After 14 years of development, Duke Nukem Forever has finally materialized. Considered one of the greatest pieces of vapourware in gaming history, it’s a bit surreal to actually hold the finished product in one’s hands.
Critics have not been kind to the King, with Metacritic’s critic reviews at 54/100, and their users score even lower at 4.4/10. Most reviews lament about how DNF seems mired in the FPS genre’s past, and it is disconcerting to play a shooter nowadays that completely lacks a dynamic cover system. There is no Mass Effect-type strategy at work here with the combat, no ducking between cover angling for a flanking manoeuvre on your enemies. You just load up on ammo and run at your targets with guns blazing.
In a strange way, this fits in with the blustery bravado that Duke exudes. He isn’t some pussy who hides behind crates. He prefers a straight-up fight. There is a bit of strategy available with the various power-ups that Duke picks up, as well.
The toilet humour (literally, in some cases) that punctuated the original is ramped up to ridiculous levels here, with some jokes causing a chuckle or two, and others a sneer of disgust. As well, the graphics and character animations are dramatically dated.
There seems to be an attitude in a lot of reviews that after a 14 year development cycle, the ultimate result is disappointing. This is an unfair assessment; it’s not like this was one game continually worked on for all that time. There were many stops and starts as technology advanced past the developers, and the game’s graphic engine was rebooted at least a few times. Once game developer Gearbox (Borderlands) picked up the property from the ashes of original maker 3DRealms, you can be sure things were re-tooled once again.
It would have been nice to have had Duke return to redefine the shooter genre that he helped popularize. In coming back as a balls-to-the-wall brick shithouse of bullet spewing mayhem, however, at least he has stayed true to his roots.