It's been 12 years both in game time and in real life since we last saw the gum chewing, ass kicking, wise cracking, sexist, gun toting wise guy Duke Nukem. Like Gran Tursimo 5 and Alan Wake, this game was delayed so many times it seemed unlikely that it would ever see the light of day. When 3D realms went under, it seemed even more unlikely but the rumours persisted, Duke WAS going to come back.
Finally Gearbox and Take 2 announced that they had indeed stepped into the breach and taken the reigns on the project. Seeing as this was the studio responsible for Borderlands expectations were high. Has the wait been worth it? Well find a big fat cigar, strap on your gun belts and make sure you have plenty of beer, bullets and chewing gum, because like the man says, "I'm back baby!"
So as said, twelve years ago Duke beat the alien hordes and sent them scuttling back home to mama with their tails tucked between their legs. To celebrate there's going to be a movie and a game to mark the occasion and Duke is going to be the guest of honour on the nation's highest rated chat show. Yes life for the Duke is sweet, the ladies love him, he's had sponsorships ladled upon him left right and centre. But the Duke has the gut feeling that something is wrong. Even as he prepares to go too the chat show, the news comes in that the aliens have returned, apparently to negotiate with Earth. But the Duke suspects that there's a much darker motive, revenge being the main motive. Indeed the Earth Defence League and the President himself advise Duke not to take any action against the aliens. However when Duke Towers is hit by fluctuations in the power supply and the audience for the chat show have left the studio, and anyone left in the building seems to be in a damned hurry to get the hell out then Duke's mounting suspicions seem well founded. Well it's not long before power is lost completely and Duke comes under attack. So begins the adventure that follows. Many challenges face Duke but hey he's used to this sort of thing, should be a walk in the park surely? Err no...
In the twelve years they've been away, it's clear that the attackers have learnt some tactics. They won't always just swarm in, now they will seek to sabotage equipment, dive for cover and use sound judgement on the battlefield. They are willing to use all sorts of nastiness to dispose of our hero, and that includes shrinking him down too the size of a toy. But does that hold Duke back? Heck no! Jump into the driving seat of a radio controlled car and get yourself to a place where allies can restore you back to normal size again.
Indeed there are many new challenges facing Duke and many new methods of dealing with the enemy, including Riddick style crawling through ventilation shafts. So even Duke has learnt from past experience, and although he is no Sam Fisher, Duke has learnt that there is something to be said for stealth.
There are the usual tools of destruction available to Duke that old fans will appreciate and they work as well as they ever did. New fans will appreciate them too for sure. There's nothing quite as satisfying then freezing a foe in ice and then shattering them with a shot or a up close and personal melee attack. There is the shrink ray back as well as you can see from the above paragraph. Payback is a you-know-what but it's good fun to do too them what they wanted to do too you! Shrink them down and then stomp them with your size 10 boots!
Some new tools are available too, Duke vision for one. Again like Riddick or indeed Batman in Arkham Asylum, when the lights go out, Duke can switch too a handy night vision mode. The other noticeable new gimmick is Duke's ego meter. This is displayed in the top left corner of the screen, and whilst it is full, it acts as a shield. Once depleted though, Duke can take damage so find cover or kill something soon to refill it or find a piece of interactive scenery to use. These vary from pinball machines to gym equipment. When not in combat, using these items can actually extend the ego meter, so take every chance you can to find 'diversions' for Duke. There are others but I'll let you find those out for yourself.
And whilst not a gimmick as such, there is, for the first time since the downloadable Duke Nuke 'Em 3D on Xbox Live Arcade (and I do not know why they haven't made it available on the PSN Network) multiplayer on line.
This offers 4 modes of game play. There is the usual death match and team death match options. The other options are Capture the Babe (CTB) which works like Capture the Flag with teams competing to take one of the twins you see at the start throughout the single player campaign, and cart her off too their own camp. Likewise you have to do the same too their twin whilst avoiding laser beams, hand grenades and bullets. The last mode to mention is Hail too the King (HTTK). This is the most interesting on line game option with two teams competing to take control of sections of the battle map. Once a sector is taken over the control point changes colour, your job change it back again.
Multiplayer is smooth and doesn't show any sign of lag or frame rate problems. A downside perhaps is that there are only a maximum of 16 players. Other games like Resistance Fall of Man offer game play for at least 20 or more. It's a shame that they couldn't have extended the number of players for this but it is still an enjoyable experience. It also takes a while for it too load the list of servers for online play, so you may as well get used too a bit of a wait, unless a patch or update is implemented to speed things up. As you play through multiplayer mode, you'll gain XP. These can be used to purchase items that are used to decorate Duke's penthouse. This is a fully interactive and explorable environment and there are a lot of things to get for the pad, ranging from paintings to pool tables and even house staff. This adds a unique alternative to using an xp system, but they can't be used to make our hero faster or stronger or upgrade weapons. That seems a shame and an oversight too me and would have added extra meat too the package. OK so let's break down the game further.
Single player campaign is a challenging affair. It's laced with interactive scenery, and has quite a few interesting gimmicks, some that have been seen before, some we have not. To quote River Song again, "Spoilers!" so I'll leave it to you dear reader to find out the rest of the new stuff.
Graphics are bright and colourful, textures are nicely rendered and the smoke, fire and explosions are certainly impressive. Levels are riddled with more than gun play and melee battles, there are many interesting puzzles in the game too. One involves using a radio controlled four by four to access a power cell for a deactivated reactor. The game exercises both the brain cells and the trigger finger. Even on the easiest setting the game will be challenging as the enemy A.I. is pretty decent. They won't just charge you, they'll seek and use cover and gang up on you when and where they can so be warned. There are lots of very cinematic set pieces, including an epic battle between Duke and a mother ship in the early stages of the game that may cause frustration. Watch for the turret gun overheating and keep an eye open for jet pack wearing enemy soldiers and fighters as you try and tack the big bad down and that's just for starters! Boss fights are big and in your face, and are more than just a case of rush in and fight, use your head and make use of cover when needed. And keep that Ego meter charged! Melee style executions are one way in the heat of combat to keep it charged. Steroids and beer can help but use them wisely. They can be found throughout the levels so keep your eyes open.
Loading times between levels and during the pre session screens for online modes are slower than expected. The controls for shooting and everything are responsive but the camera angles during the driving sections are sometimes counter productive. The controls for driving too are a little awkward and twitchy and will test the patience of even the most patient of players.
Although the innuendo and cussing are perhaps a selling point for the series, there are times when even I felt it was a little too gratuitous. In fact the double entendre is bypassed and if you are easily offended or have someone in your family that is, then I sincerely suggest you play this when nobody else can see or overhear it. Don't get me wrong, I am aware that it is an 18 rated game, but they could have reigned it in somewhat. I personally wasn't bothered by it, but I know some people that would be. There are no options to censor the game, maybe that's something else that could/should have been factored in.
Duke Nukem Forever is an entertaining game in it's own way but may be an acquired taste to some. Like I said, the innuendo is ladled on thick and fast so if easily offended stay well clear. Game play is fairly straight forward and lacks some of the sandbox elements of other shooters which is a shame, I'd have like to have seen some truly open ares for exploration. The action comes thick and fast when the situation arises but there are some nice puzzle elements as well.
It's been a long time coming. Like Alan Wake and Gran Turismo 5 this was delayed time after time and we all thought it would never see the light of day. So was it worth the wait? Yes and No. There are some elements that entertain and surprise but there are some niggly camera issues with the driving and slightly unresponsive controls in the same mode. More players online would have been nice and as for the loading times between levels and loading screens, well it's an issue that I hope can and will be addressed. There may be DLC coming for the game, but I haven't heard any confirmation of that yet. If they do, I hope they add some more maps for multiplayer and a few new missions for single player would be nice, especially if they give a tip of the hat to earlier games in the series. It's a decent package all in all and as a bit of a Duke fan, I hope we don't have to wait 12 years for another. Hail too the King baby!