For anyone worried that Duke has matured in his prolonged absence, let me put your fears to rest. Duke Nukem Forever opens with you taking a slash, throwing a lump of shit across the room, and taking centre point in a military plot entitled ‘Operation Cock Block’. If anything, the buzzcut-sporting anti-hero has got worse in his old age. I counted around 30 seconds before the first F-Bomb, and lost track of the overall boob tally.
But before we begin, a quick statement. Unlike almost every other review out there, I’m not going to harp on about the excruciating development hitches of Duke Nukem Forever, nor am I going to judge the game based on how long it’s taken to hit stores. So kiddies, with that out the way, let’s crack open a beer and begin.
The plot of Duke Nukem Forever concerns a bunch of aliens stealing Earth women for rather obvious reasons, and could well have been drafted on a matchbox by a horny 15-year-old boy. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s one of the many reasons Duke is a guilty pleasure – you can switch off your brain and just enjoy the damn game.
Duke fans will love the gags and references, which come thick and fast. The first level is a game-within-a-game, covering Duke’s memorable stadium battle with the Cycloid at the end of Duke Nukem 3D, and it’s a (literally) explosive start. Our hero’s catchphrases come thick and fast and I was actually pretty psyched as I pummelled the boss with miniature missiles from the brand new Devastator. Unlike recent FPSs, which concentrate on plot and atmosphere, this is a ballsy old-school shooter that simply aims to be fun.
Once you’ve punted the alien bastard’s eyeball over the goal posts, you’re dropped into Duke’s mansion as two Britney Spears lookalikes provide a bit of ‘lip service’. The crudeness in Duke Nukem Forever is mostly limited to off-screen shenanigans such as this, and predictable one-liners (‘I’d go down with you any time,’ crows a random girl, after a hairy experience in a plummeting lift). However, the second half of the game has enough pixellated nipple action to turn most adolescent boys blind.
Duke’s fun with the twins is cut short by a fresh alien invasion, and once more Duke has to don his backpack and kick some serious ass. Many of the battlegrounds are instantly familiar. Ruined cityscapes make up a large part of the first half, while a foray into a perverse alien lair brings to mind the original Prey. You even get the sphincter-like doors, which in this case are opened with a quick tickle and a comment about it being ‘exit only’.
Many elements to Duke Nukem Forever seem to have been borrowed from other games, albeit with a unique Duke twist. One major example is the ‘Ego bar’, which replaces the health meter. It replenishes over time if you don’t take hits, or can be topped up by performing ego-boosting actions such as executing a wounded enemy or checking out your reflection in a mirror, or even slapping an alien titty. The self-replenishment is a godsend on some of the tougher levels, if you don’t mind running and hiding.
A less happy change is Duke Nukem Forever’s weapons limit, which means you can only carry two guns at a time, Call Of Duty style. Why the hell can’t a pumped-up action hero parody lug more weapons around? Surely realism isn’t a key feature of the Duke games? If you can rip off a monster’s head and take a dump in its neck, surely you can heft six or seven guns dammit!
Thankfully the weapons are freaking sweet, even if they are just straight ports from Duke Nukem 3D. One particular highlight is the shotgun, which is massively beefed up from the underpowered original version. Now you can blast apart regular enemies such as the Pigcops with a single shot, and even take great chunks out of pillars, walls and other scenery. Pipebombs, trip lasers and other fan favourites also return and are just as satisfying for reaping destruction.
The enemies from the last game have also been recycled for Duke Nukem Forever, albeit with a serious facelift. Pigcops can be bloody terrifying when they bound towards you on all fours, and even some of the bosses make a welcome return, except this time they truly tower over you. Unfortunately the AI from the first game has also been recycled. Aliens will either stand still and shoot, or come straight at you, and things only get difficult when a ton of them are on you at once. Rather cheap, although it continues the old-school feel at least.
At its heart, Duke Nukem Forever is an old-fashioned run-and-gun shooter and damn good fun in places. There are tons of mini-games to distract, as well as turret and vehicle sections that are thankfully short and provide a bit of variety in gameplay. However, there are also quite a few Half Life-style scripted events that involve listening to characters waffle on, which feel rather out of place and are completely pointless. I kept willing Duke to yell ‘Just shut the hell up,’ so I could get on with kicking alien arse.
While Duke Nukem Forever isn’t in any way revolutionary, with a hackneyed B-movie plot, old-school gameplay and plenty of material ripped off from the original, it’s still a damn fun shooter that’ll last you around eight to ten hours. If you’re a Duke fan or are simply fed up with Call Of Duty clones and after a guilty pleasure, this’ll do the job nicely.