Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Duke Nukem Forever

Whether you like or dislike the (very) long awaited Duke Nukem Forever all comes down to context. If you go into it with low expectations, you'll enjoy it far more than if you play it expecting CoD with strippers.

If you get the game, expecting a cutting edge, genre defining, standard setting epic FPS... you're going to be disappointed.

However... if you play it expecting nothing more than a sequel to 1996's Duke Nukem 3D that should have been released in 1997... you'll likely get more enjoyment out of it.

The fact is... everything about DNF is dated. It would have been standard setting and cutting edge 14 years ago. The fact is... it wasn't released 14 years ago, and simply can't hold a candle to today's modern shooters like Call of Duty, Crysis, Battlefield, Halo, etc..

Does this make Duke Nukem Forever a terrible game as some reviews are calling it? In my opinion.... no. If you liked its predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, and are expecting a game very similar to it in terms of gameplay... you'll likely enjoy, at least a little bit, playing this sequel.

Just because the game was in development for more than 14 years, doesn't mean that it was developed with 14 years of FPS evolution taken into consideration. Most of those 14 years was due to the project getting scrapped, restarted, postponed, cancelled, then revived. Honestly... I'd be surprised if much actual development to the gameplay itself happened within the last 12 years.

Eye Candy: 6/10

While DNF's graphics are certainly not up to Call of Duty or Crysis standards... and they are certainly dated-looking, they were not as terrible as I was expecting them to be.

The graphics are not terrible to look at in my opinion. The biggest problem I have with them, and the biggest reason I didn't give it a higher rating is the backgrounds in the outdoor settings are terrible. When you first go outside in the first Vegas stage, I honestly thought I was playing the original from 1996. While this did give me a few warm-fuzzies of nostalgia... I can't say it says anything for this game's graphics.

The other issue I had with the graphics in DNF was the insane amount of texture pop-in that was used. I'm all for texture pop-in to reduce system requirements... but come on... this is essentially a 14 year-old game ported to a graphics engine that uses DirectX9. They could have found a way to make this game run smoothly on pretty much any post 2008 machine without the pop-in.

Polish: 4/10

Let's face it... the purchase of the Duke Nukem IP and release of DNF by Randy Pitchford at Gearbox was probably the single most genius thing a game development studio has done in the last few years. They took a pretty-much completed (albeit extremely dated) game, updated the graphics, added some modern-day references and easter eggs, and turned it into a sales-chart topping blockbuster with very minimal work on their own behalf.

You can tell that Gearbox did not put a whole lot of effort into this game, aside from updating what was already there. You can tell that this game was put together from the fragments of 14 years of being started, scrapped, and re-started again. The game simply doesn't flow well, at there are quite a few strange bugs here and there that really shouldn't be.

There are quite a few platforming sections in this game, which really don't play very well for a FPS. If they're going to make you do mario-type jumping maneuvers, they should at least make sure your character can actually jump that far first.

I played DNF on the PC, and honestly I had no issues with long load times. I have heard that if you play it on the Xbox 360 though, the load times are insanely long... which they really shouldn't be considering the game isn't all that advanced.

Control: 7/10

There really isn't a whole lot to say about the control in DNF. It plays like most FPS games, with added bits you can tell were ninja'ed from other shooters and added just to try and fit in with today's shooters. For example, Duke can "sprint" now, in sort of a Gears of War-ish type of way... which is in reality a bit awkward, but it's required to make some of the platforming jumps I mentioned above.

If you so choose to use it, DNF offers aim-assist like CoD and other shooters out today, but I found it wasn't really needed considering there usually are not that many enemies on the screen.

The controls for the little "bonus games" you can play in DNF, like air-hockey, pinball, etc., were a bit awkward the first time I did it. Once you get the hang of it though, they actually play pretty well. I probably spent about 30 mins just playing air-hockey with some NPC.

If you're familiar with how most current FPS games control, you should feel pretty comfortable with the controls in DNF.

Geek Factor: 6/10

One of the things that I feel made the 1996 Duke Nukem 3D so great was how much you could interact with Duke's surroundings. You could flush toilets, buy stuff from vending machines, tip strippers, etc..

In this regard, in my opinion, Duke Nukem Forever does not disappoint. You can do pretty much everything you could do in the original and more... which is how a sequel should be. This time around though, the game actually rewards you for interacting with the environment by increasing your life meter, or "ego" meter. Once you play through, you can see how many total possible things to interact with there were, and how many you missed so you can go back later and try to find them all if you wish.

Another thing about the original DN3D that I loved was Duke's one-liners. Duke says them more often this time around, and although some of them are pretty funny... they almost seem "forced." I'm glad they're there, but they just don't seem as well timed as in the original.

One of the coolest and most fun parts of DNF was the boss fights. For a FPS, I felt they were really creative and sometimes pretty challenging. Things like having to use a trampoline-like alien appendage on a wall to bounce a pipe-bomb behind a giant alien queen and explode it so she drops her guard is a whole lot more entertaining sometimes than running and gunning. Although there are a few bosses like that... overall, I found them enjoyable.

Redux: 5/10

I didn't bother trying the multi-player but I did see that it provided your standard types like Deathmatch, Team-Deathmatch, Capture the Flag (or "Capture the Babe" in Duke Nukem terms).

The biggest reason I feel that there is at least some replay value in DNF is trying to find everything you can interact with. As I said above, some of the "bonus games" are pretty entertaining. If you enjoyed the game playing it through once, you will likely enjoy playing it through again to try and find all the fun little interactive items in the game.

Overall, Duke Nukem Forever wasn't anything close to being the greatest FPS out there... but I did not expect it to be. As I said above, the key to liking or hating DNF is all in the context in which you are comparing it to. If you're comparing it to today's shooters, you're going to likely hate it. If you think of it as a sequel to the original, that should have been released 13-14 years ago... then you'll probably enjoy it.

Overall: 5.7 / 10

Also... I've read many reviews that slam on DNF for the "crude" content within the game. As a player/reviewer, who knew the premise behind Duke Nukem... and didn't expect that type of content in this game, I feel they were incredibly naive. Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying this type of content is good... I'm just saying it should have been expected in a game like Duke Nukem, and rating a game negatively because it was there when they should have gone into it expecting it really doesn't make sense. To me, that would be like rating a Saw movie negatively because there was torture and gore. It's all about context and expectations.

While I don't really feel that DNF is worth the $60 price tag... based on the reviews it has been getting, it won't be long before it hits the bargain bins. You can pick it up then and then I feel it's worth a play if you're a fan of the original.

1 comment:

  1. This is the second bad review I've seen for this game... shame really as I had such high hopes for it. Oh well maybe when it gets a budget release or appears in a Steam sale!