Playing through the campaign of Duke Nukem Forever is like witnessing an exposition of the evolution of the first-person shooter genre, with such modern tweaks as variable focus, replenishing health and close-in executions being implemented side-by-side with old school stalwarts like jumping puzzles and tediously timed boss battles. As an exercise in museum sciences, this is far more titillating than the game's childish attempts at lasciviousness. As a game, however, it simply fails, sinking under the weight of its literal and figurative baggage.
Duke Nukem Forever looks and feels like the bastard son of a thousand developers that actually it is, with levels seeming to go nowhere and plot elements and game mechanics often being left on the deck, forgotten. The random strip club fetch quest scene at mid-way, for example (that one can assume was thrown in for lack of any other compelling reason to add in more tits), is left to fester with no explanation other than that, perhaps, Duke was dreaming. That the scene itself owes more to Leisure Suit Larry than Duke Nukem is merely icing on the turd.
The enemies and weapons are all largely taken from earlier installments and, although updated, seem less fun to play with than in previous Duke games. Weapons like the Freeze Ray or the Devastator seemed fresh, fun and inventive almost two decades ago when they debuted, but today feel like the relics that they are. Unfortunately Duke Nukem Forever doesn't introduce anything of the same caliber to help it reclaim its status as innovator. The rare improvements on the formula are largely copied whole cloth from better games (Halo, Call of Duty and Half-Life to name but a few) and instead of heightening the experience, these additions serve to remind you of what you could be playing instead. Modern shine and polish are obvious in some places, absent in others, but by-and-large Duke Nukem Forever remains the game it was probably intended to be when it was first conceived which makes it seem dated and irrelevant by today's standards.
The game also has multiplayer if you care. I didn't. While the multiplayer was not yet available as of the time of this writing, there's simply no conceivable way it would have influenced this review in any way other than to lower our already pitifully low score. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
The low point for me came after finally making it to "The Duke Dome," to battle "The Queen Bitch," in an old-school, classic Duke Nukem boss battle. This is where the curious mix of old and new combined in a disharmony of sound not unlike the brown note. It left me quite literally nauseous and wanting nothing more than to escape the tedious torment of playing this wretched game. Success in this particular boss battle depends on the strategic use of cover, weapons and timing - all classic boss battle stuff that would seem right at home in games from a decade ago - and mastering this combination is no challenge at all. The real challenge is in applying the strategic combination of old-school tactics while simultaneously being beat-down and generally hindered by new school add-ons, like damage fog and the knock down. It's as if those assembling the game either forgot or never knew that timing-based boss battles worked precisely because the game was never smart enough to inflict punishment on you any deeper than a diminishment of your health ... er, Ego bar.