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Remember Duke Nukem Forever? That was disappointing. Remember the early trailers for the game? Oh, what could have been. Well some people attempted to recreate what was seen in the 2001 trailer as a mod for Duke Nukem 3D. And that mod is called Duke Nukem Forever 2013. This review will cover the mod and DLC level pack. Obviously, the mod cannot replicate exactly what the developers originally intended for Duke Nukem Forever and I believe most of the content here is based primarily on that 2001 trailer. That would mean the creators had to take what was shown and put it all together and also fill in what wasn’t shown to make a coherent campaign. The official game was in development hell for years and it’s obvious that the final product did not reflect what the 2001 trailer showed us or even the 1998 one for that matter. I think these guys felt the same way or at the very least wanted to play what was shown at E3 2001. Duke Nukem Forever 2013 comes packaged with the eDuke source port and the readme states the mod was meant to be played with the Software Renderer so that’s how I played it. However, it also states that OpenGL is supported.
The story is told through interactions with NPC’s and text. From what I gathered, the aliens have returned and unleashed a parasite that can control human bodies. Satellites picked up strange energy readings from the Hoover Dam area and it’s believed that the aliens are preparing a portal there which will result in a massive invasion if it’s not closed. Once again, Duke sets out to save the world. The DLC pack adds three new levels and I have no idea if these are actually part of the plot but basically the aliens have infiltrated the Duke Dome and Duke is asked to go there and kill the Cycloid Emperor. There are some voice clips heard throughout the levels which I believe were ripped from the 2001 trailer. And, of course, Duke will spout his humorous one-liners during gameplay.
All of the Duke Nukem 3D mechanics are present in the mod as are most of the weapons and enemies. You’ll run through levels trying to figure out how to progress and kill a ton of aliens along the way. An M-16 Assault Rifle is added to the arsenal, the Shrink Ray looks different, and the DLC includes a new shotgun sprite which I think looks awesome. One of the more interesting additions is the motorcycle which you can ride. Some levels are specifically designed for you to ride it and it feels more like a novelty than anything else since there’s not much to do other than follow the paths. There are some neat sequences that make riding more exciting but, ultimately, the on-foot areas are much more enjoyable. Late in the campaign, you’ll get to ride a donkey and blow away foes. That was humorous.
New to the enemy roster are humans or soldiers controlled by alien parasites, a new type of flying drone that shoots at you, Terminator-looking foes that fire lasers, and I saw a couple different types of Enforcers like one that I’m guessing wields a Freeze Ray. There’s also naked Pig Cops that rush you. There are some boss battles peppered throughout the main campaign and only one in the DLC pack which is just a Cycloid Emperor. The final boss of the main campaign is a brand new boss-type and I found the battle to be extremely easy.
Since the gameplay is that of Duke 3D, that means enemies are deadly and you should always pay attention to your surroundings. The DLC pack includes a lot of ambushes and enemies just spawning in after you do something significant or reach a specific location. In fact, it throws a lot of Assault Commanders at you which can become frustrating. And either I missed a lot of ammo pickups or there’s just not enough lying around because by the third level, I found myself rushing passed enemies because I wanted to conserve what little ammo I had. You can apply many of the same strategies used to engage several of the new foes as you would existing foes since these new ones feel like reskins with some minor changes. Knowing what weapons are best against what enemies also helps. In the end, the mod and its DLC pack offer a good challenge.
The setting is Nevada and both the main campaign and DLC pack will take you to strip clubs because what would a Duke game be without strippers. You’ll also battle through a casino, mine, Earth Defense Force facility, and Hoover Dam. Getting through the campaign and DLC levels shouldn’t take you long if you know where to go. You can probably beat every level in under two hours. The only reason it may take you longer on the first run is because how to proceed through certain areas isn’t always obvious. You may find yourself running back and forth between areas until you figure out what you need to do. Just like in Duke 3D, there is some platforming here and there and environmental and button puzzles you’ll need to figure out otherwise you’re stuck. There are some neat set pieces like when you’re riding the motorcycle along the highway and have to dodge other vehicles shooting at you. The DLC pack includes the most exciting motorcycle sequence in the mod. You’ll have to speed along the path avoiding enemy projectiles, buildings and structures will start to crumble, and you’ll get to jump off multiple ramps. This is just before you get to the Duke Dome where civilians are running and screaming as you and the aliens battle it out, it’s pretty cool. There are some hazards you’ll need to watch out for in all levels like lava and electricity but most of the challenge comes from dealing with foes and figuring out how to proceed.
Much of the presentation resembles Duke Nukem 3D because that is the foundation after all. The levels are well crafted and the new sprites look great. The levels are big and detailed and each one looks and feels different. I think the presentation does a great job at capturing the spirit of the 2001 trailer and some of the audio was taken from that trailer. Many of the songs were taken from other games like Borderlands, Vectorman, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and Battlefield 3. The readme states some of the enemy sounds are based on Monolith’s games. The DLC pack comes with some truly excellent new heavy metal inspired tunes. On the technical side, the mod ran smooth and the only bug I encountered was getting stuck in mid-air.
Duke Nukem Forever 2013 is a great mod and you can see that the team behind it really put their heart into it. It really is a shame that what was shown in 2001 never came to fruition because it looked like a fun and crazy action-packed romp with some really cool set pieces thrown in. It looks better than the 2011 game, that’s for sure. That said, I had more fun with this mod than the official game. Duke Nukem Forever 2013 seems to capture the atmosphere and tone of what was shown in 2001 and I only wish it was longer. Hopefully more levels for the mod are on the way.
I would absolutely recommend Duke Nukem Forever 2013 to fans of the series. The official game is very disappointing but Duke 3D is still very enjoyable. And not only is it a better game than Forever, but it’s kept alive with mods. And Duke Nukem Forever 2013 is one of them. It’s an attempt at the Duke Nukem Forever we all hoped for. Definitely check it out.