Duke Nukem Forever is, at best, not a well-liked game. Sitting with a Metacritic score ranging from 49 to 54 (depending on what platform you’re feeling masochistic with) and a User Score sitting around the 5.0 mark, the game has its fair share of detractors.
Going over reviews, it’s plain to see that everyone had problems with a lot of the game design.
You might spend only three or four minutes on one level, doing nothing but walking and jumping a bit, before reaching the inexcusably long loading screen that introduces the next. Other sections drag on interminably, and there are frequent stretches in which nothing is happening. – Gamespot
Turret sequences are too often used as a crutch to break up on-foot fights, but they’re a welcome alternative to the frequent first-person platforming segments that make up an unnecessarily large percentage of the story mode. – IGN
Duke has regenerating health (yet at one point he mocks Master Chief), and surprise surprise, he can only wield two weapons at a time (just like Chief). Moreover, many enemy encounters are scripted events, timely checkpoints are scattered liberally throughout stages, and gameplay variety is offered through vehicle and rail gun sequences. – GameInformer
While DN3D filled its levels with interesting, incidental objects that invited experimentation and destruction, DNF mostly settles for giving you a lot of things to poke at – like answering machines, calendars, playable pinball machines and a couple surfaces you can draw on – and leaving it at that. – GamesRadar
If the core shooting in the game was exciting, these lame little extras would be forgivable. Instead, they make you wonder if the main parts of Duke would have been better if people weren’t wasting their time making sure that the pool tables almost work. Enemies don’t really burst apart in a satisfying way, and the bulk of the weaponry feels underwhelming. – Giant Bomb
So, basically, people dislike everything about Duke Nukem Forever except the level design. Everything from the regenerating health to the gunplay to the two-weapon limit to the scripted sequences to the enemy AI has been criticized. One aspect that everyone seems to miss is the enemy design. Duke Nukem Forever had terrible enemy design for a sequel to a classic, over-the-top FPS game.
First off, there were eight different enemy types. Two, the Assault Trooper and Captain, were essentially the same thing and the Octababies were no different than Pregnators. Another one, the Assault Commander, only appears three times in the game. Another one doesn’t appear until the latter stages of the game. So that leaves four distinct enemy types to face down over the course of 12 hours. In an age of modern warfare shooters, enemy variety isn’t a big concern, but this is supposed to be Duke freakin’ Nukem! The FPS that defines everything crazy and awesome about FPS games! What good is 12 years of development when you don’t have a single new enemy to show off? Every single enemy is either straight from Duke Nukem 3D or just a variation of one.
The only arguably new type of enemy are those headcrab ripoffs known as Octababies and Pregnators, which is the most generic enemy to appear in FPS titles since Duke Nukem 3D. If anything, they only make everything worse due to how hard it is to hit them with Duke Nukem Forever’s Team Fortress 2-like gunplay. Just because a minigun has an accuracy of 20% in one game does not mean it will work for another. It’s doubly worse when one realizes that this is essentially Duke Nukem Forever’s assault rifle and you’ll be using it often throughout the game. It was fine back in the original 3D games where there was no such thing as bullet spread and everything was hitscan but transferring the same idea to a fully 3D game does not work well.
The Pig Cops an Assault Troopers function exactly as they do in Duke Nukem 3D. They appear, shoot you and you shoot them. Only, this time, they soak up a lot more bullets than Duke. The worst enemy, by far, are the Octabrains. They are one of the most common enemies you will face in the game and, for a good chunk of the game (that, incidentally, is reminiscent of the worst level in Halo 3 by a wide margin, Cortana) are the only enemy you will face. This wouldn’t be so bad if the Octabrains did not embody the pinnacle of terrible enemy design.
What’s so bad about them? Allow me to list their abilities:
- flying enemies
- fast moving
- have the highest health out of any common enemy (more than Super Pig Cops and Assault Captains)
- take two RPG hits to take down on Normal mode
- deal massive amounts of damage
- can catch projectiles and throw them back at you
- are very common
It’s like 3D Realms and Gearbox got lazy, decided to make one overpowered enemy and throw it at you in groups throughout the game. Facing a pack of these things – and they only come in packs – is actually harder than any boss fight or other shooting gallery in the game. Hell, even the final boss with his army of Pig Cops, Assault Troopers, and Assault Enforcers is a lot easier than facing five Octabrains.
Usually enemies are fast with low health or strong with high health. Sometimes, games will mix this up to make glass cannon enemies that are easy to kill but devastating to make a mistake to (see: Dark Souls) or they will make fast enemies with high health to get the player to focus for a while (see: Dark Souls). This? This is ridiculous. Fast, powerful, and with incredibly high health. The Duke Nukem Wikia puts their health at 180. For comparison, Pig Cops are 100, Super Pig Cops are 150, Assault Troopers are 80, and Assault Captains are 120. Furthermore, most of these enemies are faced in tight corridors instead of the open areas the Pig Cops and Assault units can be found in. These Octabrains are nothing short of shoddy enemy design and are completely unbalanced with the rest of the game.
There’s a big problem with a game when common enemies are harder to overcome than any gigantic boss you throw at a player. How veteran FPS studios did not catch this I’ll never understand. Then again, considering the rest of the game, I’m not even sure why they didn’t just let it be a bad joke instead of a bad memory.