Duke Nukem Forever is a game, this very fact is astounding. It is a game that has taken nearly 14 years to go from prototype to fully boxed product. It has been in constant development hell by a team that has poured every little piece of their heart and soul to make a product. Has the end product been worth the wait? I can tell you now, that is a big fat no.
The game starts out as a remake of that last few minutes of Duke Nukem 3D. Probably as a show of how much the game has evolved since. With the killing of the final boss, the camera pulls back to show that it was a game within a game, and Duke Nukem himself is playing while receiving fellatio from two girls dressed up as school girls, very classy.
After this intro, you play as Duke walking around his huge apartment, interacting with various objects on the way to an interview with “Johnny Lenoman”, a quite clear parody of the American talk show host, Jay Leno show. This section is probably the most innovative of the entire game, there is absolutely no shooting and there are plenty of objects to interact with, you can even play a game of pool at one point. All this comes to an end after Duke finds his interview cancelled due to an alien invasion, that very same aliens he kicked out of Earth in the last game.
The game plays like any first person shooter from the late 90s to early 2000s, literally, it's like the developers completely ignored what changed in shooters over the past 10 years. The only area where it shows any modernisation is the fact that you can only carry two weapons at once and you have recharging health. Walking around and shooting pretty much involves going from room to room to room and clearing it of enemies and moving on, no real change from this formula aside from the odd jumping puzzle. While at first it brings back nostalgia for the old days of Half Life and Quake 2, in the end, this really does the game no favours and makes it feel incredibly dated. It feels playing a game from that time that's been updated with new textures and shaders.
The game has substandard graphics, nothing that could really amaze anyone in this day and age. There was never a point in the game where I felt at all impressed with the graphics. In fact, most parts of note were points where I felt the graphics looked notably bad. That is not to say that they were bad all around, the game does it's job but is not impressive or show-offy about how well it looks.
The story is absolutely awful. much like the game play, it's all about going from point to point with no real explanation. I found myself right at the end of the game, wondering how on Earth I actually got there. There was no adequate explanation as to why I was going from one place to another, other than a door had just opened leading me there. The character of Duke also seems to be incredibly disconnected from everyone else in the world that he's in. All he says are one liners, and he never seems to talk directly to any characters, apart from one moment where he tells someone “Power armour is for pussies!”. You really have to wonder if he's at all sane, it seems that the world just puts up with him because he's so good at repelling alien invasions and not at all because he's an interesting character, because he isn't.
The same has to be of the voice acting. Most of it is very hammy and cliché, the only good piece of acting surprisingly comes from Duke's actor John St John (yes that's his real name!), and that's only due to the fact that his voice is so unique that you can't imagine anyone else playing him. Everyone else in the game is just bad, but you get the feeling that these are decent actors dealing with a horrible script the best that they can.
The multiplayer is, for lack of a better word, boring. It follows the old standards of the early nineties with only a few modes of Deathmatch, team deathmatch and what is essentially capture the flag. There are a few modern twists such as progression and leveling up. You gain levels by fulfilling objectives, killing, and completeing challenges, these challenges usually include killing X amount of people with a certain weapon, all really standard stuff. Through leveling up, you recive cosmetic bonuses like new shirts and hats, as well as items for “my digs” a large apartment that fills up with statues and concept art. The multiplayer just doesn't fulfil any gap in whats out there, I have seen this all done before and much better.
Duke Nukem Forever is an old game, a game that should have come out around 5 years ago and would have had much more of an impact than it does today. While the old style of game play does bring back the nostalgia, nostalgia does not go far enough to make up for the fact that it's a bad game. The only reason you should buy it is if you're interested in what it is as a piece of history but not what it is as a game. As a piece of history, it is astounding that one game could take 14 years to develop and come out at the end as a boxed product but as a game, it's bad, very bad. Do not buy this game unless you enjoy the idea of it's history.