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Duke Nukem Forever
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Style(s): First-Person Shooter
In the realm where puerile plotlines and locker-room humor meet hardcore shooter action, Duke is king, and after a decade-long hiatus, the king returns in Duke Nukem Forever. With development completed by Gearbox Software for a 2011 release, the game incorporates many contemporary first-person shooter features, but the destructible surroundings, larger-than-life enemies, and high-adventure pacing are in classic Duke Nukem form.
In a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas setting of crumbling roadways and toppled buildings, mission levels are stocked with grizzly pig-cop enemies, monstrous alien bosses, and plenty of hot babes in various states of undress and need of rescue. As he frags and gibs his way through each gory sequence, Duke rattles off an arsenal of deadpan one-liners to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Campbell in their action-flick heydays (as well as some that were probably lifted from their movies in the first place).
Available weapon set-ups include two-fisted pistols and the traditional shotgun, as well as more fantastical devices, such as the shrink ray that lets Duke squish enemies beneath his boot heels. Players can also get behind the wheel of vehicles they encounter in the game, and some sequences have Duke manning powerful stationary weapons. Along the way, story-driven character interactions allow players to express some of their innermost machismo urges.
After saving the world (in 3D) the first time (on MS-DOS, PlayStation, N64, and other mid-'90s gaming platforms), Duke Nukem disappeared -- or so the story goes. When the angry alien invaders returned, and tore into civilization with a vengeance, the great hero was nowhere to be found. When they started stealing away the planet's hottest babes, however, it was enough to bring Duke out of retirement and into the fray, with an "all out of bubblegum" sense of urgency. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
Package Contents: 8-page Instruction Manual
Originally scheduled for release in 1998, two years after Duke Nukem 3D first swaggered onto shelves, Duke Nukem Forever's comical number of delays seemed like it was closer to vaporware than actual software. As the years marched on, the developers scrapped one game engine for another, restarting work each time to take advantage of new technology. After developer 3D Realms shuttered its doors, it was assumed the long-suffering game was finally put out of its misery. In hindsight, that would have been the humane thing to do.
Like Frankenstein's monster, Duke Nukem Forever's parts were cobbled together and brought to life. The end-result is best described as a hodgepodge of good, bad, and ugly -- a whole lot of ugly. The biggest surprise is the game's direction. Instead of a balls-to-the-wall shooter with throngs of enemies to splatter, massive environments to explore, and plenty of weapons and gadgets to tinker with, the game features confining areas, few enemy types, a two-weapon limit, and long stretches of tedium.
The good news is that this game isn't short on diversity, though most of the time you'll wish the developers showed some restraint throughout the campaign's 23 chapters. Duke drives a monster truck across the Nevada desert, explores a restaurant and casino as a shrunken version of himself, scoots around in an RC car, swims underwater, plays air hockey or pinball, hops behind a forklift, and even takes some time out of his busy schedule to visit a strip club for some action of the other variety. Yet nearly all of these sequences either drag on far too long or feature clumsy controls, making you wonder if the developers forgot that Duke Nukem is supposed to, well, shoot things.
Unfortunately the combat seems more intent on frustrating players than delighting them: pig cops and aliens on jetpacks are quick and agile while Duke lumbers. Enemies instantly teleport directly in front or behind him, while others make colossal leaps in the air. They don't patrol specific areas -- they suddenly burst through doors, rappel down ceilings, or materialize out of thin air once you've hit an invisible trigger in the level. After you've taken care of a handful of enemies, another wave appears until you are eventually allowed to advance.
Notable returning weapons from the 1996 game are pipe bombs, trip mines, the shrink ray, and freeze ray. Players can also use "Duke vision" to light up dark areas, pop steroids for stronger melee attacks, use a holographic version of himself to fool enemies, and drink beer for added defense. Duke even has a rechargeable shield of sorts -- his ego -- which allows him to recover from damage by doing the rather un-Duke-like thing of hiding behind cover. The ego itself is an interesting mechanic, as Duke can increase his health meter by interacting with certain objects in the environment.
Staring at a mirror, throwing a Frisbee, looking at a calendar of babes, and pumping iron are just a few of the things Duke can do to increase his ego. Yet the regenerating health aspect is a quick fix for the balancing problems inherent in the combat encounters -- easier to let players recuperate than to take time to adjust enemy damage or add health kits. By also limiting the weapons you can carry, it's clear the developers want you to play each level a specific way, so the sense of freedom you had to explore, defeat enemies, and solve problems from the 1996 game are sadly absent.
It's not just the poorly paced gameplay that's in need of help. The frame rate is inconsistent, loading times between levels and after you die are horrendous, most "jokes" involve recycled movie lines, and the visuals look extremely dated -- from the plastic-like, poorly animated character models to environmental textures that disappear and reappear as if they are struggling to catch up to the action. While Duke Nukem Forever has moments of humor and excitement, particularly in its multiplayer component, there are simply too many rough edges for even die-hard Duke fans to ignore. Somebody's got to pay for messing up Duke's ride -- make sure it's not you. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.