Brand New...Yet Old
I'll avoid the usual list of things that have happened since Duke Nukem Forever was announced (OK, just for giggles, I'll remind people that President Clinton got impeached since the game was announced, to give an idea how long this has been in developmental hell). Gearbox decided to pick up the pieces from whatever the heck 3D Realms was doing besides releasing games or finishing this repeatedly-rebuilt-from-scratch game of infamy. And the game will likely sell pretty well simply because it is such a known commodity in the world of gaming --- not known, necessarily, for good things, mind you.
You start off at the end of one of the levels of Duke Nukem 3D (the game is 15 years old...I do not remember what level had this boss in it). It turns out that you are Duke, playing your game while twin pop divas are busily pleasuring you. The game deserves SOME credit for giving you an idea of the kind of game this will be early on. You then have a story mentioned that is quickly forgotten about as the developers clearly believed that cheesy one-liners are the same thing as a plot.
In a nutshell, the game is bad. In its defense, its series wasn't exactly known for a series of great games. Duke Nukem 1 and 2 were mediocre at best and 3D, while great, still qualifies as the only openly good game in this God-forsaken franchise. Tony Hawk has a better success rate than Duke has, and that was over way more games.
Since the game doesn't care about its plot, I will not pretend to do so, either. And while I'm also fairly sure it doesn't care about its gameplay EITHER, I cannot really ignore that aspect. The game feels really, really janky and old. The jankiness isn't a huge stunner given this title's notoriously disastrous development cycle, but it is not something that can be excused. Your weapons don't feel powerful as the enemies just die and it feels like it was almost in spite of your weapon being fired. You don't feel like your guns have any impact to them whatsoever. Enemies don't react to fire outside of their death animations --- which look about 15 years old. You can shoot some of the enemies with the Ripper a dozen times and they are not impacted at all...right until the point where they die.
The levels are, sadly, really bad. I know older games actually tended to have more complex level design than modern games do (most gamers don't have the patience for the "interesting" level design choices that populated games in the past), but this game has a basically totally linear path with puzzles that aren't exactly solved with intuitive logic. They took the worst parts of old shooters and combined them with the worst aspects of old adventure games to give us the best of both worlds here. You go through strip club, Hoover dam, unbelievably dull caves, Duke Burger joints, etc.
You are even given an underwater level which might be the single worst level I've played in a game in years. Duke runs out of air really thin --- and when you are fighting difficult enemies WHILE running out of air, it does make the battle way more irksome than compelling. I hated Sonic's underwater levels badly enough, but this is a character who is supposed to be nearly superhuman who can hold his breath for less time than my 6 year old can.
Visually, the game looks like an early PS2 game. Environments look dull. Textures are bland. Physics are seldom present outside of one or two puzzles. Enemies look rather bad. The character models that they did spend some time on --- ALSO look really bad and out-of-date. The "sexy" women look like dead people. But, hey, at least it is longer than your usual FPS, which is always a good sign when your game is also pretty boring and dull.
I cannot recommend this game. I liked Duke Nukem 3D a lot when it came out --- but the game business has improved exponentially since then while this game feels like a game made in 1996 with slightly improved visuals. But, it will sell well enough to generate a sequel and, God willing, that sequel won't be tied to a really failed design as this game was and end up becoming playable. But DNF is not good. Easily one of the least compelling games of the year.