After 12 years, you would think the last thing a game would need is more time in development...
nait2k4 wrote this review on .
Dukem Nukem was never an icon of modern gaming, even fresh from release he was an anachronism, a muscle bound cliche spouting off tired one liners in a traditional alien invasion style environment. But he was interesting even despite that, the juvenile humour and swearing combined with the badly rendered nudity to create comedy gold.
More than anything, it was about timing. When Duke entered the 3d world, there was no competition - quirky humour was not part of the Shoot Em Up world, Lucas Arts still had that market cornered with their adventure games.
Now, the world has changed - and Duke has changed too. He is less quirky and more offensive, less about explosive gameplay and more about poorly implemented platforming. Duke has left the world of the shoot em up, and tried to become an on the rails style cover shooter, without a cover mechanic.
The graphics are a curious mix of the average, the poor, and the obscenely bad. Textures of low res, blocky, and muted for the most part, but some areas stick out as being quite well rendered. The effect is jarring, and unpleasant. The framerates run high, which is good, but the bad guys are not well developed and seem almost generic considering their originality 'back in the day'.
Sound effects are summed up by the voice of Duke himself. When the lead actor in a movie seems bored, the rest of the cast will find it hard to step up, and so it is with this game. In Duke 3D, Duke was self aware - knowing he was spouting off bad cliches but enjoying it all the same. Now, it sounds like literal phone in, both poor quality and poor delivery. The gun sounds, and explosions, the clinks and clacks of footfalls, the moans and screams, and the pow pow pow of laser weapons all seem muted. Nothing stands out as feeling 'right', and it does not create an immersive environment.
Gameplay is frustrating, with long load times breaking up the fire fights, and weird platforming and driving sections impacting on the fun of getting to some interesting set piece battles. Some of the difficulty is weird, fluctuating between boringly easy and keyboard smashingly difficult. Only being able to carry 2 weapons has a hand in this, making it hard to figure out what kit you should carry with you. You don't seem to get a lot of guidance with mission goals, but that is hardly an issue when the levels boil down to 'Point A to Point B'. Still, some visual or verbal feedback would have been a nice way to make you feel like you were shaping the adventure.
Some levels are extremely short, without any active engagement of enemies, but with LONG load times. Like the graphics, this is really jarring, creating a massive disconnect from the game.
Multiplayer is recycled from every other game to use 3D shooter mechanics in the last 12 years, and the achievements on offer hardly make it worthwhile. Lag is an issue, but is slowly improving, but players who seem to spend time on the servers are very much from the old 'd00d u jst gt pwn3d yo m0mm4 so f47' counter strike school.
All in all, there is fun to be found here. But it is hard work to get to. You can enjoy the fire fights, but you have to endure long load times and sometimes punishing difficulty to get there. You can enjoy some of the levels - the casino levels are drawn nicely for example - but others are worse than blah. This game is better than a 3.5, it is not broken, but it is not a trendsetter or a unique experience like the old Duke was. It needed more time, more polish, more love.
I look forward to the next game though, and hope the money I spent on this one helps fund it. I want to see Duke self aware again, knowing he is an old man, with no more relevance, and gutted that the world has marginalised him. I want to see him bitter, and angry, and tired. And I want to see him step up and save the world again. Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4, or even Solid Snake in Guns of the Patriots - I want to see him invested in the fate of the world as a warrior called on in hard times.
But most of all, next time, I want to feel invested in him again. I want to laugh with him, not at him. I want to shoot aliens with the Devastator and feel with was worth something. I want Duke to make me feel like I went on a ride with him, but didn't have to stop every couple of minutes to look for gas.
Bring on the next one.