The story takes place 14 years after the events of Duke Nukem 3D. After saving the Earth and all the chicks, Duke has expanded his horizons. He owns a burger joint, strip club, and other crap that really has no effect on the game. The aliens return and the president is trying to broker a peace treaty with the Cycloid Emperor and informs Duke to stay out of it and not get involved. Duke knows that this is not going to work, so he goes to the Duke Cave and gets ready for action. While stocking up, the aliens attack him on his own, frozen hell-turf. This is where you start all the action. You take the fight across Las Vegas, strip clubs, ghost towns, the Hoover Dam, and strip clubs.
The gameplay, strictly speaking, is as solid as a pair of steel balls. Duke has returned with an excellent selection of one-liners to augment the action, which is fairly fast paced and pretty visceral. I fully enjoyed the enemy AI; it retained enough challenge even on the normal setting, without going overboard as games like Red Faction: Armageddon tend to do. The boss battles are your basic circle, strafe, shoot, repeat, to effectively kill most of them; it's extremely pattern-ized, as you would find in games of yore (from the days when DNF was actually, you know, designed). All of your favorite enemies from Duke 3D have returned with some cosmetic changes (for the better), but they still look like aliens, and we all know the best way to improve an aliens looks is by peppering their faces with buckshot. And feces. Duke trades out his Glock (Duke Nukem 3D) and his Desert Eagle (Time to Kill, Zero Hour) for a 1911. The pipe bombs and wall mines are now thrown weapons, though the down side is that you can only carry four of each. The devastator, shotgun, chain gun, shrink ray and freeze ray are back, along with two new weapons: the alien laser and the alien captain laser.
Level design is pretty decent. Ranging from Vegas streets to alien hives to the Hoover Dam, the world looks pretty good as a whole. Especially the strip clubs -- err, I mean, bookstores... Of course, if you are the type that likes to stop and absorb the sights, I suggest you box this game back up and go get your money back because YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! If you can take in the sights, you have obviously figured out how you and bullets can occupy the same space without any consequence to you. There is also one area that pays homage to the original Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II with some plat forming, which is the only excuse to the "don't take in the sights, you douchebag" rule I have set forth. I had a lot of fun with the levels overall, and will cede that -- while good looking -- they retain the important effectiveness of both gameplay and flow. If you remember the layout of the Duke 3D levels, you'll have a decent advantage in DNF (a few of the maps are levels from Duke 3D, like LA Meltdown).
Sadly, Gearbox dropped the ball on the arsenal setup and character sensibilities. Duke is not Master Chief. He doesn’t need a gun to smack an alien. Duke always used his Mighty Boot, and unfortunately, he doesn't in this game -- Duke can only carry two weapons at a time, and alternates between firing them and hitting things with them in DNF; the game has stooped to modern game design tactics and it's extremely visible. When ID made Doom 3 and Quake 4 they gave us an arsenal of about 10 weapons. Stop thinking about realism when it comes to Duke! Duke is a roid using, beer guzzling, stogie smoking man's man. He can carry all the weapons he wants BECAUSE he is Duke. This isn’t Halo or Cawwa Doody, this is Duke. Don’t try to bring him into the world of realism. Similarly, the jetpack is only in multiplayer. First the mighty boot is taken away, now we have to play multiplayer just to tear around on the jetpack? For shame Gear Box, for shame.
I have heard the game getting bad reviews and I don’t quite know why. Were people expecting this game to be ground-breaking? Did they expect it to cure cancer or world hunger? Did any of these people play Duke Nukem 3D? People have slammed the graphics, vulgarity, and gameplay of Duke -- as far as the visuals department is concerned, they're about were what you would expect from an FPS these days. Gameplay-wise -- it's Duke. You kill things. Vulgarity? Seriously? I'm not even going to comment on that one. It's simple: we waited fourteen years for this game. How old were you fourteen years ago? Yeah. Exactly. Things get distorted over that amount of time; trying to hold up to expectations of a decade ago is like snorting crushed glass: It isn’t a good idea from the start so why carry on believing what you once did?