Daily View Review: Duke Nukem Forever (PC)  Image of Daily View Review: Duke Nukem Forever (PC)
Image Credit: 3D Realms

Back in the 1990s, Duke Nukem was one of the biggest names in videogaming. If you hadn’t played Duke Nukem or one of its sequels, you at least knew what they were all about. After the third game in 1996, there were a number of spin-off games every year or two until 2004, but none of them quite achieved the greatness of the first three.

In the years since, Duke Nukem Forever was announced, delayed, announced and delayed repeatedly until fans despaired of it ever being released. And now it has, and while it’s not the worst game ever, if you’ve been waiting since 1996 for the true Duke Nukem sequel, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Game Essentials

Developed by Gearbox Software / 3D Realms.
Published by 2K Games.
Rated M (ESRB), 18+ (PEGI).
Genre: first-person shooter.
Released on June 14, 2011.
For 1 player, with online multiplayer.
Available on PC, XBox360, PlayStation 3.

Showing His Age

Duke Nukem Forever picks up Duke’s story 12 years after the events in Duke Nukem 3D. Duke is world-famous for his exploits and when the aliens appear again, he’s ordered not to attack them because they are apparently peaceful. Naturally, they’re not actually there to help us after all, and Duke is once again thrown into battle.

The thing is, in the 1990s, Duke Nukem was a pretty big step forward in gaming. Or at least a prime example of first-person shooters. If was funny and a bit shocking. Now, it just seems dated. Sure, you’ll find the same old Duke shooting his way out of trouble, but the emphasis here is on old. Not geezer old, but yesterday’s news old.

Half the time, the game flaunts its defiance of new developments in the FPS genre, and half the time it attempts to use them, but they just don’t quite work. Like being able to carry only two guns at a time. While the limitation works in more serious shooters, making them a little more realistic and upping the challenge for players, Duke Nukem was never meant to be serious. In fact, the most fun things about Duke were his irreverent one-liners, ripped from cult movies, and the ridiculous number and variety of weapons he carried.

Pretty Fun for an Old Guy

That said, there is still something to like in Duke Nukem Forever. Many of the pure shooting sections are absurdly fun, with a shrink ray and a freeze ray for silly mayhem, and a shotgun for doing some real damage. The problem is that those sections are interspersed with puzzles and driving and platforming levels that don’t really work and feel out of place. Yes, it’s nice to have a break from blasting everything in site, but this doesn’t seem quite the way to do it. 

Unless you’re a stalwart single-player-only gamer, you’ll find that the multiplayer is the best part of this game. Online play opts for pure shooting, without any of the lame attempts at broadening the variety of tasks that interrupt the single-player mode. There’s lots of mayhem, which is where Duke Nukem was always at its best. 

The Verdict

Duke Nukem Forever‘s graphics are pretty uninspiring, but the PC version looks marginally better. The load times are not as onerous on the PC as they are in the console versions.

Over all, Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a bad game, just a mediocre one, and it can’t live up to all the expectations placed on it. Of course, a big part of the letdown could just be that those of us who played Duke Nukem in the 90s have grown up (or at least grown older), and Duke is still the same man-child he ever was. It’s quite possible we’re remembering the greatness of Duke Nukem through the aggrandizing mists of nostalgia, and that it was never actually as good as we thought it was.