Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: December 13th, 2011
Official Website: http://www.dukenukemforever.com/
On December 13th, the first Duke Nukem Forever singleplayer DLC episode: “The Doctor Who Cloned Me”, was released. It was so uneventful, so bizarre, so abrupt and so predictable, yet simultaneously spontaneous, that I just… didn’t make fun of it, didn’t celebrate it… or anything, for that matter. I just bought the DLC from the Steam, re-installed the game and started it up. My expectations for it were about as low as the full game’s review scores. I was prepared in both mind and body, as well as spirit, for another crushing and tramautising trainwreck of a Duke Nukem game.
The DLC starts off not too long after Forever’s ending: The Cycloid alien race have suffered a major defeat at Las Vegas, and their Emperor is dead. Duke’s exact status is unknown, following a nuclear detonation at the Hoover Dam. But he seems to be alive and apparently he’s going to be running for preside- Oh. Forget the last part, folks. Following the tradition of all post-endgame DLC episodes, the developers are just going to ruin the meaning and significance of the game’s ending. Stand by. Yeah, turns out that wasn’t the real Duke up there on that podium. As you can tell from the title, it was a clone. Apparently, Dr. Proton, Duke Nukem’s original nemesis from the original 1991 game, has returned after two decades. That’s as far as the story will take you for most of the DLC. There is very little exposition – you don’t know what’s going on, where you are and so on. This is, quite frankly, unacceptable. When you push me into a random new situation, I’d at least expect that you have the courtesy to give me some sort of status report, direct or otherwise, on what’s been going on.
We first wake up inside what seems to be the most relevant instance of parody or any sort of humor in Duke Nukem Forever… a parody of Call of Duty: Black Ops. A one-year old game. It’s relatively uneventful and uninteresting, as it is nothing more than a mere backdrop, and the devs could have literally swapped it out for any other environment. There is one part where they reference the “classic” “Ventrilo Harassment – Duke Nukem” video, but it’s really just a memetic in-joke and most people probably won’t even get it. Then you make it out, and you’re on your way inside the bowels of Area 51. Very quickly, you’re introduced to the newest weapon in Duke’s arsenal: the Expander, a revised version of the Plutonium Pak’s “Microwave Expander”. With a tiny 16-shot ammo pool, one shot from this thing will put the enemy in a bloated state where they take 4 times the damage, and a second shot will instantly gib the enemy. It’s pretty handy, but the problem is the restricted ammo pool, particularly when there’s infinite ammo crates lying around nowhere. As such, the only way the Expander is actually balanced in any meaningful way, is through its bad handling. There’s a second new weapon as well: the Impregnator, which is a weaponized version of the Pregnator enemy. In other words it’s sort of like a grenade launcher, and as with most grenade launchers it’s actually quite fun to use.
The levels themselves are… so and so. There are some parts I could do without – most notably, a lengthy jumping puzzle where you navigate a gigantic “clone carousel”, hopping from clone container tank to clone container tank — dying every 20 seconds. It’s like your average jumping puzzle, except it’ll give you nightmares for years. That’s how bad it is. And there’s even a level where you go to the moon, another missed opportunity for a jab at Portal 2. Ignoring the writing – because Duke is, presumably, too cool to pack some sort of environment suit and, instead, simply holds his breath in the lunar atmosphere, stepping outside of your lunar rover means you have 20 seconds to get your ass back in before you die. Not very pleasant. But, of course, “Doctor” wouldn’t be complete without more of Duke Forever’s signature silly and outdated physics puzzles, including crane puzzles. Yes, apparently the people at Triptych Games forgot that crane puzzles got old in 2004. That was almost 10 years ago, back when Half-Life 2 first dropped on our PCs.
For the most part, it’s almost as if it tries to retread past ground and see if it can do what DNF did… only better (which really doesn’t mean much to be honest). I may or may not have said this if there wasn’t another one of those “go do three chores for the sexy lady” missions in “Doctor”. But there is and I did, because it’s a bit better than last time, but it’s still just as tedious. However, “Doctor” has got much better pacing and length than Duke Nukem Forever. Clocking in at 3-4 hours, it’s not too long, or too short; it’s just right, and the pacing is, again, pretty smooth.
However, not much replay value on display here. A couple of new multiplayer levels (the previous DLC pack, “Hail To The Icons”, isn’t even included), some new Ego collectibles for each level, but no new extras, cheats or game modes. And the graphics? It’s the Unreal Engine 2.5, albeit somewhat modified. Meaning the game is, as The Escapist put it, “ugly as sin”. And Duke Nukem Forever’s trademark post-processing that made me want to buy prescription glasses returns as well. Because when the engine you’ve got is 10 years old, the only way to make it pretty is to throw in the ugliest post-processing of all time. You might as well just make an appointment with your eye doctor already. Even watching the trailer might warrant a minor check-up. The dev team’s local Lenscrafters is doing just fine.
The only new enemies are the Duke robots and the Duke clones, which, for the most part, don’t play too differently from the standard Duke Nukem Forever enemies. Frankly, they felt like little more than “palette swaps”, with a couple of minor gameplay changes here and there. There are also a few boss fights, although they’re, quite frankly, pretty terrible. The fight against Dr. Proton, that should have felt epic, seems like nothing more than a footnote, a mere afterthought – taking place in an area ripped straight out of Quake 4, and simply requires you to shoot at him until he tries to regenerate his health, at which point you stop him, at which point you hurt him until he does it again, and so on, and so forth. More infinite ammo crates, which reduce this battle to an amusing pastime, rather than a climactic duel. There’s also a boss battle against the Alien Empress, where you simply drive around trying to hit her limbs, then driving inside her… ladyparts and blowing up her ovaries. No, I am not kidding. She doesn’t even move, and whenever she does attack you, it’s more of a playful attempt to hurt you: “Oh, my health went down by a tiny fraction” or “Oh, she pushed me away.”, rather than “Oh my god I AM ABOUT TO DIE” or anything that belongs in a final-boss fight.
And Dr. Proton himself? Such a squandered opportunity. Triptych does nothing worthwhile or notable with him: he’s just another crazy villain who occasionally yells out egocentrical banter on the Area 51 communication system. He isn’t funny, he isn’t interesting – he’s just cyborg man #23. Which is a tremendous shame, because this used to be Duke Nukem’s arch-nemesis! General Graves makes a return, but he’s just another gruff soldier person. And Duke’s… favorite sidekick, Dylan, has somehow returned. You thought he was dead, didn’t you? No, no. Duke Nukem’s equivalent of Jar-Jar Binks is alive and well, and still just as irritatingly retarded in “Doctor”. He even gets shrunk at one point. Eep.
For the most part, “Doctor” is a mediocre effort. On one hand, it’s definitely better than the main game, although that might not be saying much. On the other, it’s still pretty much the same thing we played back in June. The same bad gameplay, the same outdated graphics, and nasty writing. It’s all still just as disappointing, and frankly, it makes me sad.
Game Play: 5.5/10
Replay Value: 6/10
- Steam Store page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/57925/
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