Dirt Cheap Gaming: Duke Nukem

DukeNukemLogoBetween reviews and trailers online, everyone knows where to find a good game these days. But what happens if you go to the store with just $5 and all inhibitions aside? We’re on a mission to find the best (or worst) retail games worth less than a Subway sandwich.

For our inaugural review, we waltzed into Gamestop and picked up the cheapest console game on the shelf: Duke Nukem: Forever. We had a preconceived idea of Nukem’s less-than-stellar reception by the gaming community, but at four bucks used, we figured we didn’t have much left to lose. Turns out our dignity was still up for grabs, as we approached the register and were met with a judgmental look from our cashier. “Do you… know about this game?” she asked, as though we weren’t the first customers to mistakenly purchase this gem. She informed us we could return it immediately after we played it, and with that final warning, we were on our way to experiencing one of the worst shooters of 2011.

Duke Nukem: Forever was the highly-anticipated sequel to 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D. After 15 long years, this game was meant to be an unprecedented Nukem experience, bringing the series into the modern shooter generation. Unfortunately, 15 years of development isn’t a good look for Duke, as this game rocks some shoddy graphics, unbelievably long loading times, and controls that would make any gamer weep. The  dated design and aged feel could be considered a throwback to the style of the older games in the series, but when a game’s mechanics and playability are compromised by irony, the novelty wears off pretty quickly.

The game starts off at a bathroom urinal. If you are still reading this review after that sentence then we congratulate you and Duke would be proud. You quickly learn that almost everything in the game can be interacted with; from sinks and toilets to vending machines and weight benches – you name it, you can probably mess with it, Nukem style. Once you beat the introductory Boss, you realize you’ve been playing through a flashback scenario and it’s about 12 years later. Duke’s a hero and ladies’ man (the large amount of ladies and small amount of clothing makes this game extremely NSFW), and is called upon once again to save the day from some sort of alien invasion. We weren’t able to really figure out the plot , but, honestly, we don’t think there is one.

In terms of gameplay, the controls are incredibly clunky for a first person shooter. With multiple areas involving puzzles to progress (such as controlling an RC car from the other side of a partition to push around a power device, or something), this made it hard to enjoy playing, especially during platforming challenges. To keep Duke alive and kicking butt, you need to make sure your health meter is maxed. However, rather than a health meter, Duke has an Ego meter – of course. You can max out your Ego meter in a multitude of ways. Find a mirror on the wall? Check yourself out in it. Spot a weight bench? Do some sick reps, bro. Think you’ve got enough time to play a round of pinball during this alien invasion? If it means filling up that Ego meter, then yes, you do. There are also items you can pick up to make your attacks stronger, which are in the form of, you guessed it, steroids.

Besides taking part in random interactions and just being a total bro, there seemingly is a goal to the game. Kill all the aliens, or as Duke would say (and say again), “If it bleeds, I can kill it”.  For the purpose of the review, we decided to play on Easy as to get through as much of the game as possible. At the start, Easy was really easy. We were able to basically punch aliens once and have them drop to the floor. Unfortunately, we weren’t always able to pick up their dropped weapons – but since our fists were doing all the work it didn’t bother us. Then, we hit a point in the game where the difficulty seemed to increase out of nowhere. We will admit we died a plethora of times, which leads us to our next issue: load times are insanely long. Of course, when you have a game where you can interact with almost every item in the world, that is bound to happen.

We’re (not) sorry to say we didn’t complete the game. We gave up around the time you enter an underground alien cave system (can anyone say Gears of War?) where they are holding Earth’s women hostage and impregnating them with alien babies. Yeah, it was just getting good. Overall, we appreciated the level of interactivity within the environments, but when you have more fun playing with vending machines and light switches than trying to forge ahead in the campaign, you know there’s something wrong with the gameplay. From the boring shooter mechanics to the attempted puzzles and platforming levels, Duke Nukem: Forever falls totally flat in the world of the modern-day FPS. And sorry to say it, Duke, the womanizing, one-liner-spitting hero is just sooo 15 years ago.