Duke Nukem Forever Retrospective

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Photo credit by Flickr.

Since my last blog post was about Duke Nukem, I thought about why not look back at Duke Nukem Forever, Duke Nukem’s most controversial game. It was infamous in the gaming community for being in such a long development time period. It was supposed to be released back in 1998, but due to George Broussard, the director, kept delaying the  release date due to his perfectionism. Eventually the game was released in mid 2011 and it garnered mixed to negative reviews from critics and gamers alike. This would be the game that turn one of first-person shooters most beloved franchise into a constant punching bag from the gaming community.

I actually knew this game was not going to live up the hype of almost ten plus years of development due to the constant reworking of the game. However, I remembered expecting it to be at least fun and decent. I don’t remember if the reviews came out early for this game, but I definitely remembered being extremely shocked when the games was getting completely bombarded by many mainstream video game review sites. I couldn’t believe Duke Nukem was getting such low ratings. It’s Duke Nukem! Duke Nukem 3D was widely regarded to be one of the best first-person shooters ever made. How is it possible it’s getting ripped and torn apart so badly.

However, being a fan I am, I tried to avoid the review scores and opinions and I just wanted to play the game. It’s been too long I had to wait and it was so nice that I was able to play the sequel to Duke Nukem 3D after being excited about the game when I first saw the 2001 E3 trailer. I remember thinking the game wasn’t too bad after playing a couple of missions. Once I finished the campaign, I definitely didn’t feel like it deserved all those harsh ratings from gaming websites or even gamers that were jumping on the band wagon.

The campaign does do some good things. I loved how there was a lot of variety within the campaign. You got the shooting, the exploration for ego boosts (upgrades), driving sections, turret sections, platforming, and puzzles. It definitely kept the game interesting and I also thought the weapon balance was really well done. The standard weapons like the Shotgun generally had more ammo than the highly valued weapons like the Rocket Launcher where there was very limited shots. I think 3D Realms did a great job at making the weapons feel so balanced to a point there’s a reason why you want to use this particular weapon over the other one and I always feel like weapon balance is something that a lot of first-person shooters I play whether their single player or multiplayer focused always seem to kind of be all over the place.

I also loved a lot of the design of the familiar enemies. I still think the Octabrain looked so horrifyingly cool. I didn’t really have any problems with the other enemies too. The game was enjoyable for a lot of the time when I play the campaign.

However, I don’t think Duke Nukem Forever is a masterpiece in any way shape or form. It does have its faults. My biggest problem with this game is how linear a lot of the map design was which was disappointing because the level design was very elaborate and interesting in Duke Nukem 3D. It allowed players to play it in multiple ways and there was just more depth to the level design which means there was more depth to the gameplay experience overall. Duke Nukem Forever had some severe issues with the turret sections on Damn, I’m Good difficulty where I just feel like they needed more polish due to the difficulty just feels rather unfair at times.

I also thought the game’s strongest point was the shooting. The shootings feels great in Duke Nukem Forever. I always loved using the Shotgun or Rocket Launcher because they pack so much punch. However, I thought the game just didn’t have enough action or combat at times which did put me in an awkward mood because I always had that itch of wanting to shoot more enemies after finishing a combat section. The game also didn’t come close to what Duke Nukem 3D where I just feel like everything was just top notch from the overall design.

I did play the The Doctor Who Cloned Me DLC, and it was okay. It’s basically more Duke Nukem Forever content if you wanted more of it, but I would say its best to get it on a sale because I don’t think it’s something you would absolutely have to play or own it. I just find it hilarious that the Expander which I always thought was one of the weakest weapons in Duke Nukem 3D transformed into a fairly overpowering weapon in Duke Nukem Forever.

I never really was a fan of Duke Nukem‘s multiplayer component, but the multiplayer in Forever was just horrible. There was too many weapon balance issues where the explosive-based weapons were way too overpowering and it didn’t really required much skill to use which definitely is not a good sign for me. I just never bothered to play it that much after realizing its obvious faults and I would personally like to believe it never existed.

I should talk briefly about the old versus modern elements of this game because I remembered people felt like it wasn’t t old school enough or it’s too old school and not modern enough. I always thought Duke Nukem Forever packaged itself as a modern first-person shooter, but it’s really an old school late ’90s PC first-person shooters akin to games like Half-Life or Sin. It didn’t have the best influence of the two styled first-person shooters, but I guess there’s always room to learn about mistakes for the next game.

For example, many gamers complained the two weapons limit which they eventually patched it to an option where you have up to four weapons in the PC version exclusively for unknown reasons. I personally would’ve wanted all the weapons, but I always felt like just how the game is designed with the ammo crates where they give you full ammo to your weapons and just how the weapons work overall, it feels more in favor of the two weapons limit system. Having Duke to carry more weapons would reduce the difficulty of the game and it just kind of hurts the weapon balance as you don’t have to think about which weapons you want to carry for strategic purposes as much when only having two weapons.

When I first beaten Duke Nukem Forever, I thought the game was decent. It’s not the best first-person shooter I’ve played and not the best sequel, but it was fun enough for me to enjoy it and I think I’ll say I don’t regret paying $60 for it. I still come back to the campaign from time to time because it is rather fun to play it again. It wasn’t that bad really, it was just misunderstood.

I have to admit. The 2011 debut trailer was awesome back then and still is too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVuuyRGB_BA

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