I told myself time and time again, I would not write my final thoughts on DNF until I'd finished it. However, I am finding it so laborious to finish - it would be so old hat by the time I get around to finishing it that nobody would be interested. You're probably not that interested anyway - but frankly, I feel like exercising my 'right to rant' on this topic.
First of all, off the bat - I really WANTED to like DNF. I hoped it would have captured some of the magic of the groundbreaking Duke Nukem 3D - unfortunately it hasn't. I almost get the feeling that the developers felt a bit like the player in the game, in that the further they got into it - the less bothered they could be to finish it. Now I don't think I can honestly tout DNF as an awful game, it's not that bad really - but my personal experience has been marred by near vomit inducing motion sickness, so I've only been able to play in small chunks, otherwise there may have been small chunks on the living room carpet... Could it be the 40" television? Old age? I don't know... The last time I experienced this sensation was trying to play Wolfenstein 3D on a Pentium 3 733 Mhz... The worse level for this was the second level, the hive or whatever when you are always underground and it's dark. All in all though, I don't think the lack of this problem would have left me with much more of a better impression.
I suppose Duke Nukem Forever is a franchise, it's quite a naf franchise as they go in that it all stemmed from a thrown together shareware platform game that in honesty was pretty unremarkable, as what it's sequel. The game that built Duke as a franchise was Duke Nukem 3D, it was well designed, humorous, innovative... It was everything DNF should have been, but I now doubt could ever have been.
So what are all these criticisms of DNF? Firstly, the two gun thing - it just gets annoying. I suspect the reason it's there is at least partly because there is often little arguement to use certain weapons and if you could pick up everything, you'd end up using the same two or three weapons over and over again. Secondly, it's widely touted that you can 'interract with the environment' and this is sort of true, in the first few levels there are lots of amusing or interesting things to do, but gradually the developers seem to start omitting these as the game goes on - maybe they think (Probably quite rightly) that people will get bored of using drinking fountains or whatever? Either way, seeing as it's something the publishers have tried to sell the game on - it's really not that big a deal.
The graphics and sound and stuff is okay, and some of the humour is decent enough to be worth a rental... But some of it is really cringeworthy. I mean, the jokes about keycards and power armour and funny the first time, throughout the game there are these little moments that make you smile - but the bits in between are generally a pain. And some of the 'adult' material, like the deam sequence in the lapdancing club is just... It's not funny, it's not sexy, it's not even very 'Duke' it just makes you hope and pray that nobody walks in and sees the embarresing purile nonsense you are playing... I mean lets think about Duke for a second, does he really seem like the sort of bloke who goes running around looking for a dildo, and popcorn so he can have sex? Probably not - he'd probably slap her, tell her to fetch it herself - the go find someone less annoying and more willing to molest.... Okay that's not very politcally correct, but it's more 'Duke' personally I found that sequence a waste of 15 minutes of my life in every way.
My next gripe is the level design, Duke Nukem 3D was full of big, interesting, non-linear levels. DNF feels very penned it, almost like you are on rails, there's very little freedom of movement. Occasionally they try to give you a false illusion of openness and freedom by showing you glimpses of a huge rendered world - but you can never explore it. I know it's a difficult decision to make, the cost of producing content that the player might not see has to be taken into consideration, this is the reason we don't see many fold-back or branching narratives in games - maybe even less so now, given the cost of rendering modernly acceptable levels. Duke 3D was super easy to make levels in, for DNF there is going to be mountains of 3D sculpting, texture aligning, lighting and sound effects adding - then mountains of pointless items to interract with... So I can understand why it feels a bit like it's on rails - but it still spoils the experience. It does make me wonder whether what the industry needs is a really cleverly designed environment renderer where you create elements and elements of elements and it will auto render a large playing area for you, which you can then go back and tweak and twiddle/...
So to sum up, it makes me feel sick playing for more than 20 minutes at a time, the 2 weapons idea sucks eggs, the levels are too restrictive and... Well, the one special item and only 4 pipe bombs or laser trip mines is annoying too.... In some respects it's like they took some of the things that made Duke 3D great and basically ruined them. The shrunk sequences aren't generally very interesting, the shrink ray is rare, the driving sequences are so easy they might as well have done a cutscene... And they aren't even that fun... There's not enough variety in the enemies either - particularly the bosses.
So all in all, I think DNF is worth a 6/10 or so, maybe a 7 if you love the franchise. However I'm sort of glad it's come out, it's been too long in development, and I don't know if it could really have been done much better Duke Nukem 3D was right for the time, but DNF isn't. We've all moved on. A reboot like this is always going to be hard Doom 3 got some flak for not capturing the orignals magic, but I thought it was an infinitely better game all in all. The story was solid, the hell sequence was one of the best representations of hell I've ever seen in a game...
I think, maybe the thing that really kills DNF is that it feels a bit like a corporate exercise in game making. It has all the elements, the design fundamentals have been followed, but there isn't the spark, the magic that sets out generally game that were crafted with passion.
The interesting thing is that is something which DNF should have had - it was that passion for making a truly great game that is often cited as why it took so long. I bought a new game at the weekend. Partly because I've sick of my ears burning from my wifes complaints about mature video games, and partly because I wanted something new I could play with my 4 year old little girl - I bought Lego Star Wars 2 : The Classic Trilogy. She loves it, but I do too! It is sooooooooooo much more fun that Duke Nukem, but here we have a game that's been commissioned by a megacorp, in fact arguably two megacorps, Lego and Lucas Arts... It should suck, it should be a cynical attempt to extract money of the poor vulnerable customer.
The levels are well thought, the game mechanics and interesting and individual and there's built in replayability for the levels you've completed, it feels really polished, it's like a diamond next to a stool when comparing it to DNF. It has the magic, but it really shouldn't. It'll be interesting to see how discerning the gaming public will be. A good indicator can be the used title availability. Already DNF is readily available used - there was only 1 copy of Leg Star Wars 2, but then Batman Arkham Asylum was fantastic, but readily available? I suppose in that case it was because once you'd finished it, you'd finished it.... Maybe a look at the number of people on Giantbomb who played it vs those who finished it using the achievement stats would be an indicator? The franchise will sell it, the hype will sell it - people will buy DNF in droves, but how many will finish it?
I will, then I will trade it in / cash it in... I'm not enjoying it, but I sort of want to finish it mildly for the story and a bit because I sort of want my money's worth even though it was a birthday gift. The bizarre thing is I spent more time recently on DNF to get it out of the way than LA Noire, which though annoying to play isn't as annoying to play as DNF....
It sort of makes me wonder whether I'm finally getting 'old' in that so many games I pick up I just don't enjoy the way I used to / should.
Maybe I'm regressing to a child-like state, seeing as the games I've preferred lately are the simple ones, Minecraft and Lego : Star Wars 2.... Hmmm, and actually, following a recent visit to Poole and spending a night with a friend and her consultant peadeatrician huspand... Building Star Wars Lego (For their 5 year old son allegedly...) I'm even thinking about buying some Star Wars Lego myself... I might not even bother faking the 'Oh it's for me kid' thing and buy the UCS Super Star Destroyer... £300 on a Lego set? It's a lot - but the Super Star Destroyer was my favourite ship, and you get 'Bossk' with it and Bossk rules... The big kid in me wants to buy it...
The adult in me thinks ' Hmmm, it's not to minifigure scale, it's only 124 cm long completed, and going on the size of minifigures the scale for lego is about 100:1 so that means the SSD to scale of minifigure should really be about 20 Metres long... Hmmm, I don't fancy buying a quarter of a million pound Lego set that takes thirteen years to build...'
So forget it, I'll play Lego Star Wars instead... I might even let my little girl have a go!