prologue of the story), a crack at Halo mildly disguised.

Not super amazing visually, linear. But fun like I said above.

It's absolutely not on "Portal 2" level for example. But I wouldn't miss playing it!
Give it a try if you find yourself interested. Chances are, you'll find something to like in this game.

But Forever has his share of problems.
It's trying to be modern game. It's trying to also be like the original even though it doesn't share much with it.
Like I said, graphics and controls could have been better, specially for a ~15 years in the making game...but it's fun anyway!
The lack of secrets really annoys me (where they cut due to 2K Games' demands?)

I give it 1/3. Which by my ratings means bad. But what were you expecting with such a disconnected development? I wouln't give it 0 though.

I give it:
1 / 3 Quack!

VGR: Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me 
By Gearbox Software
Type DLC
Year 2012

Released earlier this year, The Doctor Who Cloned Me
is an expansion pack that follows directly the ending of the main game.

Dr. Proton, the villain of the original Duke Nukum - errm, Nukem is back!
He's prepared an army of Duke-Terminator clones to defeat the alien invasion once and for all and take over the world too, of course!!!

This DLC was actually made from various scrapped content from the main game (which in a way, should have been packaged along it therefore!)
The "Dukinators" are back. So is Dr. Proton who was scrapped as early as 2001.

The story is this time around interesting and worth to follow.
It takes Dukes from an underground base under Area 51, which looks quite a lot like the futuristic LA from Duke 3D, to the desert in the middle of the night aboard a schoolbus, to the Moon itself!

The plot is funnier, with better humor, Duke even gets a comedic sidekick the size of a doll(!!).

Gameplay-wise, it's sadly built upon the previous above title, so no changes there. But since the maps are much more coherent and well thought here, everything goes down smoothly this time.

Such a better self-contained game!
More original layouts in the levels, no frame-rate issues like Forever.

It costs 800 Microsoft points on the Xbox Live, just like Forever itself. They should have made this a stand alone title, so it wouldn't suffer from the same loading times.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 


  1. Bitchin' review, yo. DNF was a pretty big let down. But I think everyone kind of knew it would be.

    1. Nobody was really expecting an award winning game-changing epic artsy "oeuvre".
      The fact it's actually sort of playable is actually already surprising :P

      Seriously, such a butchered and long development, I'm glad they just released the thing!

      The DLC episode was surprisingly fun enough~

  2. Didn't think the European boxart would be censored. Ah well.

    DNF was fun, infact I don't care if it was flawed, I had a lot more fun with it than any CoD, MoH, Battlefield, or other generic shooter that has been the industry norm for years now.

    1. That's what I said!
      It was at least more interesting than all those gritty generic realistic shooters.
      It was bad and flawed obviously, because of that butchered and long development, changing engines and dev teams all the time, but it was ok.

      Hey, it was playable which is more than what anyone expected!