Duke-Nukem-Forever---Xbox-360-Review Duke Nukem Forever - Xbox 360 Review

   20/06/2011 at 08:23       Phil May       11 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
 - Duke Nukem Forever, 3D Realms, Gearbox Software, Xbox 360, Arse Bubblegum

For the purpose of this review I've borrowed Alan Partridge's patented Time Travel Gymnasium, going back to 1997 to co-review Duke Nukem Forever with my 29 year old self. Suspend your disbelief for a second and assume that my Xbox 360 survived the journey, and that a sodding huge high resolution CRT and a pair of audio cables will make an adequate substitute for a gigantic HD telly.

Present-Day Me: "Wake up baldy, I'm your future self. I need your help with something!"
29 Year Old Me: "Whuh? Whah? Do you realise you just woke me up from a particularly gushy dream about Gillian Anderson? Who are you anyway?"
43: "I'm you, you're me, 88 MPH, 1.21 gigawatts and all that jazz. Never mind, I've got something I'd like you to play!"
29: "Wait, you wake me up from a dream where Scully's FBI suit spontaneously combusts to tell me you want me to play some game? What is it anyway, it'd better be good"
43: "I'll take the 5th on that. It's Duke Nukem Forever."

Bear in mind that in August 1997 my 29 year old self had read an article about Duke Nukem Forever in the hallowed tome PC Gamer. Back when print magus were pretty much the best and most reliable source of game news, it often took a while for news to filter through from the US to here.

29:"Wait a minute. Duke Nukem Forever? That's not due till next year! Actually I think it's coming out near my…er our birthday innit?"
43: "Er, guess again. This game will be in more or less continuous development from now until you turn into me."

The dim light of realisation finally dawns on my young and still follicle-challenged self. Even more so when the Xbox 360 is revealed and hooked up for the first time.

43: "Alright, put your eyes back in your head. This is an Xbox 360. In the time I've come from, it's enjoying its autumn years. You don't need to know much about its spec, but compared to the P266 you've got stashed away under the table there, this thing packs a fair punch."
29: "White? Who the hell produces a white games console?"
43: "Microsoft. They're one of the 'big three' games console companies in 2011."
29: "Oh and who are the other two? Lemme guess, Sega and Sony right? Surely Nintendo must've gone under after the N64 debacle?"
43: "Er, not exactly. Anyway let's get this thing fired up."

The console is switched on, and the Duke Nukem Forever intro movie starts to play.

29: "Whoah…the graphics are astonishing! Look at the tits on…"
43: "Cool your jets, this is just the intro movie. Even in 2011, developers are still using the time-honoured trick of putting together CGI intros that bear no resemblance to the game itself. You've got a PS1 hidden away haven't you? You remember Krazy Ivan?"
29: "Point taken. So what are the controls? Can you redefine them?"
43: "This is a console game. In 2011, developers don't usually let you do things like that. You'll pick it up. Movement on the left stick, lookspring on the right. If I remember rightly, you'd just bought a Gravis XTreme in 1997 so it's not really that much different."
29: "That thing? It never works. Anyway, how do you plug this thing in?"
43: "You don't. It's wireless."
29: "Cool!"

After a few minutes of trying to dissuade my younger self from hugging and kissing the 360 with something approaching religious reverence, the game begins. We play a little catch up with Duke and what he's been up to since Duke Nukem 3D.

29: "I love how this picks up directly after Duke Nukem 3D. Neat."
43: "If by 'picks up directly after' you mean 'with the longest sodding lunchbreak ever in between' then you're right. Basically 3D realms fold in the mid noughts, and Gearbox Software scrape together the project into the game you're playing now."

Before long, 29's glazed expression - the dreaded 'game face' takes over his visage

29: "Christ, this is hard with a joypad. I can't even piss straight! Can't this thing use a keyboard and mouse instead?"
43: "Nope. For some strange reason, the twin analogue joypad is the controller of choice for games consoles in the 21st century. Oh apart from Nin…"
(I stop myself just in time. Spoilers, spoilers)
29: "This is…amazing! I mean ffs, look at the graphics. LOOK AT THEM! And look at the tits! I can't believe that in a mere 14 years time games will have progressed to the point where female characters have realistic bouncing breasts"
(He's referring to Duke's sapphic schoolgirl companions, the Holsom twins. Realistic breasts. Right...)
29 spends a long time mooching around Duke's apartment, rattling balls around the pool table and fannying around interacting with various objects. I start to get impatient.
43: "Come on, get on with the mission already! Jesus, did you always take this long over games? No wonder you never got any finished till the noughties!"
29: "What are the noughties?"
43: "Never mind. Head through that door there and start shooting stuff!"

The game proper begins. Duke gets a dressing down from the President, a fist-pump from his General, and the plot begins to resemble an 80s action flick.

29: "This is amazing. Ay-may-zing!"
43: "What about the tearing? And the graphics are so muddy looking. Terrible texture pop in, dodgy models, frame rate is all over the place!"
29: "What on earth are you on about laser-brain? What the hell is tearing?"
43: "Never mind, you'll find out. Oh boy will you ever find out!"

A sequence begins where Duke Nukem is shrunk down to action-figure size, and is trying to escape a casino with his balls of steel intact.

29: "HAHAHAH! Did you hear what that woman just said about shoving Duke up her…Man, I take it that in 2011 all that censorship shite has gone the way of the dinosaur? Did the BBFC finally man up?"
43: "Er, how can I put this without upsetting you. Oh soddit, never mind. Yes, the BBFC grew a pair of balls and the 18 rating actually has some meaning. Politicians universally embrace videogames as the only products this country is still capable of competing in a world market with."
29: "You don't sound so sure. WHOAH! What the hell is that thing!"

29 has come up against his first nasty boss in the game.

29: "Ah the old dodge, rocket, rinse, repeat gameplay. This is excellent, just like Quake!"
(I can't help but echo these words)
43: "Just like Quake…"
29: "Oh crap I died. Wait, why is this taking so long to load back up? Did the machine get damaged in time transit?"
43: "Nope, it really does take that long to reload a level if you die. Only on consoles though, apparently the PC version is a bit quicker."
29: "So why didn't you bring that? Surely by now, gaming PCs are the size of a small matchbox with more power than a Cray?"
43: "No to the first bit, yay to the second bit. Keep playing"
29: "OK. Agh christ, I'm dead again. These platformey bits are a bit shite aren't they?"
43: "They are indeed."
29: "Tomb Raider's far better than this. Say, is Lara still around?"
43: "Er, no comment. Listen, concentrate, this next bit is vaguely good"

We're now at a point in the game where Duke switches from running and gunning, to driving a formidable monster truck.

29: "I can't get over how detailed the environments are in this. This is probably the best driving bit I've ever played in a game."

I have to try and remember what 29 would have played by this point in time. Gran Turismo 1 was still months away. Grand Theft Auto was still a top-down game. Ridge Racer? Ah maybe the poor blighter's comparing it to Ridge Racer then…

43: "So what do you think of Duke Nukem Forever so far?"
29: "Crazy man, just brilliant! This quite literally pisses all over Doom and Quake and even Duke Nukem 3D."

I can't really put it off any longer. At the risk of putting a sizeable hole in the space-time continuum, I wait for 29 to reach the end of the game, watch the pitifully cliched end sequence and then I get him to put the pad down (not easy because he's all for going through the whole thing again to bag all the Ego points he'd missed the first time around).

I tell him where games are going to go in the next 14 years. I tell him about the rise and fall of the Playstation, how PC gaming still sets the benchmark for consoles to follow years later, how Nintendo have revolutionised the way people interact with games and how everyone else has jumped on the bandwagon with motion control. How 3D is the new gimmick, and how the industry is dealing with arguably its worst slump in nearly 20 years. How a relatively well received World War II FPS will go on to become one of the biggest selling game franchises of the next 10 years.

I try to explain where Duke Nukem Forever fits into this huge mess. A project that was always more legendary in its uncompleted state than it ever would be once the final I's were dotted and the final T's were crossed. I try to explain that now it's finished, Duke Nukem Forever has gone from becoming one of the industry's biggest jokes to one of its greatest disappointments, and how it could only ever have turned out this way.

29 nods silently.

43: "Listen. It's not all dark and grim. I'm still gaming. I'm still full of as much piss and vinegar about gaming as I always was. I still spend far too much money on the things, still smile like a goon when games are fantastic, still rage like a lunatic when they're not. So take heart from this. It all gets better, and worse in equal amounts. So what about a score for this sucker out of 5?"
29 pauses, deep in thought. No mean feat for a bear of little brain.
29: "I don't know anything about any of the things you've described. Never played Bulletstorm, Call of Duty sounds shitty. Battlefield sounds awesome and I can't wait to get my hands on that Wii thing, is that what it's really called? Tee hee! Duke Nukem Forever is the best thing I've ever played, and I wouldn't hesitate to give it a 5 out of 5 purely based on what I've seen. But now you've ruined my gaming future by telling me about all the things I've got to look forward to, how can I look at games in the same way ever again?"

I realise what I've done. I've sullied my 29 year old self's view of gaming forever. At this point I draw another fictional piece of tech out of my pocket, the Neuralizer from the 'Men in Black' movies, and blip Peej in the face with it.

43: "Oh damn, one more thing before I go…Sleep the sleep of the ancients. You won't be getting much after your 40th birthday so make the most of it while you can."

I leave the poor sucker there in the past, baffled, bewildered and with no knowledge of the future of gaming, or of Duke Nukem Forever aside from the meagre details he'll remember from that copy of PC Gamer from 1997. It's probably better that way. In fact it would've been better that way for everyone.

Stars
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