When I heard all the hype about how Duke Nukem Forever was on its way, I was mildly intrigued. This was a game that had been in development for 14 years, and supposedly would be groundbreaking when it was finally released. Now it’s here, and is groundbreaking in only one way: it’s possibly the worst console game ever made. To be completely honest, this game is crap. To say Duke Nukem Forever is fun is an enigma. This is my review of the Duke Nukem Farce, for that’s all this game really is, a complete and utter waste of gaming time when you could be playing something else. Anything else, actually, because chances are it’s not as bad as DNF. This is such a shockingly bad game, I’d rather watch grass grow. Seriously, it’s that awful.
Starting with presentation – on the back cover of the game it says “Duke Nukem is pure, unadulterated FUN.” On the contrary, it’s actually pure, undiluted crap. It’s as if the game is trying to force you to believe its fun, when it’s truly just rubbish. There are the usual screenshots, and a retarded looking idiot wearing dark sunglasses. There is also the quote “You’ve got yourself one awesome thumb-sprainer – Zoo Weekly.” The only thing you’ll be spraining whilst playing DNF is your wrist as you wrench the disc out of the drive and hurl it ferociously across the room. On the front cover is a rather unflattering picture of the Duke, which is automatically a turn off. Something also has to be said for the vulgar humour in DNF. I don’t find it funny at all. Rather, its childish, tasteless, amateurish crap from a bygone era, which may be a result of the game’s prolonged development. It fails to amuse, and it fails to entertain. It’s not good material for a video game, it makes for a terrible game because it’s not entertaining and worse, it actually harms the reputation of gamers as this is the sort of game that appeals only to single, male teenagers and young adults who still live in their parent’s basements. I doubt many women would be interested in this game, as girls are depicted as nothing more than sex objects to be exploited by the Duke at every possible opportunity. The game also promotes binge drinking, smoking, and American patriotism, reinforcing the belief that Americans are better than everyone else.
Now to the story. Hang, on, did I say STORY? What story? There isn’t a story at all in DNF. Aliens attack and it’s up to Duke to “kick their ass.” That’s not a story, it’s a scenario. And a pretty lame, unoriginal, cliché one at that. The people developing this game have absolutely no imagination whatsoever. The characters are forgettable in an instant, and even the Duke himself is not a hero in the normal sense of the word. A hero is someone people look up to, someone who does heroic deeds because it’s the right thing to do – Duke Nukem kills aliens for the kicks – for the glory, he does it because it’s COOL. He drinks, smokes, womanises, is narcissistic, self-centred and sexist. He is quite a contemptible character. He is no “hero”, and has absolutely no personality and no redeeming qualities – he’s just a dickhead and doesn’t deserve the title hero at all, let alone the King. Why would anyone look up to such a violent, unintelligent loser?
The graphics of DNF are pretty poor quality. Due to the game being developed in the Triassic Age, most of the game’s graphics are painful to look at. Water coming from a shower head is a prime example. Jumping in pools of water causes no splashes. Statues and rockfaces look like heaps of angular lines filled with blandness. The sky is rife with pixelizations. Characters are blocky and don’t look realistic at all. Some graphics are OK, particularly the alien tentacles which look pretty wet and slimy but most of the graphics are still pretty bad compared to the standard of video games made in the 21st century. Overall, rubbish. Level design is pretty bland, suffering from a total lack of creativity, ranging from Duke’s typically luxurious mansion, underground installations and smashed up cityscapes. The only two that really struck a chord with me were the Alien Hive, which was suitably wet, slimy and dark, giving a really threatening and horrifying feel, and the sandy, blasted wasteland of the Ghost Town, which was pretty much a western setting. These levels still however were not really anything new or different, and have been ripped straight out of other games. There really has been no effort put into the levels, which is just plain slack. There is no map in DNF so sometimes it’s confusing where the hell you’re meant to go, although overall the game is an incredibly linear path – you’re simply travelling from one fight to the next (and you’re doing more of this than actual combat.) There’s one senseless night club level that is just plain ludicrous, where your job is to hunt down a pack of popcorn, a vibrator and a condom. Maybe this is supposed to be a side quest. Put popcorn in the microwave. Fun. What a load of pointless shit.
Audio in DNF is utter crap, definitely one of the worst aspects of the game. The voice acting is terrible, with dull, lacklustre NPCS and the Duke constantly spewing his clichéd one-liners. The dialogue is so bad a child could write better material. As for the music – what music? Constantly looping, poorly synthesized guitar and other forgettable sounds are not what I call music. I have no respect for a game in which the developers have spent next to no time at all writing a good script and getting decent actors to record the voices.
The gameplay – the heart of any game. Even if it doesn’t have a good story, if the gameplay’s good then its fun, right? The gameplay, sorry to say, is so bad I’m surprised I got over half way through the campaign. It is shit. The controls are clunky, the jump is so poor Duke feels like an overweight hippopotamus and the long, boring sections between the fights are often populated with bizarre puzzles which are confusing, simplistic and frustrating. There is also a lot of platforming in the game, which is some of the worst platforming I’ve ever seen. You’ll see better platforming in downloadable, 2D games (not that they’re bad in any way nowadays but if there was going to be some in DNF I would’ve expected it to be at least average quality.) One of the most horrendous levels sees Duke jumping from shelf to shelf around the edges of a kitchen. The pathway leads to a stove top, where burgers are cooking and you have to jump from burger to burger. This is appalling for a first person game. It’s hard to see how much room you have to either side and because of the poor controls one move slightly in any direction means you die and have to start over. Speaking of starting over, the game has a dreadful save system, relying on a series of checkpoints. This must be because that’s how it was made early in the development, but today such a system comes across as primitive and results in much frustration in having to replay entire sections just because of one mistake. Punishing the player is never welcome, and DNF does it all the time, with little reward.
There are some levels in DNF that puts Duke in control of a vehicle – first a remote control car when he gets miniaturized. The handling on this is positively ghastly. Also the question must be asked: why the hell does this car have a hand break? Later Duke drives around in his monster truck, which handles a lot better and is slightly reminiscent of the vehicles in Borderlands. However, the Borderlands vehicles are much better, being equipped with weapons. Duke’s truck has nothing, and in one level must swerve from side to side to avoid explosive barrels being thrown from the back of a truck by a pig-man. The truck also runs out of gas every now and then, and Duke has to go find a bottle. When he finds one, he finds not one but three, yet you can’ take the others for the next time you run out. This is shit in my opinion, as that would be logical course of action. Why even bother having the other bottles sitting there at all?
As for the combat, some of the shooting sections are OK and there are usually various guns littered around the place. You can only carry two guns, which I guess makes sense. Sometimes there are these large crates that have unlimited ammo inside them. However the guns themselves feel incredibly inaccurate and lack any sense of punch. In addition the game often puts guns in the most absurd of positions – for instance early in the game I just got hold of a new, better gun only to be confronted with waves of enemies and have to use a turret instead. The reliance on turrets and explosives is endlessly frustrating – the bosses in the game can only be harmed by these weapons which is just plain stupid. The Boss fights are extremely exasperating affairs, especially the Octoking, in which you are blasted constantly by Octobrains and given no cover to get your health back. This is a broken boss fight and it’s this point that I rage quit in disgust. The Ego bar (your health bar) is very short and is depleted very easily, but to make it worse it takes an incredibly long time to recharge. In an age where regenerating health/shield bars are increasingly popular for shooters, DNF’s version is crude and ineffective. There are various items littered throughout the game that increase the length of the Ego bar, but it rarely makes a difference in combat due to the horrifically overpowered and imbalanced enemies. I tried this game on easy, and still had a hard time in every battle.
Duke Nukem Forever deserves its nickname Did Not Finish. It deserves to be spat upon in contempt. It’s a terrible game, seeming like an old piece of crap which was rushed with minimal time, little skill and almost no effort. I do not recommend DNF to anyone, and I hope game companies don’t waste any time or money on a sequel. The gaming community don’t deserve to be insulted like that and frankly, with a loathsome, unlikeable character such as Duke Nukem as the protagonist, there shouldn’t be another game. If you think any part of this game would be fun you’re better off looking elsewhere. DNF is a boring, broken experience. I’m giving it a miserable score of 1.