Blog 450: Duke Nukem: Forever

I don’t have any nostalgia for the golden age of first-person shooters. I’ve never played Duke Nukem 3D, never played DooM.

My fascination with the Duke came from Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, a beautiful but heinously underrated 2D side-scrolling platformer-shooter-puzzler in a lavish 3D environment (i.e. how modern Sonic should have been all along).

This should let me appreciate DN:F as the game that it is, rather than having some bizarre and impossible expectations that could never be lived up to.

As usual, I will be comparing this game to Deus Ex and Unreal Tournament, so get your shot glasses ready.

Steam

It’s a pile of shit and why does everybody love it? The hell I had to go through to get this game installed… Dude, I bought a physical copy, stop downloading things. If you’re going to make it difficult to support DVDs, then don’t bloody sell them.

Give me Games for Windows Live any day. At least that doesn’t mind me trying to install from the DVD I just bought, and it doesn’t suffuse my computer with services and always-running clients.

This just proves that I was right all along to resist Steam. It is, well and truly, precisely the pile of bloatware crap I was afraid it would be.

First impressions: ruined.

But What About the Game, Duke?

For an action game, there’s actually a serious amount of down-time. In between the frantic battles where enemies keep spawning and you have to belt around the room (at a UT2k4 (or possibly even worse) level of movement speed (so not much “belting”), there are loads of quiet and empty platformer-esque puzzle segments.

The game seems confused. On the one hand, it’s almost trying to be a Deus Ex-style sandbox with all the interactive elements — on the other, it’s a linear-as-an-elven-arrow-shaft railroad shooter with precisely one objective and one path at any given time.

Despite being one of those rare modern games that actually has a jump button, and heavily destructible environments to boot, obstacles like this can still stop you in your tracks.

It reminds me a lot of Quake 4, for some reason. Certain stylistic elements (alien jets blowing up into big meaty chunks with somehow unsatisfying explosions), the slightly floaty ragdoll physics, static turret shooty sections… Quake 4 is a game from six years ago, and a distinctly average one at that. Maybe a few bits and pieces worth salvaging, but not exactly a game to try to emulate directly.

Duke Nukem: Forever also feels like it hasn’t actually been finished. There’s something missing, some vital spark. The levels feel disparate, they don’t quite hang together — like somebody had a pot of set-pieces and roughly, awkwardly lined them up. Even giant boss fights that should be incredible are reduced to mundanity. The game  just feels somehow… hollow.

Then again, passing through the hands of so many different people (four studios are listed in the opening credits), and being rebuilt so many times, overall cohesion can’t help but have suffered. Even those that stayed the 15-odd year course from conception to release must have lost their enthusiasm at some point.

Though according to the development timeline extra, the singleplayer campaign has been locked down since 2009. Two whole years of polishing and nobody noticed quite how ill-fitting it all is?

Even Duke's dialogue is mostly stilted and unimaginative digs at other current generation games, a far cry from the relentless witticisms of Manhattan Project.

Interactivity

There are a lot of interactive things in the game world. After using a toilet (shift to use, hold mouse to pee), I picked up a jobby and threw it at a wall. I used a vending machine (which had four different flavours; unfortunately, as a game with regenerating health, there appeared to be no actual value to this). I turned on taps and showers and watched my screen get wet (but they had that in Bioshock ages ago).  I opened cupboard doors and they mysteriously closed themselves again. I shot stone pillars and bits flew off (I once shot the bottom parts and the entire top half disappeared too). I pushed trolleys around, drew a penis on the whiteboard…

Unfortunately the pen isn't very thick, and it doesn't quite hit where you're pointing -- so drawing on the whiteboard is bloody difficult.

These things are, in themselves, wonderful. But in a balls-to-the-wall-action first person shooter? They’re more suited to an open approach like Deus Ex, where these activities have some kind of value (finding key codes, computer logins, credit chits, alternative routes, material for building Towers of Babel…). Cupboards don’t hold anything more than cardboard cutouts — again, we’ve got regenerating health and not very many powerups so there’s nothing to find. Even ammunition is reduced to ammo crates and dropped weapons.

Why is this almost a bad thing? Because they’ve spent a lot of time and effort on completely superfluous things. Because, in the context of this game, they literally add nothing. Rather than making an open world more well rounded and delightful to explore, they are just vaguely amusing tassles.

Overall

Lacklustre.

It may be a classic shooter, but it’s not exactly a fine example of one. It has a few laughs, a few moments, but is otherwise a sea of mediocrity.

Just play Quake 4.

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2 thoughts on “Blog 450: Duke Nukem: Forever

  1. Indeed, Quake 4 for the win. I still remember the turret scene :3

    Also Duke Nukem Forever is definitely a disappointment, the only thing they kept from the original one is the character.

    Like

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