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Duke Nukem Forever review

Was it worth the wait?

Other bright spots include a couple of memorable boss battles that actually require a strategy beyond “empty your guns;” a fun (but somewhat overlong and confusing) drive through the desert in a monster truck; and a surprisingly not-awful underwater level. Again, though, these take a while to get to, and given the game’s overall length, they’re relatively short and surrounded by a lot of filler (like bits where you’re just crawling through trap-filled tunnels for long stretches of time, for example).

To be fair, the game’s lengthy campaign isn’t all it offers; it wouldn’t be a real Duke Nukem game, after all, without multiplayer Dukematches. However, while multiplayer was a huge, lasting draw in Duke Nukem 3D, there’s very little about it here that’s special. Sure, there are jetpacks (absent from the campaign), and it’s possible to shrink your enemies and squash them into paste, but otherwise the multiplayer action feels like any other shooter’s, with four modes (Dukematch, Team Dukematch, king of the hill and a bimbo-centric version of capture the flag), 10 maps and support for up to eight players.

There’s also an obligatory leveling system, which grants players trophies that can be worn or displayed in a walk-through penthouse, although probably the best thing multiplayer offers longtime fans is the remastered return of DN3D’s first level, Hollywood Holocaust, as a sprawling multiplayer map.

Above: Hey look, they put an old thing in the new thing!

Even with that homage to the past, though, Duke Nukem Forever is bound to disappoint Duke’s remaining fans. A 14-year wait can build up expectations to terrifying levels, and so it might be tempting to brush off any criticism as simply a disappointed reaction to a good, but not amazing, game. Honestly, though, our expectations were pretty much zero at this point, and we would have been perfectly happy with a game that was just good. Instead, Duke Nukem Forever is just a few ticks above mediocrity, with glitches and performance problems that are inexcusable in a linear, $60 shooter. After spending so long in development, that makes for an incredibly sad punchline to one of the internet’s longest-running jokes.

Is it better than%26hellip;

Bulletstorm? No. While both games take a raunchy, tongue-in-cheek approach to over-the-top violence, Bulletstorm’s a lot more playable and fun. Where Duke’s content to simply mow down grunting aliens the same way he did 12 years ago, Bulletstorm invites you to yank enemies around, kick them to pieces and murder creatively. And while Duke’s humor gets a little sharper toward the end of the game, he never utters anything quite as memorable as Bulletstorm’s“kill your dicks”line.

Prey? No. In spite of its age, 3D Realms’ other recent shooter at least had some unique ideas that kept it interesting, like its early use of portals, weird gravity effects and the spirit-world sequences used to bring you back to life. Prey had personality, while Duke is almost gratingly one-note, and while Prey showed a willingness to experiment, Duke sticks with what’s already worked for other shooters.

Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard? Yes. Whatever DNF’s faults, it at least outshines the game that tried to imitate Duke back in 2009. Eat Lead arguably had a cleverer (if sadly less profane) sense of humor, but gibbing pigcops and octabrains is, even in its most annoying moments, a hell of a lot more fun than creeping through endless warehouses shooting at interchangeable, rock-stupid soldiers.

Just for you, Metacritic!

Duke Nukem Forever’s world-record development time has produced an ugly, buggy shooter that veers back and forth between enjoyably average and outright boring, with occasional surges of greatness along the way.

Jun 13, 2011

More info

DescriptionAfter 14 years in development, it’s finally here, and it's… a disappointingly by-the-numbers comeback for one of gaming's most iconic heroes.
Franchise nameDuke Nukem
UK franchise nameDuke Nukem
Platform"PC","Xbox 360","PS3"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"18+","18+","18+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Mikel Reparaz
After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.