I played Duke Nukem Forever recently, which was refreshing. It was odd to actually be playing it given the insane amount of time it had been in development and how unlikely it seemed that it would actually be released, but there it was. I was curious to play it as I had been dissatisfied with PC games recently, what with single player campaigns being an afterthought more than the main point. The game had not really scored any good reviews, with the best reviewes considering it a mediocre game and many more reviews considering the game downright bad. I was prepared for a bad game considering another studio had come in at the last minute just to finish up and get the product out the door, which didn’t bode well for the quality of the finished game. Surprisingly…the game wasn’t too fun.
The main thing about the game is that it is the strangest mix of old and new. The graphics are very obviously out of date, yet there are a whole host of modern gaming “innovations” such as only being able to carry two guns at once and regenerating health. The regenerating health is perfect…..no more avoiding a room full of enemies with only 2 health. The gun limit is simply frustrating for a game of this type however, especially since you can’t anticipate the type of enemies you will be encountering. To be fair it didn’t really hamper me from getting through the game, but it would have been nice to have been able to cycle through many weapons to use. It also would have been nice to have a secondary fire on some of the weapons, but whatever.
The loading times were a mixed bag on my PC, taking a long time to load initially which is surprising since outdated graphics should equate to smaller sized textures. However once initially loaded it was fast every subsequent time. I found it someone annoying you can’t shoot humans…even if everybody turned on me. Although I guess they can’t have Duke taken out by a single human. The premise of the game is fun, with Duke now being…well more popular and richer than any human being who has ever lived after single handily saving the world from aliens. The twins in his penthouse seem poorly done and somewhat forced in. In fact, the tone of the game is kind of odd. At first the game is semi-serious, then it turns very serious where in one level you have to kill girls taken hostage and being forcibly impregnated with aliens, and shortly after that you get to ride a monster truck while being shrunk. It’s quite an odd mix, with some levels seeming out of place depending how you want to take the game.
At the same time it is well designed in that you constantly feel that you are moving forward and progressing through a story. Some games manage to fuck up such a simple thing these days, feeling like you complete level after level without real progression. I do wish there were more movies or cutscenes – one of my favorite things of 90’s PC games was the cutscenes, it was like a reward for getting through the level.
Some of the levels were frustrating more than fun, namely fighting the Queen Bitch where there was a lack of ammo, and Underground Part 2 where having to fight many fish without suffocating took quite a few tries. It could have been because I had the wrong weapons as well, but given the lack of saves I couldn’t go back and change. The end boss was also annoying with the tapping to pull out hoses being inconsistent. Sometimes it would be on the first try and sometimes it took several, while I’m sure I was not tapping any less passionately. In fact the ending was the most disappointing aspect of the whole game with Duke being presumed dead? Then having to wait a loooong time for credits to finish to see a shitty clip of him running for president? Not worth it.
The game was fun, and it was nice to play a game for more than 5 hours. I wish more modern games had not left behind many of the aspects of 90’s games which made them great, but whatever. Given the time this was in development a lot more should have been expected, but judging it for what it is, it’s still a fun game if inconsistent.