Duke Nukem Forever Xbox 360 Review

There are certain things, as gamers, we’ve become accustomed to in our games: quality gameplay, decent visuals, good mechanics that support whatever style of game we are playing (shooter, platformer, stealth, etc.). After 12 years or more in development you would think that Duke Nukem Forever would be burning on all cylinders when it came to these areas. Sadly, Gearbox Software doesn’t quite hit the bull’s-eye and  Duke just misses, and sometimes outright fails to grasp these criteria after so long a wait.

It could be said that this is exactly the Duke Nukem title that everyone has been waiting on. Arguably, it has everything you would expect from a Duke Nukem game: Immature jokes and one liners about women, sex, and penises, juvenile humor, simple and uncomplicated “destroy the aliens” first-person shooter mechanics, action movie quotes for every situation, deep story (sarcasm, sorry), and Duke, the same character he was 12 years ago; sexist, cocky, machismo, and uninteresting. However, this isn’t 1998 and if something doesn’t evolve with the times, then it is destined to decay, much like the Duke Nukem formula has, made apparent by Duke Nukem Forever.

Duke Nukem Forever’s story is nothing you have to swim out too far to get. Duke is now the most famous and liked person on Earth after saving it from the aliens in previous games. Well the aliens are back for revenge and Duke has to stop them. Simple, yet right at home in the Duke universe.

After the game kicks starts itself and you have to start actually playing instead of just wondering around listening to people gasp and cheer as you walk by, it becomes apparent why Gearbox was so opposed to letting you get started with the actual gameplay earlier, aside from a small, laughable opening boss sequence. You are weaponless in the beginning of the real game; just you and Duke’s manly fists. You will soon find out that the melee is a pain to perform and even worse to watch. Striking a foe most of the time doesn’t even cause them to flinch until you land a second or third blow, and then the physics are unremarkable at best. You do eventually get a firearm, and the game picks up significantly. However, crappy melee mixed with mundane shooting mechanics doesn’t exactly hit a high point for players. The shooting mechanics themselves are mediocre at best. They make for the occasional fun shoot-out with the aliens and they seem solid, but they don’t showcase anything extraordinary, and can become a pain to use at times, with the touchy aiming system and the less-than-ideal impact reading. Some of the shoot-outs are fun and really get your blood pumping, but they always get bogged down by shotty mechanics and tedious sequences.

After some shooting aliens and running around in air ducts, you get the chance to interact with some of Dukes toys in a sporting goods room of sorts. You can shoot hoops, lift weights, use a couple of punching bags, and play pinball. Using these objects helps boost your “Ego” which is what qualifies as your health bar. The interaction with all of these objects in the beginning may seem interesting for a couple of seconds, but they do nothing but distract you from the actual gameplay and progression of the story, neither one being anything remarkable or praiseworthy. If you need a room filled with “games” to distract you from the current game, then you have thought about this the wrong way.

Vehicle sequences give a break from the mundane shoot-outs, however, they do not offer anything truly exciting and could even be called worse than the on-foot gameplay.  They seem to last far too long and offer nothing in the innovation department. The platforming sequences are lumped into that same category. They are clumsy and annoying to work through, and the puzzles are merely there to get in your way and slow down the game. Most require nothing more than “push this platform a few feet to this next one so you can reach a switch two feet away.” Duke brings their stupidity and uselessness to your attention with his witty dialogue, which doesn’t do anything to smooth over that fact that you will be annoyed to be performing platforming puzzles with mechanics that don’t support them well.

The dialogue is one of the most solid reminders of how irrelevant Duke Nukem as aged. Quotes from action movies litter Duke’s dialogue and action sequences pulled from blockbuster films show off what little bit of excitement the gameplay can have at times. However, it all seems meaningless against the bigger picture of the game itself. There are a few quotes and actions that show Duke has kept up with popular culture, but most are stuck in the ‘90s and most younger audience members won’t even get some of the “up-to-date” one-liners and references.

In earlier Duke titles, Duke was there to kick ass and save the world (I’m not saying “chew bubblegum”). In Duke Nukem Forever, we are constantly being told how great Duke is and how is the greatest thing ever. Everybody can’t get enough of Duke and can’t stop talking about how great he is, which causes the player to notice all the more times he just isn’t that spectacular. Much of this lack of innovation can be attributed to trying to preserve the original Duke in all his glory, which was reasonable idea, however, even Duke needs to evolve, or move over for the next, better thing to take his place. If you are looking for your typical Duke Nukem game and NOTHING more, then you may enjoy Duke Nukem Forever. If you wanted the next great shooter, or even something to have some fun with for a while, there are better choices on the market.

GGC Score: 6 out of 10

Click here to buy Duke Nukem Forever for Xbox 360 from Amazon.com

About Tyler Lee

Freelance video game journalist, published author, nerd.

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