Name: Duke Nukem Forever
Release Date (US): 2011
Platform: PlayStation 3
Score: 25
Beat: July 23rd, 2021
Written: July 26th, 2021

(Content warning: Cringe, bad words) Duke Nukem Forever is a game that needs no introduction. Originally announced in 1997 and after a development hell like no other, finally released in 2011 under Gearbox Software for Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. I won't go over the full development timeline here, but there is one in-game that is unlocked after beating it. Plus, I'm sure there's several out there on the internet. Anyway, it released to critical acclaim... is hopefully what Gearbox was hoping for, but it received extremely mixed reviews among critics and was highly divisive among fans. There were two DLCs released for the game, the "Hail to the Icons Parody Pack" which is a bunch of multiplayer content. Then there's the "The Doctor Who Cloned Me" DLC, which pits Duke against a familiar enemy, Dr. Proton. Neither of these DLCs were released for the Japanese version, I believe. Let's jump right into this steaing pile.

You boot the game up, everything seems promising, the title screen is neat, Duke looks pretty good in HD, but then you start the game. Right away, you're treated to the loading screens. They're bad. Like, Sonic 06 bad. Maybe not that bad, but they're bad. Each one can take from around 30 seconds to a minute, which might not seem like much but it really adds up. Not to mention, if you're stuck on a part, each time it reloads the level, that's a whole minute before you can even retry again. So the first part of the game is extremely boring. You fight the Cycloid Emperor in a DNF recreation of the final level of Duke 3D. Then the boredom sets in. You listen to the sexy female twins make stupid perv jokes then you get up and go from conversation to conversation. It takes forever to get to fighting aliens, let alone shooting them. Pretty quickly, you realize Duke no longer has an arsenal of weapons on him at all times. The game takes the Halo approach and allows you to only carry two weapons at a time, plus grenades. The game also takes the Halo approach to HP, in that you have a "shield", which is Duke's ever growing Ego in this game, and for whatever reason an invisible amount of hits after your Ego depletes. I'm very happy you can take damage after losing all your ego, but I don't get why it's gotta be invisible. This approach to HP is fine, but we lose out on some of the Duke talk revolving around healing and taking damage. Speaking of Duke talk, there is almost none in the entire game. When there is any, it's not very clever. Just a stupid sex joke or "how many porkchops can I make out of [a pigcop]." See Zero Hour for an excellent amount of clever Duke talk. I briefly touched on it a moment ago, but the humour ranges from groan-worthy to downright cringe. Most of it is stupid sex jokes, potty humour, or a combination of those. Sure, Duke is known for crude humor, but when it's all there is, when there's literal wall boobs because, as the loading screen tip so eloquently puts it, "girls don't like it when you slap theirs," it gets real exhausting, not to mention embarrassing. Along with the crude humour, there's usually clever or funny jokes, and besides, Duke 3D doesn't do anything near what DNF does, like the most "explicit" things you can do with a stripper is tip them, but in DNF... that's not good enough. See "Duke's Titty City" level for an example of something the developers thought was necessary. Let's not forget the incessant bashing and unnecessary references to other games, like Duke calling power armor something for pussies, or there being a stairwell where you have to avoid barrels, and when you get to the top Duke says that he expected a monkey. Get it, it's like Donkey Kong.

One cool aspect of Duke 3D/64 and Zero Hour is their soundtrack. ZH has a wide array of great music that enhances the mood and is just awesome. Duke 3D has good music too, but I don't like it nearly as much as ZH's. Duke 64 has the best arrangement of the Duke 3D Grab bag theme. But it unfortunately features no music in the actual game part of the game. The point is, music is (usually) a part of the Duke experience, but Forever lacks music most of the time. When there was any, I didn't find it very memorable. Not the worst thing this game does, but it is a mild let down.

The level design is okay. There are legitimately fun parts of the game! There are some big shootouts and interesting encounters throughout the game. The section where you drive the monster truck was actually pretty fun, though having to constantly stop because the thing ran out of gas was annoying. Just like real life, haha. The problem is, there's a lot of garbage too. I mentioned one level above, which is literally just a strip club that you walk around. No shooting aliens at all. Then there's "The Hive," which is the first encounter with the wall boobs, and there's a lot of naked women being uh, something or other, by... some sort of organism? I tried to just ignore them, while taking a shotgun to them to put them out of their misery. A mercy kill, if you will. Some of the boss fights were really annoying, but a couple were fun. I don't think boss fights were usually a strength of Duke games, but they were good enough. The levels were varied and managed to avoid feeling samey. There was a noticeable increase in difficulty throughout the course of the game, which is nice. Sometimes it felt like there was a massive spike in difficulty, but overall it was a pretty smooth increase. Also, I hope no one was too attached to Hoover Dam, as it no longer exists in the Dukeiverse. It was cool seeing parts of it recreated in the game as I've been there in real life. I imagine most of what you see in the game is not what it's like in real life but still. Throughout a lot of levels are dumb puzzles. Duke wouldn't do a puzzle, he'd just shoot it and move on. But no, here, he insists on doing every single silly physics puzzle straight out of Half-Life 2 in the game.

So yeah. If I sat around longer I could probably think of more to talk about, but I think these are the more important things to discuss. I originally had no intent of playing this game, but my fate was sealed when I saw it for $4 at a local shop. Was it worth it? No. I compared this a bit to Zero Hour and 3D as those are the only two Duke games I've played a considerable amount of. When I was little, I thought those two were the only Duke Nukem games, they were the only two we had, Duke 64 and Zero Hour. Of course now I know better. I actually remember talking with my brother a little about DNF is finally releasing and it's no longer a punchline. He had played it when it released, but he barely played it before never touching it again. I was unfortunately talked into buying the DLC campaign, though to be fair, I didn't really need convincing. From what I've played of it so far, it's actually pretty fun. And lacking in a lot of the cringe that is in the main game. I'll update this review when I finish it.

-Hat Kid

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