This is my first review, so please bear with me if I suck. I appreciate any constructive criticism you give me. Also, let me know if you'd like me to review inFamous 2 as well.
Disclaimer: This is the first Duke Nukem game I've ever played, but I am aware of the old games and their legacy.
Yes there's a weapon limit. Yes the health regenerates. Yes the mighty foot is gone (sort of). Yes the loading times are the longest I've ever experienced. Yes the game is still good.
If you're willing to completely abandon your expectations this game is actually very good. It's not a real Duke Nukem game and it's not worth 15 years' development time, but it's fun.
I played the Balls of Steel edition for Xbox 360. The bust from the special edition feels heavy and solid, but is a bit small, big enough to fit in my hand. The book about the legacy of Duke Nukem Forever is basically a collection of quotes from people involved in the project and some concept art. The rest is pretty much throw-away. I'd only recommend it if you feel the bust is worth the money or are really into the legacy of Duke.
Story: It's a Duke Nukem game all right, at least in terms of story. 12 years after the alien invasion in Duke Nukem 3D the Duke has garnered some rewards from his exploits. He has infinite money and fame and women everywhere are dying to be with him. But as soon as he finish playing the masterpiece game Duke Nukem Forever the aliens return with a vengeance and starts taking all the women!
The story is cheesy as hell in true Duke Nukem fashion. The dialogue tries really hard to be offensively funny, but only rarely succeeds. Not much emphasis is laid on the story however, as the gameplay is the focus. The entirety of the story is presented with a few lines of dialogue automatically played if you walk past someone close enough and around 3 short cut scenes. If you liked the old Duke Nukem games, you won't be disappointed. If you don't like immature humour you won't like the story, and if you do like immature humour you still won't get your fill. The good thing is that you don't have to care about the story.
I haven't really kept watch of the length, but I'd estimate it runs around 10-15 hours on hard if you explore, 5 hours speedrun.
Level design: Surprisingly good. Really great actually. Extremely varied environments with expert pacing. The levels are aggravatingly linear, but there are a few places to explore. The beginning is very slow and boring, but after a while the pacing kept me from getting bored once. There are a few puzzles and platforming sections that can seem very out of place at first and also a driving section or two, but it all adds to the pacing and makes for a more varied and fulfilling experience. There are also underwater levels and the ability to shrink. The atmosphere differs greatly between levels, but is always well done.
The driving sections entirely lack the feel of speed, which makes them rather boring. However, the one real driving level is one of the best levels in the game. The atmosphere and pacing of the level is the best I've ever seen, and the roads are wide and open for exploration. Unfortunately there's no reward for exploration the one time it's actually fun, and there's also no challenge while driving, as enemies are nothing more than imminent road-kill to you.
The underwater sections manage to balance trying to get air and fighting enemies at the same time in a way that made it challenging but not frustrating. Ammo conservation can become a big problem though, as the enemies that usually frequent the underwater don't drop any weapons. The only real problem I had with the underwater level was that it was too short, you rarely see an underwater level any more, especially not one as good as this. It's also very linear, and while it was annoying that the rest of the game was linear, the missed opportunity here is actually aggravating. The level is massive and there is a huge world to explore, but you die if you don't follow a specific line.
The horror section of the game is more disgusting than scary, and it doesn't even do that right. Once again the enemies don't drop any weapons, but here it feels more in place to have to conserve ammo, and there are also a lot of hidden weapons around, unlike underwater. It drags on way too long, and it's the low point of the game in more than one way.
The shrinking sections are a great change of pace. They have great platforming and it's always fun to be tiny, and the challenge that arrives when regular sized enemies show up is great.
Gameplay: The gameplay has a focus on fun, as is expected. The AI is quite good, and there are a lot of fun enemies. There are charging dudes, teleporting flying dudes, and flying crate-throwing brain-dudes. There's no cover gameplay here, if you try to hide behind a crate someone will throw it at you or teleport behind it. You have to unlock the insane difficulty and the hard one is only kinda challenging, but it's not easy.
There are several boss fights. They can get a bit repetitive and the loading time if you die will drive you crazy, but they give a nice change of pace. Only one or two are really hard though, and those will require more patience than skill. Most of them revolve in shooting a few round into the boss and then run to get more ammo, repeated until it's dead. The challenge comes in surviving going out of cover to get more ammo. If it sounds boring, it is.
There are a few fun and interesting weapons, which can be easy to leave behind as you are only allowed to carry two guns at a time. There's a freeze ray with auto-rechargeable ammo which insta-kills an enemy of you manage to get close enough. There's a shrink ray that makes even the deadliest enemy as dangerous as a mouse. There are also all the standard stuff, like pistol, shotgun, RPG, machine gun and sniper ray-gun. The ammo can run out very quickly if you don't use it carefully, since the enemies takes a lot of damage, but it's never that much of a bother since there are always new weapons everywhere. You also have a melee punch and the ability to throw a lot of objects. They're all fun to use, but if you want a lot of fun weird weapons you'll be disappointed. There're also 2 grenades, one remotely detonable and one trip mine and 3 power-ups. The power-ups are rare and you can only stack one at a time, which is very disappointing since it forces you to conserve them, but the rare times you use them they're a lot of fun.
In an effort to keep the game feeling fresh, some weapons are kept from you until you reach a certain point in the story. This is a stupid move, as all of the fun weapons only come around towards the end of the game. For this reason, the last third of the game is immensely more enjoyable than the first and second. The last part of the game also has the most interesting levels and the most varied experiences.
The game feels unfocused. There are some great ideas and fun gameplay opportunities that show up once and are instantly forgotten. Pretty much all of them appear in the later part of the game, and if I had made this game I'd have completely scrapped the first half of the game and doubled the length of the second half.
The game will turn a lot of people away before they reach the good parts, but if you can accept the admittedly horrible excuse of "it gets better later" the later part of the game was some of the most fun I've ever had in an FPS.
Your health has been replaced by an ego bar, since in Duke's reality he's invulnerable. You can increase your ego by exploring the levels. Every item in the game is interactive and the first time you throw a basketball into a hoop or manage to successfully cook pop-corn, you get a permanent ego boost, AKA increase your maximum health. It's a good incentive to explore, but the increase is so tiny and the ego rewards are so rare, that the exploring get's pretty pointless after a while.
The UI is simple and intuitive, but would have been nice with a more complex one to allow for more weapons at a time. It will be easy for any experienced FPS player to just pick up and play, and it proves that to you by starting the game with a boss-fight. The game can get annoying when you try to interact with certain things, as it's very picky as to the exact spot on the item you need to be looking at before you can interact with it. When things are close together or you're in the middle of a fight it's sure to get on your nerves.
As someone that was bored to death with modern shooters this was a breath of fresh air. Neither you nor the enemy dies from just a few shots, so the fire fights will demand more from you than simple reflexes. The variation from the different enemies and weapons keeps it from getting boring. When I walk into an obvious ambush, instead of feeling annoyed like I do in other modern FPSs, this time I feel happy that I have a bunch of new enemies to slaughter. To have 3 huge pigs chasing you that each will chop off half your ego bar if they get close enough is quite a thrill, and to try to shoot an enemy that keeps teleporting behind you is a unique challenge.
Visuals: It's very obvious that this is, or at least should be, an old game. The design of the enemies and levels show great vision, but the textures fall short. Especially the humans look like they did 5 years ago. The design makes up for a lot though, but for the people who like to count the pixels this will look awful.
Multiplayer: To be fair, I haven't played it much for obvious reasons. It's crap. It has the feel of old classics like Quake or Unreal tournament, only horrible. The game modes aren't fun, the maps are boring, there are connection issues and the game is uneven. You level extremely slowly, the weapons respawn waay too frequently and the maps are hard to navigate. It feels like they spent 10 minutes on it, which is very annoying since there are some good basics here, just abominable execution. There are some great challenges though, unlike the achievements which are pretty standard.
I feel the best way to illustrate this is through an example. In the one level I played the most on, there's a spawn point right next to the best weapon in the game, and right next to it there are a few power-ups. The one that starts at that spawn point will win. Actually, that only applies if they're the host. The host will always win, because if you're not the host you'll always have lag. In such a quick paced multiplayer as this, lag matters a lot.
You may be able to find some enjoyment in this through LAN, (given that LAN is supported, I'm not sure about that) since broken gameplay can only be fun with good friends and it eliminates the connection issues. Though I'm not sure even friends will help this horrid affair, do yourselves a favour and stay away from the multiplayer.
Summary: The game may not be what we all hoped it would be, and it has a few flaws, but it's still a lot of fun. It doesn't have much replay value so it may not be worth $60 for you, but I'd still recommend it.
Pros: Excellent pacing and fun enemies. Varied levels with great atmosphere. Very refreshing gameplay if you, like me, am bored with modern military shooters.
Cons: The multiplayer and the load times. They're completely horrible, dragged the score down at least 0.5 points. Also the first half of the game wasn't that great and it's too linear.
Level design: 8
Note: I've retconned my early review scores to better fit my later reviews.