GAMING GREATS: Duke Nukem Forever (2011)

Rod gets groovy with old Duke in this long-in-the-tooth shooter. Did it deserve more credit? 

Who made it?: 3D Realms, Triptych Games, Piranha Games (Developers), 2K (Publisher).

Genre: First-Person Shooter.

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, OnLive, OS X.

Format: Blu-ray, DVD, Download.

Release date: June 10, 2011 (UK).

Duke Nukem Forever is a balls-to-the-wall, boobs-to-the-face, gun-blast-to-the-ass of a game, starring our favourite hero inspired by 80s action films: Duke Nukem. After all this time, Duke is still the very same one we remember. What really helps is the fact that voice actor Jon St. John reprises the role, which he has performed since Duke Nukem 3D. He really adds to the funny things Duke says.

Now, it may have taken many years for this project to finally be completed, but I personally feel it was totally worth it, and as Duke even says in the game, “Yeah, but after twelve fucking years, it should be!” For the few who haven’t played a Duke Nukem game before, nor know much about the character, he is very politically incorrect and, as a result, this game is absolutely un-PC, too! If you are easily offended by sexual references, nudity, coarse language and violence, then this game and character are definitely not for you. For everyone else, this will only aid the experience of playing it.

The premise requires you to understand the complex nature of the human condition and to… ah, fuck that philosophical bullshit! As the man himself might say: “Alright, you primitive screwheads, listen up! The story of this game is simple. Aliens have returned to Earth and are up to their old tricks again. Which means they have taken hot babes and want to wipe us all out. I have to stop them. Who ya gonna call? Duke Nukem, baby, that’s who! Now, if you excuse me, I have to go and get blown. Adios muchachos!”

The aliens pretend like they’re not here to attack at first, and the President of the United States doesn’t want there to be any trouble, so Duke is ordered not to fight, and ordering Duke not to fight is like telling a cobra not to strike! But, of course, there wouldn’t be a game if the aliens didn’t eventually attack, and it’s up to Mr. Nukem to save both the day and the babes of Earth once again…

In the opening animated montage – which will only play if you don’t go directly to the title screen – the game will go through some events from Duke Nukem 3D. The first level you play is actually a recreation of the final level of the original version of 3D, and once you defeat the Cycloid Emperor, it is revealed that Duke himself was playing that level whilst getting a blowjob from two busty blonde twins. Talk about getting blown away by a game! Did I mention how politically incorrect this game is?

The gameplay of Forever is very simple. It’s an FPS that incorporates many moments throughout where you must use a gun turret of some kind, and you also have driving sections which turn the view to third-person. At one point, you have to direct a remote control car to get an item you need to have moved so Duke can pick it up. There are moments, too, where you will be shrunk down to a very small size and have to complete a section of the level in that miniature form. Some of the fun things you can do as Duke include: using toilets, drawing on whiteboards, heating popcorn in microwaves, playing poker machines, playing air hockey, playing pinball (named “Balls of Steel” and accompanied with music from the first level of Duke Nukem 3D), lifting weights, and many other things, some of which are of a very sexual nature.

When it comes to video games, there is always some kind of indicator of a character’s health. In the case of Duke Nukem Forever, he has an Ego bar. There are things within the game you can do to increase said Ego bar. One is to perform actions such as looking at yourself in the mirror, lifting weights, and punching a punching bag among other things, and you also get an Ego boost after defeating every boss. Think of the Ego metre like a shield that, as you get hit, is depleted. Once fully depleted, Duke is then open to taking damage, and if you don’t find cover quickly, you will die. However, you do have a window of time to get out of the line of fire and allow the Ego bar to refill.

While making fun of modern FPS games like Halo, it still takes on board some elements from that franchise, and the main one is that you can only carry two weapons at a time (in the PC version, in Single Player, you can carry four). This is in contrast to the previous games where you could carry a multitude of them. You also have the modern FPS gameplay mechanic of regenerative health, too, represented by the aforementioned Ego bar. The gameplay overall isn’t very deep, however, I don’t see that as a problem in this game because I feel it’s more about having fun.

The enemy forces consist of classic Duke Nukem baddies such as the Assault Troopers, Pigcops, Octobrains, as well as Alien Fighters, Assault Commanders, Assault Trooper Captains, Octababies, Tentacles, and Pregnators. When certain enemies are stunned, you can perform an execution to finish them off in style. Some of the bosses will require you to get in close and perform a series of button presses dictated by onscreen commands in order to deliver the coup de grace. And some give you the option of performing a humiliation move on them – punching them in the balls!

It wouldn’t be an FPS game without guns, and Duke certainly has a few to choose from. The basics like your Duke pistol and Shotgun are available, but there’s also the AT Laser, the Devastator, the Enforcer Gun, the Ripper, the Freeze Ray, the Shrink Ray, the Railgun, and the RPG. Then you have the Pipe Bombs and Trip Mines, which are separate from the limit of only being able to carry two firearms at a time, but you can only carry a certain amount of those also, and need to refill them by picking more up or by finding explosive refill points, which function the same way as ammo refills (represented as ammo crates), both allowing the player to refill as many times as they need.

Aside from the weapons Duke can use, there are special items that can be utilised as well. These include the Holo-Duke, which creates a hologram of Duke which serves as a decoy and distraction for the aliens to attack, allowing Duke to ambush them or flee an area in certain circumstances. Then there’s his Duke Vision, something which can be switched on and off at will to use in dark places, and is basically his version of night vision.

Other special items available for Duke are cans of beer which, when he drinks them, will blur his vision but also prevent him from losing any health for a certain amount of time, which definitely helps when you are about to die and need to get out of a sticky situation. And then you have Steroids, and using these will make Duke’s punches temporarily super-powerful. This is very useful against Pigcops who aren’t armed with weapons and leap at you to land punches.

As with previous games in the franchise, Duke has an arsenal of one-liners along with his arsenal of weaponry, and these are quotes taken from various films. In this, you will hear Duke utter lines from such classics as:

  • “Come get some!” and “Hail to the King baby!” from Army of Darkness (1993).
  • “It’s all in the reflexes!” from John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1986).
  • “I’m the Duke. I’m A-number one!” from Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981).

There are also some quotes which are paraphrased from various films:

  • “Baby, you make me wish I had three guns” from Total Recall (1990).
  • “If it bleeds, I can kill it!” from Predator (1987).
  • “I’d buy this for a dollar!” from RoboCop (1987).
  • “If I promised to kill you last? I lied” from Commando (1985).

One of the levels, The Hive, is clearly one big reference to the Alien films, with the entire place having being turned into an xenomorph lair, complete with women hanging up in cocooned form, having been impregnated by the aliens. Naturally, those baby aliens burst out of them if they’re not put out of their misery beforehand.

There are some other film references in the form of graffiti, such as the word “Redrum” from Stephen King’s The Shining, and the spinning top totem from the Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). There’s even a reference to actor Christian Bale’s famous “We’re done professionally!” rant from the set of Terminator: Salvation (2009), with a character backstage at some late show Duke was supposed to be interviewed on berating another for wandering through the set. Speaking of films, there actually were plans to make a Duke Nukem film back in the late 90s and early 2000s and, before it was cancelled, the rumour as to who would play him turned out to be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. No word on the the project has surfaced since, though.

Duke Nukem Forever received many criticisms related to its graphics, humour and gameplay once it was finally released. Since Duke himself is based on something considered old school, which in this case is action heroes of the 80s such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, or Sylvester Stallone, the dated nature makes total sense (Duke is definitely most like Schwarzenegger, albeit a much larger than life and exaggerated copy). I think it’s only fitting for this character to be a throwback to FPS’s of the 90s and early 2000s. Ultimately, the main aim of this game is to entertain you, make you laugh, and be an enjoyable and fun experience running around shooting things, as well as hearing funny comments from Duke. If you ask me, this is all good!

The things that do cause a level of frustration, though, are the long loading times, and sometimes you really get annoyed at some of the gameplay difficulties you face. That said, I personally had a great time playing Duke Nukem Forever. He is a character that always manages to make me laugh. If you are into old school FPS games, then this will definitely be for you. However, if you’ve grown up used to more modern games in this genre, then you may find Duke’s last mainstream adventure lacking.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • Originally in development under 3D Realms, director George Broussard, one of the creators of the original Duke Nukem game, first announced the title’s development in April 1997, and various promotional information for the game was released between 1997 and 1998. After repeatedly announcing and deferring release dates, 3D Realms announced in 2001 that it would be released simply “when it’s done”. No official video of the game was shown for almost eight years, until 3D Realms released a new teaser trailer in December 2007, but the game “sank” yet again soon afterwards.
  • In the downloadable content The Doctor Who Cloned Me, Duke wakes up after the nuclear explosion and finds himself alive but trapped in a strange laboratory while video recordings of himself declaring his bid for Presidency play on monitors. After escaping, Duke discovers that not only are the aliens continuing their invasion, but his old nemesis Dr. Proton (the antagonist of the original Duke Nukem game) has returned and is building an army of robotic Duke clones to fight the aliens and conquer Earth himself.
  • According to research firm NPD, Duke Nukem Forever sold 376,300 units in its first month (sales results do not include digital copies). Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Games, revealed in July 2011 that the game sales were half of their initial expectations.

Rod Petrie

Gamer since 1988 at the age of five. First system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Favourite retro systems - NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, PS1, and PS2.

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