Duke Nukem Forever review
Other points of pain are the checkpoint-only save system, which is at least courteous enough to only rarely respawn me farther from the point of death than I’d have liked, and mercifully brief quick-time events—mostly just tapping Space bar for feats of strength.
Duking it out
DNF is a throwback to the age when shooters were long single-player experiences first and multiplayer games second, and as such the eight-player multiplayer modes aren’t going to challenge Call of Duty or Battlefield for the competitive crown. It’s often hilariously effective at showing us a good time, though—the 10 maps, which are diversely designed with the same wide range of locations as the campaign, are built to create goofy and memorable moments when combined with Duke’s weapons. Moments like shrinking and squishing a guy carrying a babe-shaped flag back to his team’s base, or hitting a jetpacking enemy with the Freeze Ray, causing him to fall to the ground and shatter. And those laser tripwire mines? Hilarity ensues.
There’s a persistent character progression system, but fortunately (in my opinion) leveling up only unlocks cosmetic items to make your Duke avatar distinct with silly hats, shirts, and glasses and not weapons and perks. Bonus: it supports Unreal Tournament-style mutators, such as the classic rail gun insta-gib.
Checking “flying a jetpack” off the list (in multiplayer only, sadly) meant that the reasons I loved Duke when I was 16 are all present and accounted for in DNF. They’re no longer new, and I’m not 16 anymore, but the combination of nostalgia and juvenile humor can still crack me up.
It’s a healthy chunk of game, too. The Steam clock read “10 hours played” when I’d finished the single-player run on normal difficulty, and that’s without devoting time to posting a high score on the pinball machine or conducting a thorough search for secrets. Completing the game unlocks classic, why-doesn’t-anyone-do-this-anymore cheats like character head scaling, and I might have to replay at least part of it just to see that absurdity in action.
I’m sure that years of anticipation will spoil Duke Nukem Forever for some—there’s no getting around that at the end of that long road is only a good game and not an amazing one. It is what it is. He may not be at the top of his game, but even after all this time, Duke still knows how to party.
Don’t expect a miracle. Duke is still the hero we love, but struggles to keep up with modern times. Crude humor and classic weaponry keep him in the game.