Duke Nukem Forever proves the worst part of Duke Nukem is Duke Nukem

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Marie-Ange Demory
@marie-angedemory
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Hail to the king, baby! For clarity, this kusoge is not the king.

Does Duke Nukem Forever really need an introduction? It was announced before puberty. It spent 15 years in development hell, becoming legendary for its extended development time. Every few years another tease would come out, saying, "No really, get your womb ready, it's coming for real this time", only for the 3D realms to turn around and fall asleep again. When it finally hit, reactions ranged from negative to “I guess it could have been worse.” James Stephanie Sterling ripped the game anew when it was released, right here in 2022.



There were only two reasons people cared to start: either they liked Duke Nukem 3D because it was an amazing title and you should like it, or they just like watching the carnival show. I was part of the old group. Ever since I played Duke Nukem 3D at far too young an age, I fell in love with it. Every few years I replay it and remember how it sizzles, and just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. But somewhere down the line, maybe even since its inception, the developers made a big mistake: they bet on Duke.

Duke Nukem Forever starts by reminding you how awesome Duke Nukem 3D was. First it shows you a montage of stylized moments from the classic title, then the first bit of gameplay is a re-imagining of the last level of Duke Nukem 3D (I guess the expansion episode never happened) . Following this, Duke Nukem Forever goes on to remind you that Half-Life happened and first-person shooters are now too insecure to be anything other than Half-Life.



Its good. Both Halo and Half-Life put the final nails in the coffin for the key first-person shooter hunting formula, and the only way for Duke Nukem to stay relevant was to do the exact same thing. Forget all the creative level design made possible by the stellar 2.5D building engine, just let's do what everyone else does.

This means that before the game starts properly, there needs to be some foreplay in the form of walking around and listening to other people's talks. Our thrilling story begins with the titular Duke Nukem getting sucked off by twins in schoolgirl outfits with faces that look like a meatpacking facility has exploded in the strange valley. Nothing against them, everyone's face looks like Duke Nukem Forever, but it's a surprisingly vanilla fantasy for the world's most prominent alpha male. Eventually, aliens arrive, and Duke is the only one who can save us.

It's easy to believe that imitation is what Duke has always been about. The first two side scrollers were pretty standard for the eras they released, and Duke Nukem 3D was a follower of the formula established by Wolfenstein 3D. For a few years after Duke Nukem 3D, the series would take a detour into a few other genres, including one that was entirely Tomb Raider. The character himself spits lines from various movies, and the 3D is full of references. Heck, it was released in a time when we still called first-person shooters Doom clones.

If you wanted to break my heart and insist that Duke Nukem 3D was just a Doom copycat with boobs and Evil Dead references. Fine. Shake. But it was a game designed for fun. It gave you a bunch of dumb weapons with questionable utility, then left you to get lost in ridiculous environments to use them. Its levels have been carefully crafted, challenging you to find the exit and maybe some extra goodies. If the foundation was laid by another game, 3D Realms built a waterslide on it.



Duke Nukem Forever is not a water slide. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe the developers wanted to make an entertaining game around Duke Nukem, but they wondered what makes Duke Nukem 3D great, and they came up with the answer: Duke Nukem. Duke Nukem is not so cool. It is not interesting. He was fun to play because he was this stoic smart talker who looked like he was having as much fun as you are. If you removed all dialogue from Duke Nukem 3D, you will still have Duke Nukem 3D. If you did the same thing with Duke Nukem Forever, you'd have an extremely generic shooter, but you'd end up less irritated and uncomfortable.

It's not just that the game doubles down on the sexual innuendo - although the colorful EDF analogies get a bit boring - Duke Nukem Forever completely lacks self-awareness, which is kind of funny in a depressing way. It constantly casts shadows on other games; games he can't even approach in terms of individuality and execution. You can't just say "power armor is for pussies" without explaining your thesis. You have the same basic health system, man. Your shields are simply powered by your tank top.

The humor is largely risky to begin with. We've long wondered what bad guys do with damsels in their possession, but the answer is usually "not that, you pervert." Star Wars just said, "I don't know, I guess they put her in a bikini." Duke Nukem Forever points his pistols and says with a wink, "forced alien impregnation." Oh awesome...


Listen, I understand. Alien was part body horror about alien imprinting. The expansion to Duke Nukem 3D was kind of based on that I guess. You might be able to get away with involving him subtly, but here he's exposed as a newly taxidermied murder victim. Your browser history is none of my business, I'd rather you didn't rub it in my face.


Besides, you weren't supposed to let women die in Duke 3D. This will cause enemies to spawn in the area, punishing you for not worshiping chicks properly. Duke Nukem Forever blasts them to spawn pirate enemies, letting their shirtless torsos roll on the ground for effect. I'm not saying Duke 3D was some kind of feminist manifesto in disguise, but at least there was a message left about the value of girls.

There is at least some degree of variety here. Rest easy, my beating heart, because there are Turret Galleries, Driving Sections, and QTEs. At least it helps break up any moments where the game just throws waves of enemies at you. The gunplay isn't even really interesting or dynamic. All enemies look very similar and blast you. I'll be honest with you; I was kinda excited to play Duke Nukem Forever again because I was in the mood for some silly gunplay, but it's not even good for that.

It's not bad at all, I guess. The Duke Burger level, where you run around a kitchen as a miniaturized Duke, is pretty fun and creative.

To be honest here, if Duke Nukem Forever wasn't the sequel to one of the best first-person shooters of the 90s, I probably wouldn't even mention it. It would be like Haze where you are best remembered watching from the bargains. This is an era of catalogs flooded with generic shooters like Medal of Honor: Warfighter. It's just offensive because it was once an incredibly fun and creative shooter. After fifteen years, we finally got a follow-up, and it's the video game equivalent of Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel.

It's amazing to think about how we got here. We had a really good formula with Duke Nukem 3D, and someone said, “No, let's do what everyone else does. We went from anarchic fun to a bland shot in the hallways. The best ideas are recycled from Duke 3D and new ideas are non-existent.

I think the problem is that 3D Realms thought any shooter would be good as long as Duke Nukem was in it. There are a lot of inside jokes about him being a relic of the past, and maybe that's true, but it's the gameplay that's gone stale. Duke Nukem is just a jerk making remarks while we're blowing up aliens; there have been many like him since. You can't just stick him in a Half-Life 2 clone, make him crack a few jokes, and pretend the king is back.

Since then, it has been proven that the 90s shooter formula is not without merit. Titles like Dusk and Ion Fury took it out of the trash and put it back on the shelves with varying degrees of success. It's not out of the question that a good Duke Nukem sequel could happen again, but someone needs to pull some heads out of their ass and explain to them that they won't find any gold up there no matter what. their depth. tunnel.

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