Editor's note: This review, based on an early Duke Nukem Forever release candidate, was originally scheduled for publication in the summer of 2001. The author was 19 years old.
The wait is over: Duke Nukem Forever is finally here! First announced in 1997 as a follow-up to Duke Nukem 3D — the groundbreaking Doom clone — the sequel has suffered its share of setbacks. After developer 3D Realms missed its planned release date of Christmas 1998, DNF slipped again and again, leading some to wonder if this would be Duke Nukem Never. I guess the haters forgot that you should always bet on Duke.
The first thing you need to know is that Duke is as politically incorrect as ever. He drinks beer, which makes him even tougher when fighting alien slime. He photocopies his butt. He picks poop out of the toilet and throws it at people. After he beats the massive Battlelord boss, Duke works the monster's nutsack like a speedbag. There's even a scene where you visit a strip club! It has nothing to do with the rest of the game, but there are jokes about condoms and vibrators, and tons of big fake boobs all over the place. What kind of a wuss wouldn't enjoy that?
Duke Nukem Forever shows off not only the awesome power of today's high-end PCs, but also Sony's PlayStation 2 and Microsoft's upcoming Xbox. The graphics are so realistic, you can practically see the strippers' areolae. In outdoor scenes, they've even added little buildings and shacks to make things feel authentic. One long sequence has so many brown sand dunes that you'd swear you really were driving a monster truck through the desert for hours and hours.
All the eye candy is nice, but job one for Duke is to kick alien ass, which he does by the truckload. Thankfully, the combat hasn't changed much since Duke 3D, which is to say that it's perfect! For the most part, you need to circle around your enemies while shooting at them, but sometimes you throw pipe bombs. The monsters are even smart enough to dodge out of the way. It's totally visceral.
Duke Nukem Forever is at its most chaotic with weapons like the shrink ray — which diminishes enemies until Duke can stomp on them — and the freeze gun, which lets him shatter them into a thousand icy pieces. Sometimes, Duke even uses mounted weaponry to take down heavy-duty foes like airships. Gun turrets — now there's a gameplay mechanic that will never get old.
One thing that's a little strange is the level design. In Duke 3D, all the levels were like mazes, with different routes to take and secrets to explore. Here, they're more like long corridors. Sometimes that's pretty cool, like when you see some aliens on jetpacks fly away with your chicks right before you can save them. Other times it feels like you're running in a straight line waiting for something to happen. 3D Realms had better be careful, because if they keep simplifying things like this, more complex first-person shooters are going to steal Duke's crown.
But that hasn't happened yet. Rude, crude, and lewd, Duke Nukem Forever is the manliest shooter ever made. Gamer dudes everywhere will be saying "Hail to the king, baby!" Here's hoping we don't have to wait another four years for the next Duke game. Now, if Valve could just hurry up with Half-Life 2. . . .