Hail to the King, Baby! Or at least we were supposed to. Duke Nukem Forever is one of the most infamous titles in the history of the gaming industry, and for good reason. Between two developers, the title was worked on for over 15 years and went through multiple versions as it flitted through generations and an errant development schedule.
It’s hard to even begin talking about Duke Nukem Forever, really. I could easily wax lyrical on how crazy of a roller coaster the development cycle was, the multiple lawsuits, and how 3D Realms just couldn’t finish the title. For those attached since the beginning, Duke Nukem Forever was their baby. For many others patiently waiting for the release, Duke Nukem Forever became something bigger than it really was, which in the end guaranteed the game a spot on TechRaptor’s Most Disappointing Games of Gen 7 list.
What Duke Nukem really means as a game is that it is a funny and innovative shooter that placed a great amount of pride in how offensive and irrelevant it was. The plot was essentially non-existent, but that was part of its charm. You had to save the world, but you would do it while spouting one liners that would make Schwarzenegger blush. You would utilize crazy weapons that were as amusing as they were useful. Duke Nukem 3D was a classic back in the day and remains a fun title. If you are curious as to how this whole kerfuffle began, I completely recommend it, although with the caveat that it is from the mid-1990s and as a result you should set your expectations accordingly.
All Duke Nukem Forever really had to do was be more of the same. People weren’t looking for anything overly spectacular or incredible, they just wanted Duke. They wanted the guy who kicked ass while chewing bubblegum, but he already was out of bubblegum. With a development time of fifteen years, Duke Nukem Forever is fascinating but in all the wrong ways. It feels like a weird mixture of the most generic features across three generations of games, let alone the seventh it was released into. As you can expect from this, the most positive thing you can say about pretty much everything in Duke Nukem Forever is that it is functional. It works. But is it fun? Not really.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some amusing bits. Most are easily forgotten, but the opening where the player is drawing on a whiteboard is classic Duke, as well as when you go onto the football field and kick some alien ass, if you pardon my French. It’s just that the campaign is surprisingly long for a first person shooter and chock full of things that sounded cool on paper, but did not play well at all. Whose bright idea was it to have Duke shrunk for like an hour while driving around in a little dinky car? Granted it was amusing at first, but why was it so hard to control? I would complain more (I remember a cave section that was also incredibly dull), but I have honestly forgotten 95% of the campaign experience, which goes to show that in the case of this version of Duke, his style definitely overwhelmed all hope for substance.
While the campaign is forgettable and boring, it is still Duke, albeit a version of Duke that fans never wanted to see him in. However, the multiplayer definitely feels Generation 7ish, with weak callbacks to Duke Nukem 3D that are as uninspired as they are lazy. All it made me want to do was play Duke Nukem 3D again, especially now that the game is on Steam and has been updated for modern computer systems. If you want to understand why people liked Duke, fork over a buck and some change while it is still on sale and let yourself be overwhelmed by the 90s ‘tude.
To sum everything up, Duke Nukem Forever is a confused title. I would not recommend it in the slightest, unless you are just that curious as to what a game would look like when it stews in a pot for fifteen years. Duke deserved so much better than this. Oh well. Let’s all just listen to this rockin’ theme song to commemorate everything right (and wrong) with Duke Nukem.