I am writing this as the end credits of Duke Nukem Forever roll. I spent half my life waiting for this game. In the beginning expecting it to be the greatest game ever made, later dreading its release well knowing how bad it was most likely going to be.
So, how bad was it then? I am afraid I need to chime in with the critics and say “pretty bad”. Disappointing? Well maybe, but that would be only half of the story. Lets get some gripes out of the way first: Yes the graphics are outdated, the level design is inconsistent and for a game that should be about shooting aliens there are far too many forgettable puzzles, platforming and driving sequences. (okok the game is also pretty sexist and immature but thats hardly a surprise now, is it?).
But the biggest problem is that playing the game mostly feels like a chore, not like entertainment. No matter what I did the game never started to feel like FUN. Even on the lowest difficulty level the game is downright frustrating. Unfortunately the challenge does not come from clever enemies or tough battles: the number one cause of the Duke’s untimely demise was getting stuck in terrain, closely followed by sluggish controls and drowning (whoever had thought that an underwater bossfight with a limited air supply sounds like a jolly good idea should get his head checked). Many of this unnecessary annoyances should have been found and fixed during playtesting. (Perhaps the controls-situation is a bit better on the PC but on the console the game almost had me rage-quit a few times..)
Long story short.. if this had been released in 2001 it could have been an ok game. But today.. not so much.
The truth is I am not even disappointed, after all I have read enough reviews and knew what to expect (one of the reasons why I waited so long to play it). The word that best describes my state of mind would be “sad”. Sad for all this game could have been. If you take away all the annoyances, all the minor problems and bugs what remains is a game that has its heart in the right place (and its big manly hand firmly on the boob of some cheap blonde bimbo). You can feel the love that went into making this game, at the bottom of this mess is an honest attempt to create the great sequel we all had hoped Duke Nukem Forever would be. It saddens me that they failed so badly.
All the more I would hate it if the story of the mighty Duke ended like this. How about another installment of the franchise? Here is an idea: get the engine from Red Faction Armageddon. Build a huge open world city. Then let the Duke and a horde of aliens wreck it. I just hope this doesn’t take another 15 years or I might be too old to hold a controller in my arthritic hands…