Sunday, June 26, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever [Game][PC]

Amount Completed - Entire Game

Story - Duke Nukem Forever follows Duke Nukem, the hero of the world. He is a man that can do no wrong, but arguably does so much wrong. Duke Nukem 3D presented the Duke character as macho and misogynistic. Forever takes the extra step and adds in sadistic. His view of other people in-need (or not) is generally self-centered or worse. But as shocking entertainment it is somewhat effective. They seem to be transitioning Duke to a bit more of an anti-hero. Unfortunately he is in the transition period and it does not work very well in Forever.

The story in Forever is about as simple as possible. There seemed to be hints of intrigue but it never plays out. The alien menace has arrived and the president says not to attack them. The aliens attack and Duke tries close the portal leaking the aliens. The entire first half of the game is spent in Las Vegas where Duke is considered a god among men. Unfortunately this section of the game is horrible in just about every way compared to the second half. The hero-worship and terrible characters get old really fast.

With the very manly/macho/over-the-top nature I was surprised when Duke was orally resuscitated by another man he did not rush into a homophobic comment or otherwise. He actually said nothing at all. I view this positively considering what would have likely happened 15 years ago.

The badness of the Las Vegas part of the game is overruled by a middle section where Duke tears around in a monster truck. The game continues in a positive way to a dam where all hell breaks loose. But sadly it was the gameplay and experience that were entertaining, not the story.

There are a variety of great jokes in the game, many of which poke fun at (or just pay homage) other games or companies. I definitely laughed a bit when near the end they threw in a great Donkey Kong joke (that no one under the age of 25 will even get).

Art - The human characters in Forever just look weird. The proportions are off and people look stiff.

The first person camera in Duke is unique in that it feels completely different than other 3D shooters. It is claustrophobic and logically makes no sense when they attempt to indicate you are actually seeing things from the eyes of Duke. If so his fists must be glued to his chin and hold guns 3 inches from his face. (yes obviously this is an accepted oddity of all 3D first-person-shooters)

The level art really picks up in the second half of the game after leaving Las Vegas. The game transitions from really bland casinos to a desert and eventually the dam where the art looks much more polished. The dam in particular has some parts that reminded me more of Doom 3 or F.E.A.R. (in a good way).

Many 3D shooters make an effort to make the player feel as though they are firing a gun and hitting a target. For whatever personal reasons, Forever makes me feel like I am asking the game to fire a gun and hit a target. I cannot quite put a perfect description on the criticism. The lack of hit reactions on many enemies in certain circumstances does not help.

Gameplay - Duke Nukem was previously about free-form action and exploration. Forever instead locks the player into rails a bit more than I generally like. The game takes a few too many nods from Postal 2 and not enough from Duke Nukem 3D.

In the beginning of Forever the combat felt a bit too much like Painkiller in that combat was clearly divided up with discrete walls or doors to lock you in until every enemy was defeated. Later in the game there is a bit more freedom and it was less boxed in. The major problem I had with combat was that despite obvious spots to hide and recover, some were simply designed out of my reach. One example was a counter in a casino. Why did the designers put in a counter if I cannot even get behind it. I recall seeing it and wondering how it could be useful if I wanted to get away from the creature gnawing on me.

The moment you leave Las Vegas the game becomes 10x more fun. Driving the monster truck was actually fun and reminded me of driving/boating around in Half-Life 2 (a bit too linear in Forever though). The level design suddenly felt a bit more loose and fun with lots of places to hide and plan your attack from.

Later in the game some of the puzzle-like parts (in the loosest sense) are just points of frustration. They serve no purpose and provide no entertainment beyond a sense of "glad I'm done with that." In particular there is a section underwater that is simply just annoying. Looking back it probably would be easier knowing how to get through it, but it felt like too big a speed bump for such a generally action oriented game. I'm all for slowing the player down, but can designers make dying and repeating a section actually fun?

The boss battles in the game are generally simple and fun. They can be a little frustrating but never beyond an acceptable level. They are really about patience and not just firing and hoping it works out.

Gut - The frustrating, boring, and out-of-place components really interrupt an enjoyable game. My gut says proceed with caution. You'll be offended and might be accidentally entertained. The game you actually want is the Duke Nukem Forever from 2001. (the E3 trailer is included in the game so you can see)