I'm trying to remember the moment where I just gave up on this game and just started going through the motions. Was it during the annoying "pull it again, pull it again!" sequence in the falling elevator? The crazy awful driving sequences? Or one of the many interminable moments where you wander around a level until you find the suddenly lit up item that wasn't there before but now you must use it in some way to proceed?
No, it didn't take that long. It was in the very beginning of the game, where Duke is finishing up with two women (yes, really) and enters a scene in which you can pee in a urinal and interact with excrement (and obtain an Xbox LIVE Achievement for the latter effort, no less). Which is to say, it takes literally no time at all for this game to broadcast loudly and stupidly that it is, well, loud and stupid, and a stink bomb of almost epic proportions.
Here's why that's a problem. Some things are so bad they're good, and they can be enjoyed with a "Mystery Science Theater 3000"-style removal from reality. Some other things we remember fondly from the past, so we forgive some sins in a more modern follow-up. (Read: The STAR WARS prequels.)
Duke Nukem Forever is not such an experience.
This game cannot be honestly enjoyed in any meaningful way, no matter how nostalgic you are for the previous title from a decade and a half ago. And its makers cannot be forgiven for foisting this steaming pile of nonsense on us, and at a whopping $60 a whack on the Xbox 360.
I'm no stranger to the notion that the things I enjoyed as a younger person no longer resonate with me today. I look back at the embarrassing bad TV shows I loved as a kid and wonder what I was thinking. But Duke was different. The first two Duke games were among the first PC games I ever played, side-scrollers that played like (but didn't look as good as) the Amiga games I enjoyed in the early 1990s. They offered a comfortable, familiar way to move to the PC.
Duke Nukem 3D, of course, was a seminal PC game, taking previous innovations in first person shooters such as DOOM and adding a patina of fake 3D to the mix, along with Duke's trademark humor (now famous in-game quotes like "Damn, I'm looking good" and so on), amazing (for the day) environment interactivity, inventive weapons and tools, and killer multiplayer. That last bit got me hooked: I used to playing DN3D online over the TEN online service with friends, phones achingly pressed between our shoulders and heads so that we could taunt each other in pre-online communication days.
DN3D was the real deal, and I played through the single player campaign through several variations that included various product editions and re-releases. There's a version available today for the Xbox 360, go figure, which you can download as an Xbox LIVE Arcade title. I recommend you do so just to remind yourself of what an event that game was. I bet I played through the first level hundreds of times.
Oh, right. Duke Nukem Forever.
So there's a story, a plotline of sorts ... the aliens come back, mayhem ensues, blah blah blah. There, I just spent as much time describing it as the game makers did coming up with it.
The game engine looks like something from mid last decade and doesn't stand up well against today's more modern titles. The load times are excruciating, and when you die, you wait, and wait to come back. That would all actually be manageable if the game were any good. But it's not.
You run from checkpoint to checkpoint, puzzle to puzzle, more annoyed that you need to do these pointless tasks than anything. The Duke quotes are back, literally--no moment to dredge out a famous Duke quote goes unpassed--but the humor is even more potty mouthed and childish than ever. What you get are tepid action sequences punctuated by burping, farting, anal probe jokes, and the like. It's a game that would appeal only to kids from a comic standpoint and yet because of the nudity and adult situations, it's a game that only adults should play. Perfect positioning, guys.
My bigger concern is that this game completely disrespects what was fun about Duke Nukem and focuses too much on the supposed humor. It's like Jar Jar Binks from STAR WARS Episode I, a character that threatened to derail the entire Prequel trilogy because he was so utterly unlikable. Unfortunately, in this game, the main character is Jar Jar Binks, a thoroughly unlikable character in a game that is likewise thoroughly unplayable.
I hate to say it, Duke. But damn, you're looking bad. And I'm not going to waste any more time on this review. Just skip this game and try to remember the Duke of yore, not the Duke of today.