Duke Nukem Forever is a first person shooter 15 years in the making. Back in the 90s most of us fell in love with Duke 3D. Not for its movie cliches or paying women for money, but for its non linear levels with a lot of exploration and guns. Well Duke Forever took away the non linear level design. Now Duke is stuck in some one dimensional levels. You’ll visit the desert, a damn, a bar, an alien hive, his underground complex, get shrunk in a Duke Burger all on your journey to a tower. Duke isn’t as fast as he used to be, so now he has vehicles every so often. You’ll sit on and drive remote controlled cars and a giant monster truck that squashes enemies and uses nitrous boost for the jumps.
I think my issue with this game is the first two hours felt like everything but first person shooting. The game throws a lot of distractions at you. An interactive museum dedicated to Duke, punching, playing pinball, driving, first person platforming and a turret section. It just seemed like the shooting was 15% of what Duke Forever was.
Once you get over the giant hill of the first two hours, the game feels like a Half Life 2-ish game and that’s good. Duke’s world has been taken over by aliens. If it didn’t sound Half-Life 2 enough for you, Duke walks and drives his way to a massive tower with a beam of light extending to the sky. There is a checkpoint system and no exploration or secrets. There are a few simple physics puzzles here and there. Moving barrels to weigh things down. Stuff like that.
The game uses a typical Unreal / Gearbox with controls to thumbstick crouch, thumbstick sprint (forward only), weapon switch, grenade, trip mine, zoom aim, fire, melee, jump and actions / reload. There are quick D-pad controls for Duke’s night vision, holovision (duke clone to distract enemies), steroids and beer.
You can only carry 2 weapons and switch between them. There is a good variety of weapons. A laser sighted pistol, alien laser, shotgun, triple barreled ripper machinegun, rail gun to snipe, RPG, chaingun, devastator, freeze ray, triple stinger missile launcher, trip mines, grenades and so on. Nothing feels like it has impact.
The enemy intelligence is pretty good. Berserker pigs will charge, pig soldiers will shoot at you, and if you hide, they will grenade you. Alien soldiers hover, teleport in and out and actually try to flank you. It makes for a nice dynamic. The only problem is a lot of the maps are so straight forward, they don’t allow for being flanked. The boss fights are pretty easy and that’s not a complaint. Just RPG them until they’re low on health, run to them and uh button mash them to death.
Other enemies from the franchise make their return. Octobrains swim, hover and shoot projectiles at you. Preginators jump and face stick onto you so you’ll need to button mash to take them off. Hovering assault commanders that fire missiles at you. Overall, it seems like there aren’t that many enemies, just different versions of them.
There are a few sections that confine you to an area and just have enemies flood in. It feels like a cheap way to extend gameplay, even if it does highlight enemy intelligence. Some enemy rooms are so simple that you see the enemy dropping in, so you can be there to shoot them point blank, taking away any kind of challenge or fun.
If this game wasn’t Duke, I would have kept playing to realize there is an enjoyable game here past the first 2 hours.