Xbox 360
1.5 stars
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Overall Grade
1.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Game Itself
1.5 Stars
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
1.5 Stars
The Audio: Rating the Sound
2 Stars
Replay Factor
1 Stars

Duke Nukem Forever

Street Date:
June 14th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Chad Goodmurphy
Review Date:1
December 21st, 2011
Game Release Year:
Xbox 360
2K Games
Gearbox Software / 3D Realms
ESRB Rating:
M (Mature)


It’s been a long, winding road, for Duke Nukem Forever. Beginning development approximately a decade and a half ago, it was thought that the much talked-about first-person shooter was never going to see the light of day. In fact, the project became a running joke in the video game industry, as rumors constantly swirled about new developments regarding its status. In the end, Duke spent more time on the shelf, watching bad made for TV movies, than he seemingly did in development. Unfortunately, the final product is evidence of this, delivering a game, which certainly wasn’t worth the wait.

The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Duke Nukem Forever takes the reigns from Duke Nukem 3D, which was certainly Duke’s best adventure, and a game that I loved. Our titular, cigar-smoking, one-line spewing hero, has been basking in glory for many years after stopping the alien colony’s last digital invasion. He’s the poster boy for bravery, known and respected all around the world. Perhaps this complacency could be seen as laziness, but that’s not the case. The man loves the attention and is making the most out of his immense popularity.

This lengthily delayed sequel begins as the dastardly aliens launch a new attack on our life-supporting planet. Needless to say, it cramps Duke’s style very much, making him take time out from his busy schedule of pinball, beautiful women, talk shows and awards banquets. The hero must save the day again, and it seems like it’s an event this particular one has been waiting years for. The pistol is loaded and the one-liners have been cooking. He’s ready to kick ass and chew bubblegum once again.

During the game’s several hour-long campaign, Duke must venture throughout his beloved city – a fictionally designed version of Las Vegas – taking out every foe in sight. Ever-memorable pig cops and ugly aliens make a return, destined for some bullets to the brain or an explosive finale. It’s classic Duke Nukem game play, with action always speaking louder than words. From the start, the shootouts, gore and lewd content never take a break.

When its incredibly popular predecessor was released, the first-person shooter genre was still in relative infancy. Genre titles were fast-paced and a bit rough around the edges, delivering tons of action without a ton of finesse. Lots of people fell in love with this formula, which is why we still see releases and remakes to this day. The problem is that, unlike some of those resurrected franchises, this one should have remained in its digital grave. Our incredibly vulgar and sexist friend feels out of place these days.

Now, it must be remembered that this game began development well over a decade ago. Back then, the industry was quite a bit different and the available technology was archaic compared to our current standards and capabilities. However, with that being said, I’m of the opinion that Duke Nukem Forever would have been a mediocre release all of those years ago. Its mechanics are rough, marring its included game play set-pieces with controls that fail to work the way they’re expected to. This problem comes into play a lot during two unnecessary aspects of the title: three-dimensional platforming and miniature dune buggy driving. Neither one works well at all, becoming frustrating quickly due to a lack of precision which leads to deadly falls and annoying crashes.

Looking at the entire single player campaign, it’s easy to peg the unnecessary platforming sections as one of its biggest issues. Though, there are so many more. A lack of polish is perhaps the many developers’ biggest mistake, delivering a game that tries to do a lot, but does nothing well. Its gunplay mechanics aren’t too bad, but they’re the only positive in a sea of negatives. Things would have been better if poorly-designed puzzles and mini-games like pool and whack-an-alien were scrapped, in order for more time to be spent on the core experience.

Surprisingly, where Duke Nukem Forever feels the most dated, is not found within its controller-based content. Not at all, in fact. You see; it’s the character and the premise, which really make this alien invasion feel like old hat. The writing is both basic and contrived, featuring dialogue, which is insulting to listen to. I’m all for the medium doing its best to produce well-written scripts aimed at adults, but this is not a good example of that. Female gamers should certainly avoid this game like the plague due to the way their gender is treated with incest and sexuality-driven scenarios.

With all the bad, there is some good. There are hints of what we loved the last time we saw this muscle-bound badass, but his latest adventure feels more like a B-side than a great successor. On occasion, shooting baddies and hearing cheesy one-liners can be enjoyable, but it becomes grating and dull after a while. Even the boss fights are more frustrating and uninspired than need be, becoming forgettable. It’s too bad that these issues, along with the aforementioned control problems, still exist after so many years in development.

In addition to its campaign, Duke’s latest adventure also includes multiplayer. However, it’s a mode with lobbies that resemble a ghost town. This competitive offering delivers incredibly mediocre content that does nothing better than its peers. It works and isn’t absolutely terrible, but it’s far from anything to write home about.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The last thing to expect with this game is a high-definition spectacle. Considering how long it’s been in development, its dated visual assets are to be expected. At best, Duke Nukem Forever resembles a title released last generation. No aspect of its visual presentation can compete with modern shooters, but that isn’t a surprise. The included texture work is relatively basic and repetitive, with bland-looking environments.

From the first frame to the last, it’s incredibly easy to tell what franchise this release belongs to. The over-the-top content and violent art style remains the same as it was back when kicking ass and chewing bubble gum was a popular thing to do in virtual space. Granted, things do look better than they did then. Alien monstrosities and human non-playable characters all look better than they ever have in one of this series’ releases, but that’s still not saying a lot. Of course, most of the women in the game are exaggerated in certain, sexually explicit areas.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Not surprisingly, this one’s audio is about as dated as its visuals. Most of the time, you’ll hear repetitive bullet sounds, explosive effects or laughably bad one-liners. While the sound effects aren’t terrible, they’re ultimately forgettable. Forever’s voice acting and writing, on the other hand, are borderline terrible. For that reason alone, you’re not going to forget either. It’s not a good way to be remembered.

Throughout the story-driven campaign, you’ll hear a mix of rock and orchestral music. It fits in quite well, promoting the gruff machismo hero as the greatest man alive, which is also what the game’s storyline tries to do. Some of the music isn’t too bad, but it’s ultimately forgettable as well.

Replay Factor

To be honest, it’s hard to think of reasons why one would want to play through this game more than once. Your first play through makes sense from a trip down memory lane perspective, or as a way to compare older shooters to more modern releases. However, there isn’t much here that warrants a second campaign completion attempt, let alone a mission re-play.

If the included multiplayer was robust and interesting, let alone popular, there would be reason to jump back into this one. However, it isn’t. Luckily, achievements and trophies don’t really focus on this competitive mode. In the end, they present the only reason as to why I went back and re-played a few parts of the core experience.

Final Thoughts

Although I applaud Gearbox Software for trying to please fans by bringing this project out of its developmental coma, the final product just isn’t that memorable or interesting. Fans of the series may enjoy parts of this title but, those who are new to the whole shebang, might as well avoid it and spend their time with something else. There are a couple of likeable elements here, but they’re over-shadowed by mediocre mechanics and terrible platforming sections. In the end, it’s hard to recommend this relatively poor shooter to any group other than the series’ hardcore fans.

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 720p

Audio Formats

  • Dolby Digital 5.1

Multiplayer Mode(s)

  • Online Versus

Motion Controls

  • No

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