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Duke Nukem Forever (Mac) artwork

Duke Nukem Forever (Mac) review

"No game can justify fourteen years of development and DNF is no different. If you see this game out for cheap in a Steam sale, itís an entertaining singe-player game that, while often cringingly crude, is a respite from the more Ďrealisticí online-shooters like Call of Duty."

Even if Duke Nukem Forever was never released it would have continued to exist as a piece of videogame folklore. It would be remembered by all as a cautionary tale of development hell and a holdover of a different era of shooters. Having undergone constant delays and cosmetic changes, there were long stretches in its fourteen year development where nobody saw the game and most believed it would never come to fruition. With DNF increasingly resembling the acronym, Did Not Finish when 3D Realms went under, Gearbox obtained the rights and cleaned up the remnants of the project. While the comic shooting game would never live up to the decade-plus of pent up hype and shifting expectations, to their credit, they shipped the thing.

Itís unfair to Duke Nukem. He didnít intend to star in a highly anticipated release that was the industryís longest-running gag. He just wanted to party. Starting off as a modest soldier in 2D Amiga games, when 3D Realms called themselves Apogee, Duke got a makeover with Ray-Banís, huge biceps and a few crude lines of speech when the series was first released in 3D. A parody of contemporary action hero figures, his carnage now and question later approach made him the quintessential American badass. Now a casino, fast-food and property mogul, Duke hasnít laid rest since Duke Nukem 3D, but his inappropriate and one-dimensional lines of speech portray how heís still as inarticulate as ever.

After Duke plays through a recreation of Duke Nukem 3Dís final battle on a gridiron football field, he learns of a Ďfriendlyí visit from aliens on his way to a media interview. Things turn nasty as Duke is attacked and as the babes are abducted, Duke fights back against the Presidentís orders, although the Earth Defence Force are more sympathetic with him. He consequently embarks on a mission through his own casinoís, alien hives composed from their own organic matter, a ruined Vegas, the Duke Burger chain and even an old Western desert in a bid to banish the aliens back to their planet.

It's fair to say Duke Nukem is a fearless individual, so he doesn't need a traditional health bar of a more mortal human. Instead Dukeís health bar is his ego, which depletes as heís shot at and has to take cover for it to recharge. Silencing bosses prolongs the length of his ego meter, as does interacting with various objects in the game. Making the flattop haired hero bench over 600lbs, playing pinball, winning on slots machines, stand in front of a mirror to admire himself and even pick out faeces from a toilet are all ways of boosting the meter. His ego wouldn't be complete without steroids, in which a dosage enables him to become temporarily unstoppable at melee combat. Retrievable holograms also give Duke a decoy to distract enemies with, as well as some handy backup.

Dukeís persona may be archaic but he still holds up a decent game. This outing is far from perfect, but at least itís entertaining to play and its many flaws do not affect the overall fabric of the mechanics. Much of DNF's format is similar to DN3D, in busting mindless aliens on the way, whilst overcoming the frequent boss battles throughout. A selection of physics puzzles split up the action, as do parts of levels where Duke has to shrink himself and platform jump through certain areas, as well as driving a monster truck through a desert that frequently runs out of gas. Many of the enemies in Duke Nukem aren't the most intelligent and can be overcome with a bit of tactical planning. Ramping up the difficulty to "Come Get Some" means their lack of brains is more than compensated with mindless force, meaning more time will be spent dodging overwhelming firepower of many pig-cops as opposed to hitting them.

DNF presents a healthy and adjustable challenge factor, but there are moments where the game's difficulty is borne from frustration. A fiddly weapon cycling system and the ability to carry even an improved inventory of four (instead of the original two) makes battles tough, especially in having to make hard choices between pistols and rocket launchers to the more novel freeze and shrink rays. Having to drop a useful weapon due to the lack of ammo, only to find thereís an upcoming boss fight with a crate supplying infinite reloads can be infuriating. Long load screens donít help either. Ramping up the difficulty is going to mean a lot of restarting when attempting different strategies, and despite the wait being shorter than the console versions, itís long enough with repetition.

The Doom 3 engine means the graphics clearly are a few years dated, but itís acceptable for a shooter thatís not exactly designed to champion realism. Some parts are visibly more dated than others, but at least the PC and Mac version supports increased texture resolutions, smoother edges and consistent frame-rates unlike its console brethrens. However the evidence of the gameís delays are more apparent from outdated cultural references, as well as showcase physics puzzles that are now no longer relevant when many titles have since used them. Even the most recent references are two years out date. When Duke finishes playing DNF in-game for instance, and is asked whether it's any good, he says, ďafter twelve years, it should beĒ. However Christian Baleís outburst that became an internet sensation in 2009 still hasnít gotten old, which is amusingly parodied here.

A greater problem DNF experiences though is excessive political incorrectness. Thereís nothing wrong with some light humour, loading screens state obvious tips such as avoiding bullets when being shot at, and the ability to excrete into a urinal. However DNFís crude toilet humour gets old quickly. DN3D did push boundaries with its use of strip clubs and nudity but more advanced graphics take this to a whole new level. The deliberate portrayal of women without any intelligence, the need to rescue naked women from the alien hive before theyíre ripped in half and the wall boobs make this experience sexist and degrading. This is an extreme example of how backwards the videogame industry can be when stereotypes are accentuated, and one that will continue to alienate females from a predominantly male industry. The humour is just boorish.

No game can justify fourteen years of development and hence Duke Nukem Forever was always going to be a poisoned chalice. Itís not a total travesty, itís enjoyable to play and its flaws donít severely impact the flow of the game. The PC and Mac version does offer significant benefits over the console versions shortcomings such as smoother performance, better quality visuals, shorter loading times and the ability to carry more than two weapons. This title is till worth a go if found cheap as it's still an entertaining single-player game with a healthy variety of levels and trucks to drive. While often cringingly crude, this is a respite from the generic Ďrealisticí online-shooters out there. Thereís a good history lesson to be had here on a title locked in development hell, but outdated cultural references, concepts and visuals, along with the load screens and forced toilet humour signify that it wasnít for the right reasons Duke took so long.


bigcj34's avatar
Community review by bigcj34 (November 13, 2012)

Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.

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