Understand this: Duke Nukem Forever will not replace Call of Duty at the top of the online charts no matter what someone says, and there are clear reasons for that. However, there’s a hope that maybe, someone, somewhere, will switch over and revel in what DNF does right.
DNF still offers the usual assortment of unlockables, including an increasingly furnished home stocked with babes and artifacts of Duke’s own image. It has that hook it needs, but in terms of actual gameplay, it’s a throwback to a simpler time. Weapons sit on the ground glowing yellow and spinning in the air. They’re not just dropped ammunition fodder, but sort of calling to the player, you know, like they used to in the glory days of Quake. Levels are compact and loaded with variances like jump pads, stuff to keep the action moving vertical as often as side-to-side. It’s also about nothing but straight up fragging, a game you kick back with a beer and relax too even in the frenzied corridors.
Shooters seem to have lost that basic appeal over the years, becoming more focused and competitive-based. You can’t just idly chat in Halo Reach because despite that franchise’s goofiness, there’s that urge to win. DNF is much like the title character: laid back and care-free. It’s refreshing in its retro charm, and the design such that it has no desire to compete amongst the industry players, just to be itself and blow stuff up. That’s not to say you can’t have fun with Halo or COD, it’s that their tone is decidedly different, dictating how people play.
It can be debated whether or not DNF is anything resembling a “good” game, and in actuality, it’s probably not with its wonky shooting mechanics and stifling frame rate. But, it’s old fashioned stupidity, and it makes no apologies for that. It deserves something for being that bold and still delivering, so here’s to you Duke. That 15-year wait at least did something right.