So, after 14 years in development, Duke Nukem Forever actually happened. I was a virginal, bespotted 11-year-old when the game was originally announced in 1997, desperately eager for a continuation of the off-colour humour and explorative design I adored in Duke Nukem 3D. With the complete product finally in my 24-year-old hands, a celebratory occasion in itself after such a tumultuous development, I can safety say that such anticipation was completely and entirely undeserved.
Duke Nukem Forever should have never been released. It is one of the most lacking, uninspired, and outright inadequate games of our times, unsuccessfully attempting to cover its staid construction with nostalgia afforded by the series' former glories. It would have been utterly disappointing in 1997, let alone 2011.
In spite of the extensive time spent in development, Duke Nukem Forever feels painfully unfinished and shockingly uninspired. Its fatal flaw is that it tries, unsuccessfully, to blend the modern style of shooter with retro sensibilities. So, despite Duke asserting that "power armour is for pussies", you've got recharging health and a two-weapon inventory system mixed with an entire genre's worth of linear paths.
Duke Nukem Forever's protracted development clearly smacks of a foggy, uncertain vision, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the game's basic mechanics. It baffles me that the bulk of Forever's arsenal has been entirely carbon copied from Duke Nukem 3D (14 years and not even a single idea for an inventive new weapon?) but it makes even less sense to use most of these powerful guns in a game that's trying to be a cover-oriented shooter that doesn't really have any cover.
Massive swathes of the game is simply rote corridor blasting, which is particularly damning when considering how eager fans were championing this as some kind of intrinsic and glorious opposite to modern shooter tendencies in the run-up to Duke Nukem Forever's release. The game not only concedes on its heritage in a desperate rush to gobble up every single trope of modern shooter design, it incorporates them in a particularly dreadful manner.
While it certainly isn't a challenging game (on Normal, at least) the game is prone to odd difficulty spikes. Enemies move fast, their clunky frames of animation still looking positively balletic next to our protagonist's wheezing movement, and dish out plenty of damage, occasionally blindsiding you before you have a chance to properly react.
Boss battles also hit a sour note, dropping you into a tiny clump of land and forcing you to do little more than exchange rockets while you hope the flimsy bit of cover you're standing behind manages to endure the duration of the fight.