Forever is over!
I needn't start with a great historical look back on the production of this game. All you need know is that it's been a long and rather humourous 14 years since Duke Forever's announcement, and now it's here the overall verdict on the interwebs is somewhat less than favourable.
Is it well deserved? Well, like any review it's all just one bit fat opinion and this one isn't going to convince anyone of what they already think. Duke Nukem Forever is entirely flawed, silly mistakes have been made. But as a throwback to a time long lost in gaming, even in that regard it could of been much better. One only needs to look at Doom 3 to see a contemporary redesign of an older template.
I'm not going to discuss what the game is about, we all know it's 12 years on from Duke 3D, the aliens are back, stealing our chicks, and Duke must rescue them, destroying everything in his path with always a moment to quip his way though - but I'm going to go about this game differently and look at why on a whole this hardly works, if at all ever.
So yes, the graphics aren't brilliant, the humour is archaic, the gameplay simple and the pissant puzzles needn't be there. Coupled with some dodgy vehicle sections, and some awful on rails shooting sections, and some of the worst AI you will see in a game today this is a complete frankenstien of game design. I'm sure once upon a long time ago all these ideas on paper would of been probably the best game ever. But gaming has evolved so much since Duke 3D and this very much feels like beyond the initial plans, absolutely no effort has been made to tailor and change the game to suit today's more demanding audience.
At the same time though many of the Duke enthusiasts would argue that's the whole point, and that the game is being terribly clever. Well okay, I can see that angle too, but even in that regard the game only ever exists to be fun, and sadly nothing more. Did I enjoy playing it? Well to some extent yes, but that's only because of the current wave of entirely dull realistic FPS' industry is now crushed with (this years E3 only serves to prove that point) so to have something where you effortlessly cut the enemies down, listen to bad language and pay strippers to drop their clothes is.... well, kind of exactly where we were in Duke 3D actually.
So nothing really has evolved in 14 years. DNF has the aforementioned vehicle sections, which are awful but even in the most basic aspects of the game design hurdles have been stumbled over. The Duke of 1996 was able to maintain a whole roster of weaponry to interchange between at any time depending on what enemies or the like he was fighting against. In a bizarre move (and one that really doesn't suit this type of game) Duke is now only limted to carrying two weapons at once. This gets endlessly tiring within the first part of the game and all it does is intrude throughout. The quicksaving of Duke's past is now handled with a checkpointing system (actually well placed too) and most insultingly perhaps is that it features a health regen system instead of the old health count and medi-kit of the FPS past.
All of the modern features included, bar the check pointing, only serve to show how out of place a character and indeed, the overall game is in today's day and age. The likes of the Grand Theft Auto have come along now, and showed the world you can homage, mock and ridicule other titles, but at the same time also craft a wonderful game in its own right. The likes of Bulletstorm have showed you can have an unbelievable sense of humour in an OTT FPS and still be hugely original and yet still inspire that feeling of retro in a brand new polished package. Duke is a product of the 90's. An icon of the PC platform that now doesn't really exist any more. The game is most at home on the PC that's for sure, given how awful the console ports are, but every step Duke takes to coming into the modern world, it seems he falls again and again.
But I did have fun, I can't deny that... And that's perhaps the saddest thing. Had this not had the huge legacy and reputation to live up to, it would of probably been given a lesser caning from the overall gaming community, indeed judging from overall opinion people seem to enjoy playing it and it's certainly selling well enough. But did people deserve more for a 14 year wait? Well of course they did, but then any game that's been in development hell for so long would only ever serve to be a disappointment. I just don't think the gaming industry expected how painfully ordinary and out of place it looks now. Had this been released in 2001, it would of probably been seen as something else. But everything this game now offers, has been done in other titles, and it's been done better every time.
Time will sadly also not be kind to the game, I can't forsee anyone other than the hardcore fanbase really going through it more than once. Again, a telling sign of the amount of wasted man hours bringing this title to fruition. But hey, I'm not stickler and I can have fun when I need to. Take it for what it is, and try and find something in it you enjoy and harness that to carry you through. What that was for me I honestly don't know, maybe just the idea that i'm playing the conclusion of this epic, epic tale. Certainly gamings longest, most eventful, and arguably it's biggest embarrassments.
But it's still fun.