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Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me Review

Throw a dog a clone.

It's a definite improvement. Duke Nukem Forever's latest batch of DLC feels like an attempt to replace the game's original campaign with something a little less wobbly, and it just about manages that. The storyline is a touch wittier: Duke's fighting an army made from clones of himself before jetting off into space to really stick it to the alien menace again. The pacing doesn't seem quite so haphazard and the grim lady grot has been confined, more or less, to an eleventh-hour visit to a brothel - a sequence that feels more like a contractual obligation than anything the developers actually thought was a good idea.

As campaigns go, this four-hour episode, with its own beginning, middle and end, is better than the main event in every way imaginable. Sadly, it's still not particularly good.

The problem is pretty simple: The Doctor Who Cloned Me can improve on the detailing all it wants, but it can't escape the fact that it has to build on the original game's rotten framework. That means the same arsenal of weightless, ineffectual weaponry wedged into the same two slots, the same boxy art assets, and the same lengthy loading times between levels. The locations may zip past a lot faster and the references may be a little more current - Portal gets a nod this time, instead of Team America - but it's still a bit of a slog as you move from one cramped interior to another, stopping now and then for a limp forklift puzzle or a painful bit of first-person platforming.

There are at least a few places where things start to click, though, like the moment the game sets up a series of rooms filled with nothing but pig cops, and then lets you loose with a shotgun to blast them all to pieces. There's a driving bit on the moon that isn't too bad, either, while a lengthy elevator trip past laser grids and enemy spawn points is nimble and moderately entertaining. By the time Duke's hijacking a school bus and ploughing through waves of teleporting metal numbnuts - my terminology - on an underground highway, the whole thing almost feels like a hillbilly take on a Halo endgame.

As with Forever, Duke still sounds like he's fighting a cold as well as aliens.

Yet these moments never last. They can't really, because Duke's world can't handle too many on-screen enemies at once, because the AI's not that enjoyable to fight against in the first place, and because the arsenal, shotgun aside, is no fun to shoot with. That's a problem in a shooter.

At least you get two more weapons on this outing, by my count, with both the Expander and the Impregnator thrown into the mix. Both are suitably gimmicky and cause a fair amount of damage, but neither can do much to bring the game's miserable firefights to life.

Beyond the new guns, you also get four new multiplayer maps to knock around with, and one of these is pretty good. Sky-High is a large, complex environment split across office interiors and a series of cluttered rooftops. Riddled with jump-pads and tricksy lines of sight, it offers a reasonable balance for snipers and shotgunners alike. In comparison, the other three arenas tend to blend somewhat. Command's a tight cluster of arcing corridors set on a space station, Drop Zone's another rooftop jaunt with a big hole in the middle, and Biohazard appears to draw players into a deadly Ikea warehouse. It would probably be nice, tense, fun if there were more people online (this is on 360 at least, where the community appears to be pretty small).

It's possible you might be picking up The Doctor Who Cloned Me in order to get a glimpse of what Gearbox is planning to do with the franchise for its inevitable reboot. If that's the case, you'll be disappointed: this campaign is the work of Triptych Games, a studio formed to help finish Forever back in 2009. While the new content's got the odd decent joke and the occasional smart encounter, it's lacking the sharp design wit that characterised Gearbox's own download work on Borderlands.

As a shot at redemption this falls a little short, then. Duke's trying his best, but there's still too much of the past hanging around and holding him back.

5 / 10

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