Wot I Think: Duke Nukem Forever

By Alec Meer on June 13th, 2011 at 5:36 pm.

After a short wait and a bit of help from Gearbox, the new shooter from 3D Realms has quietly arrived on PC and console. It stars one Duke Nukem, a man of ACTION, BABES, BICEPS and MILLIONS OF MINI-GAMES. Is it worth a look and some of your money? Let’s see.

It means well. You can’t fault it that. Sure, Duke Nukem Forever reeks of an arrogance and self-obsession that it resolutely fails to earn, but at the same time it’s forever searching for new ways to divert its player: there’s a clear sense that it wants to be bigger, bolder, wilder, stupider than any game before or since, to become an impossible accomplishment of pomposity and spectacle. The tale of its making, if it’s ever released, will be a fascinating one, but the game itself is a telling document of those 12 years of development.

It’s a grab bag of trends and ideas from the last decade of action games, a severely delayed reaction to Half-Life, Half-life 2, Halo, Gears of War and most of the id catalogue from Quake onwards. It can’t be the first at any of its ideas and features, but it damned well tries to have the most. All those inspirations – all of which it attempts to sneer at with meatless gags such as a dead soldier in a Dead Space mask, a crowbar reference, a pile of Master Chief armour – yet no real sense that it understands why they should be inspirations. It’s a smash and grab raid on the shiniest features of its de facto peers, successors and rivals, stitched together into a chaotic mess of mini-games and sudden gear-shifts.

The reception to the game seems to consist either of either concentrated bile or aggressively defensive praise centred less on the game’s accomplishments and more on why those who don’t love it must surely be humourless cynics determined to punish DNF for taking so long. I don’t fall neatly into either camp, and have no particular feelings about the Duke character or IP one way or another, but my take on DNF is probably best summed up as “I don’t like it.” It’s not the absolute catastrophe some have painted it as, but I don’t like it.

I don’t like the writing, which is tortured and turgid and bland and banal.

I don’t like the shooting, which unevenly strives for the all-out assault of early Dooms and Dukes paired with the restrictive spaces and weapon loadouts of Halos and Gears and ends up being unrewardingly punishing, rather than satisfyingly challenging.

I don’t like the humour, which appears to believe that the only two jokes worth making are people saying that Duke Nukem is awesome and that any random, insensible collection of words can be made into innuendo if it’s said in a braying, sneering tone. Innuendo does and can make me laugh. This isn’t actually innuendo. It’s just a drunk guy shouting whatever pops into his head then cackling.

I don’t like the fondness for jumping puzzles from a cumbersome first-person perspective, like an unwelcome interruption from Half-Life’s Xen inserted at arbitrary points in between the surprisingly infrequent action.

I don’t like the checkpoints and the lack of quicksave, which forces me back far too far whenever I run into an insta-death fall or sadistic boss fight.

I don’t like the map design, which uses back-tracking and arbitrary navigation restriction to create the appearance of far more substantial content than there is.

I don’t like how much time I have to spend waiting, while an NPC jabbers away at me in an incoherent spew of exposition, dated pop-culture references and end-of-the-pier puns, or until a series of scripts play out so a door will unlock and let me through to the next small, closed arena full of pop-up monsters.

I don’t like it. I don’t care whether it’s a Duke Nukem game or a Call of Duty game or a Half-Life game or an Ian McGuns game. I just don’t like it. It’s a dreadful mess, and any amount of good intentions doesn’t redeem it.

All told, there’s a whiff of desperation, that new features from a slow drip-feed of new games have been slapped on top of a wheezing mountain of half-realised ideas as and when someone decides that another title has raised certain expectations. The two-weapon carry limit and recharging health, for instance, seem to have been forced in as a sap to COD and Halo conventions, even though the combat itself is far more in line with early id fare. It throws high-damage enemies at you from pop-up spawn points, but denies you the space, the arsenal or the cover necessary to offset Duke’s relatively limited hit points. A couple more years in development and maybe it would have folded in a Gears of War-style cover system.

Significant love for the character could well, I imagine, mask its severe and fundamental failings to some extent. If that’s a balm that works for you, great. The King’s back, albeit exaggerated from the affectionate action hero parody he was in Duke Nukem 3D to preening sex-pest, and now living in a world where the only conversation topics are testicles and faeces.

It’s the bitty nature I don’t like the most. The sense I get is that a collection of ideas, features and mini-games were devised with no clear overarching objective in mind. “We’ve gotta have driving, we’ve gotta have playable pool tables, we’ve gotta have a crane-moving puzzle, we’ve gotta have a level like Aliens, we’ve got have a minecart bit, we’ve gotta have a wrecking ball…” These candyland delight are, perhaps, noble themselves, but the structure around them is so fragile and unsure.

Of course, “big muscley guy saves the world” is a tale that tells itself, so there isn’t exactly a need for a clever or twist-packed story, but it’s more like wandering around a theme park than embarking on a wild adventure. Complete with the queues. Invariably, progression is a matter of walking into a room, finding all the doors are locked, shooting everything in it, then finding one of the doors has magically unlocked. Even opening said door is often a torturous minigame of repeatedly slapping space to mime Duke prising it apart with his mega-biceps. It has its entertainments and it certainly has gleefully outlandish spectacle, but it makes you work for them by slogging through cheerless busywork.

I can well imagine It doesn’t realise how boring and annoying it is, and with a squint you can well imagine how it became so oblivious. The graphics are fine – hardly 2011 at the top of its game but neither are they a world away from today’s B and C-list fare, with the exception of the diabolical running and jumping animations. There are plenty of weapons, even if they’re mostly old ones, and plenty of enemies, even if they’re mostly old ones. The environments are ambitiously different – a city, a casino, underground slime tunnels, a desert… – but they’re bound to on-rails Find The Door quests peppered with occasional turret sections and visually spectacular but irritating and long-winded boss fights. It accomplishes the singular feat of being highly repetitious and ever-changing – again, clearly determined to entertain even if it’s perhaps lost sight of how to entertain.

“It’s fun!” is the defence I’ve most often heard. Perhaps it is: a torrent of ludicrousness, violence and garbled smut. I can see why people think it’s a much-needed nod back to a lost gaming ethos, and God knows I agree with any sentiment that so many action games these days take themselves and their painfully earnest, overbaked plots far too seriously, but that doesn’t make Duke Nukem Forever good enough.

It’s a misfire as a Duke Nukem project, it’s a misfire as a first-person shooter and it’s certainly a misfire as a legendary game we’ve waited over a decade for. I also agree with any sentiment that argues it was always impossible for any Duke Nukem Forever to live up to its hype and infamy, but that doesn’t give it a free pass to be quite so patchy and thin, to be forgiven for being this irritating, uneven mess.

It means well, I have no doubt of that. It wants to be loved, it wants to make us laugh, it wants to show us big things exploding, it wants us to not get bored, it wants us to have ‘fun.’

Unfortunately, too much of that depends on thinking the presence of Duke is in and of itself ‘fun’ enough. Take him (or at least the vague, fan-fiction-like concept of him, which is what we really have here) away, and what’s left? The trailers for about 30 different games from 1997-2011 stitched awkwardly together and made passingly interactive, with little rhyme or reason. Duke Nukem Forever’s legacy, then, becomes a strangely apt one – a raddled document of the last decade and a half of game design fads, trends and values. Duke Nukem Forever was always going to make history, and history it is.

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185 Comments »

  1. Inigo says:

    So it’s not “fine”?

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      Thermal Ions says:

      I guess only the demo is (in hindsight, maybe optimistically) fine.

    • chinchinpaopin says:

      Lets analyze this for a second…
      Mr. Pitchford is a freaking LIAR, after seeing the Duke Nukem preview interview that he did with Gamespot he dared to have a big smile and a positive attitude but guess what? DUKE NUKEM sucked monkey balls and after ALL THESE YEARS…

      Gearbox and 3D realms while working together in development of Duke Nukem simply ran out of money and packed us with a game full of crap!!!
      Honestly we gamers take pride of our games and for a developer to charge full price on a game that it is under developed or not par with other games out in the market is a big SLAP IN THE FACE AND A RIP OFF!!! Personally I think there should be a law prohibiting stuff like this from happening. I don’t know maybe we should have a national video game council or institution formed by gamers for gamers to analyze these games before they come out. It might sound radical but if you go to the store and buy a dozen of eggs do you expect to have half a dozen in the carton? Well its the same concept its a SCAM what these developers are doing and guess what? while you are frustrated with paying full price for a under developed piece of crap guess what these corporate sharks are doing? Chillin in the Bahamas under the warm sun and white sands watching their stocks grow from their Ipads.

    • Danorz says:

      settle down, beavis

    • d34thly says:

      I actually think that reviewers should have to purchase the games they review with their own out of pocket money so that they might give a more honest review. I think that ALL sites (yes every single one of them including RPS) gave a way too positive, candy coated, review to Duke Nukem Forever. We all might have seen at least one honest review had all the reviewers been out $60 of their own money. I preordered the game on Steam and for the first time really wish I had pirated the game first and cancelled my preorder. This game was such a flaming pile of dogshit that I actually filled out a support ticket @ 2K games requesting a refund or an exchange for literally ANY other game in their library. I doubt a company willing to ask $60 for this game is actually going to look at support tickets or care about keeping any customers happy. Just my 2cents (er $60 as it were).

  2. Antsy says:

    I lost interest when turds became a “feature”. The television advert screams “AVOID ME AT ALL COST”. You’ve just hammered in the final nail.

    • Brutal Deluxe says:

      I was completely put off by this copy:

      The King of All Shooters is back with over-the-top weapons, massive aliens and unprecedented levels of interactivity. This game puts pedal to the metal and tongue firmly in cheek, among other places. Shoot hoops, lift weights, read adult magazines, draw crude messages on whiteboards or ogle one of the many beautiful women that populate Duke’s life; that is if you can pull yourself away long enough from kicking ass and taking names. Duke Nukem was and will forever be immortalized in gaming history, and this is his legend.

      In no way does that sound like something that might interest me. Maybe when I was 13, but even then I could do most of those things in Real Life™

  3. Premium User Badge

    mpk says:

    This is pretty much the verdict I expected, even before I got bored of the demo.

    Haven’t bothered checking, but I wonder how many 8s and 9s it’s picking up in the print press.

    • choconutjoe says:

      PC reviews seem to more of a mixed bag: http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/duke-nukem-forever/critic-reviews

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      HermitUK says:

      The console versions suffer from some bad technical and graphical issues. Digital Foundry’s DNF Face-Off is like a checklist of ways to fluff up a console port.

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      SpakAttack says:

      PC Gamer’s review smacks of corruption or bribery.
      It’s so far wide of the mark that it makes me question my subscription.

    • timmyvos says:

      Remember their Dragon Age 2 review?

    • Groove says:

      I give it eight/infinite Horace sections.

    • d32 says:

      PC Gamer, Dragon Age 2:
      “The best RPG combat ever. Not gaming’s best story, but maybe its best storytelling. Darker, sexier, better.”
      Credibility: 0.
      (There was even typo in this verdict originally, if I remember right: “Darkier, sexier, better”)

      Anyone is actually paying them money for this “subtle” advertisement?

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      shoptroll says:

      I haven’t even played the demo yet but this is exactly what I was expecting for a review. The point about layering on every advancement in FPS games especially. Once news started trickling out about the number of times Broussard sent the game back to the drawing board this seemed to be the case. It was all but confirmed when they started showing the game and people mentioned regenerating health and limited load-out. I’m not terribly surprised the game suffers for it. A shame really since this review makes it sounds like the game can’t decide which generation it belongs to (something that irritated me during the Bulletstorm demo as well).

      I don’t think it’s possible for Gearbox to salvage the game with a patch (further rebalancing the game for regenerating health / limited weapons or scrapping both systems in favor of a traditional health pack system seems like they would be highest priority) but I still expect this game to sell well once the price dips below $20-30 in a holiday sale.

      I fully believe the reason Gearbox purchased the rights to this game is so they can get this game out and the focus on Duke 5. Whether or not this game sells doesn’t matter.

      Now, 2K, if you wouldn’t mind, could you make the first two Duke games freeware or hand them over to the GoG guys? Thanks!

    • Bilbo says:

      I’m not convinced calling out that Dragon Age 2 review is completely straight. The word “better” is the only really misplaced one in the summing up – it is unarguably dark, if in a rather adolescent sort of way, and the changes to the game’s combat are a subjective thing – personally, I think they did a great job improving the combat from 1. I’ve got friends who agree and friends who disagree. Saying that any suggestion that the combat is improved is obvious bias on the part of the reviewer and a smoking gun for foul play is just irresponsible – you didn’t like the game, no problem, but deciding to call whistleblower over it is a little insidious and not reflective of the situation/ of reality

    • Burning Man says:

      Y’know, what’s funny is that EVERY review that PC Gamer publishes features a comments thread on the Dragon Age 2 fiasco. If it’s a Rich McCormick review, it features several threads. That highly misguided opinion piece permanently destroyed any credibility they might have ever had in my eyes, and will haunt them for a very long time to come.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      @shoptroll: The earlier Duke Nukem games (that weren’t already released as freeware) ARE on Gog.com already.

      GoG’s DN3D has issues with Win7, though. Or at least my laptop.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      @ Burning Man

      Oh please. Try to be a little more melodramatic, I dare you.

    • shitflap says:

      @MadTinkerer; I downloaded both duke3dw and eduke32 and both of them have my copy of the Atomic Edition running beautifully on a win7 laptop. Should work with the GoG version I’d imagine..

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      shoptroll says:

      @MadTinkerer

      I think the old side scrolling games (Duke 1 and Duke 2) aren’t on GoG. I’ll have to double check though.

    • Bilbo says:

      No, they aren’t. Nor can I find them on any abandonware sites. Definitely fallen into something of a black hole

    • dskzero says:

      Despite being strictly technically a console game, no one on the consolo world will actually appreciate Duke Nukem as a character. It’s a flawed game, but it’s a game with a target audience. Think of it as the latest Friday the 13th movie, and you’ll see the difference. Personally, I was frustrated by the demo, but it sure felt cool to control Duke again. I’ll check the full version, but I’m not expecting the greatest thing evar. After all, Duke3D wasn’t the most incredible thing ever programmed: It was fun, it was somewhat innovative, and it had boobies. Level design was probably its better attribute, as the engine was bassically a bunch of creative fixes to Doom’s.

    • warp says:

      For those looking for the old duke games, Duke Nukem I and II seem to be available for purchase at http://www.buy3drealms.com/ .

  4. kurtcocaine says:

    but it’s duke….!!

    • Ondrej says:

      I understand your irony, but it’s sad that this kind of enthusiasm was the only thing that devs thought would sell the game. Shame, really. I wanted it to be good, but it’s rubbish.

  5. Warduke says:

    Any potential here for multiplayer ?

  6. Tom OBedlam says:

    I did enjoy DNF, but, as you say, that may be because I really enjoy the completely over the top action hero parody of macho that is Duke. I can’t see myself ever playing through again but I’m glad that I did.

    My favourite Duke game is still the Manhatten Project.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Ah, the oft forgotten Manhattan Project. That really was a blast, I should replay it.

      I actually enjoyed the Duke Nukem Forever demo. The game unlocks tonight on this side of the pond, so I guess I’ll see how the full thing fares. Fortunately for me (or maybe UNfortunately depending on how you look at it), pointless interactivity and lots of variety seem to be enough to hold my attention. Kind of a scary thought, but there you go.

  7. Bodminzer says:

    justabirrafunissalaffpofacenotartsyenuffayagamingfrommasimplertimemissinthepoint.

    • abremms says:

      “justabirrafunissalaffpofacenotartsyenuffayagamingfrommasimplertimemissinthepoint.”

      “Just a bit of fun is all, affpoface not artsy enuff. Ah yeah, gaming from a simpler time, missin’ the point.”

      How close did I get? I’ll admit I have no idea what “affpoface” means.

    • Flint says:

      is a laff, poface

    • eldwl says:

      I think it’s:
      “Just a bit of fun, it’s a laugh, poface, not artsy enough for you? gaming from a simpler time, missing the point”.
      As painful as translating that word-munging was, it was still more fun than DNF. And I wanted to enjoy it. :(

    • Shazbut says:

      EDIT: What others said

    • Bodminzer says:

      Good job everyone, it’s heartwarming to watch people work together like this.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      It’s amusing that people actually believe this is what DNF is. If it were that, it might have been good.

    • Bhazor says:

      So… what’s the justification for it being a complete mess to play and often painfully unfunny. Seriously, I winced at a couple of the one liners.

      Play Matt Hazard or Serious Sam for jokes better than any Duke Nukem game.

    • Nick says:

      Its nothing at all like gaming from a “simpler” time.

    • Bodminzer says:

      I know, but people seem to confuse simple fun with poorly made.

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      lurkalisk says:

      @CompleteBiscuit

      You seem to underestimate the subjectivity of it all.

    • Enikuo says:

      @lurkalisk The whole point of art or entertainment is to evoke a subjective opinion or reaction, so there’s no other way to talk about it. You can talking about the “technical” side of creating art/entertainment, but then you’re not talking about the art/entertainment – you’re talking about the technical stuff.

      However, critics don’t just give opinions, they articulate their thought process for forming opinions. That has value because it helps the audience determine whether that critic’s opinion has merit for them personally. That’s what makes a critic’s opinion relevant.

      You might as well say nothing if your counter point is “it’s subjective.” That’s just a deflection – a way to avoid actually discussing the merits of the game. It doesn’t add to the discourse.

      ~ apologies for the seriousness of my comment. I’ll try to post something unintentionally awkward and funny next time.

  8. VA1N says:

    It’s kind of sad actually. They could have just let him ride off into the sunset as a character who had his day but never quite got a second chance at greatness. People would have respected him a whole hell of a lot more. Now, he’s just a character who had his second chance at greatness and failed miserably. A classic case of what forcing a release for a game, over a decade in the making, will do. Sure, people will buy it for the nostalgia factor, but hell, that’ll just hurt the Duke Nukem name even more. What kind of world am I living in that has made Duke Nukem into a punchline.

    • Blaq says:

      Just wait till you see the three DLCs and two expansions that the game will get. If there’s very little left of the original Duke now, then after Gearbox is done with milking the franchise we won’t even remember the original Duke.

      What a shame.

    • bowl of snakes says:

      exactly, it’s like Duke caught a case of the “Leisure Suit Larry’s”

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I’m actually kind of interested in what Gearbox might cook up for the franchise without the baggage of something that had an awful, protracted development.

    • Oneironaut says:

      All Duke fans have to do is pretend this never happened. I have to do it with movies sometimes.
      A second Matrix? A Prequel to Star Wars? You must be mistaken, I’m sure such a thing has never been made.

  9. little grilly says:

    Alec, it’s obviously too ironic for you. 87)

  10. Zinic says:

    I agree with this review fully. Gearbox should just have scrapped the entire thing and done it over, even if it’d taken another 2-3 years to do so.

    Feels frustrating that one of the few games that wanted to go back to the old school fun aspect of FPS’s got mangled so horribly. Makes me wish it’d been cancelled instead of this.

    And yes, I played all the way through it. Let’s just hope Serious Sam 3 can fill the void.

    • Xocrates says:

      Has any of the developers ever said that they intended for DNF to be a throwback to the good ol’ days, though?

      While I’m certainly aware that that’s what fans wanted and even expected by now, it seems to me that DNF kept trying catching up with the times is the reason the game appears to be such a mess.

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      stahlwerk says:

      I remember reading a quote from George Broussard from many moons ago, where he said something to the extent that they wouldn’t want to make anything less than the best game ever, and wouldn’t release it before it was exactly that.
      This reeks exactly of misguided one-up-manship, it seems G.B. couldn’t communicate his vision of what he thought was the best game possible to his team, and instead opted for the “I want it like this but make it better” and the team taking it literally.

    • Pop says:

      @stahlwerk The thing is “make it like this, but better” is a little bit like saying “read my mind, and surpass my expectations!”. You’re just setting the team an impossible task. By the sounds of it, the team’s done a pretty good job with that.

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      stahlwerk says:

      Yes, that was exactly what I meant. Sorry for the weird phrasing, second language and all that ;-). I’d be very interested in an honest, long post mortem (literally) on this game. The communications aspect especially, since it seems like the project leads couldn’t pull the team’s focus together at all. For thirteen years. It just boggles the mind. There are EU projects in Eastern Europe that are handled way more efficiently than this.

  11. aeromorte says:

    overrated overhyped thats what i say! duke you old mon … let him die with dignity! …. you know who doesnt get old? Chuck Norris! Hell i would play that! or it would play me heh ;P

    • frypiggy says:

      I think you just insulted Duke by even mentioning that no-talent hack Chuck Norris in your post.

  12. Zeewolf says:

    I disagree.

  13. Mehall says:

    I want an Ian McGuns game.

    Anyway, I am enjoying the game, but there are so many things I’d rather play. I’ve ended up becoming a bit of a collector of games (which is impressive given how many are digital downloads not retail boxes, but I digress) instead of a player/master of them.

    Just now I’m playing Test Drive 2, which is fine. Not great, but fine. (I wanted an open-world, Burnout Paradise style Simulationy game, which is what it is, and I’m happy with that), my usual backup of Team Fortress 2, and Bad Company 2.

    I don’t regret my purchase, but I feel my special edition extras will last me longer than the game will.

  14. Torgen says:

    Too bad Gearbox is going to have this hung around their neck, when they were thrown this corpse and told to “get it out the door ASAP.”

    That said, I don’t think “Furious Brothers in Arms 4″ is going to do them any favors in regaining their step. More Borderlands, please. Open up those mesas and salt flats we can see beyond the cannon towers, or better yet, a new world.

    • woodsey says:

      My understanding is that Pitchford was the one who was given the decision to run with it or not.

    • Davie says:

      Borderlands is easily the best thing Gearbox ever produced, and a deeper sequel would be entirely appropriate. I do wish they’d focus on their one original IP, because it was actually worthwhile.

    • propjoe says:

      My understanding is that Pitchford should be fired for what he’s done to Gearbox’s previously very good reputation. It’s lucky for him they don’t have shareholders.

    • GTRichey says:

      Why should Gearbox get a free pass? The fact is no one know what they had when they took over and even if they aren’t responsible for any of the horrible failings they still released the game. Sure there may have been some publisher pressure to get it out but at the end of the day Gearbox made a choice to step in to finish and release it. As far as I’m concerned this means that they have to accept responsibility for it. There’s plenty of blame to go around for sure but Gearbox ultimately is the one releasing it which puts the majority of it squarely on them.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      From the CGI trailer it is eminently clear that that game is Borderlands in WW II.

      Which is bad, because BL was a strict MP only experience, and the SP felt almost like trudging through SP botmatches, just with respawning and everything made out for 4 players..
      And that BIAF4 game could have been a fun SP kicking ass in WW II game with proper PC optimization. Not that I think GBX is capable of making PC games anymore, but there’s always faint hope.

      Re: BL it goes to show you just can’t compromise between SP and MP, the closest you can get is making a great SP and allowing Co-Op or another game centered around MP imho.
      But adjusting for 4 players and weird leveling/respawn logic and then telling people it’s ALSO a SP game is just a misphrase.

  15. QualityJeverage says:

    I’m a ways into the game (Not sure how far), and I guess I’m enjoying myself, but it seems to be in spite of the game. It’s not very good, there isn’t much more to it than that. I’m basically riding the nostalgia train and enjoying the novelty of playable pinball machines. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it until the credits roll, and then never touch the thing again.

  16. Luomu says:

    I was hoping we would get at least a hint of the old gameplay style back: varied, large, non-linear levels with non-wave-spawning based enemies and tons of secrets (even if it meant the return of keycards). Apparently not.

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    stahlwerk says:

    Thanks for the piece, Alec, from the live-blogging I was actually expecting a lot more… bite, perhaps? This was refreshingly level-headed. Leaves it to the hyper-serious, po-faced reader to cackle in vindicated schadenfreude.
    I respect 3DR and Gearbox wanting to finish what they started on their own terms, but now I wonder if the sued-into-oblivion mods would have been the better games.

    Edit: Two things though: How many hours did it take you? And: Does the coherency of the story get any better (i.e. do you get some kind of motivation instead of “yo duke, save us”?), I’d even like to know: is there any character development for Duke?

  18. choconutjoe says:

    I find it hard to disagree with any of the points in this WIT. But at the same time, for me, it was fun. And, for me, that was good enough.

  19. Dozer says:

    What a shame.

  20. Jumwa says:

    Whenever a reviewer actually owns up to something being too hard, I know to take it seriously. Admitting anything wasn’t a “total faceroll” online is like begging to be mocked by the internet hounds, no matter how ridiculously hard and unsatisfying it might be. Takes courage to stand up and put yourself out there to admit that.

    So I’ll be avoiding this if based on nothing else.

  21. Mechorpheus says:

    Drop the two weapons restriction and let me carry more than 7 bullets for each gun, it would be MASSIVELY improved. So much to blame on Halo……

    Crucially though, I AM enjoying it, at least enough to carry on playing it through to the end. The points made above are bang on, but even so, enough clicks for me to enjoy it. I’ve played some SHOCKING FPS games in my time, and this doesn’t nearly fall into that category. Lets hope that they put out some mod tools so these things can be fixed.

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    Diziet Sma says:

    The oddest decision in the game really is the two weapon limit. That and duke getting wasted on one can of beer seem to go against well ‘Duke’ really.

  23. Jahandar says:

    Wasn’t the whole idea that Gearbox was just tieing a bow on DNF so that, now armed with the license, they can set about creating a (good) Duke Nukem game of their own?

    • jalf says:

      Maybe that’s what they wanted to do. But they didn’t need to. They bought the license, but there was no condition that “you can only have it if you promise to finish our DNF”. Gearbox *decided* to do that because they wanted to, because they thought it’d be a good idea, or because … well, who knows. But they could have just bought the license, scrapped this game, and created their own Duke sequel.

  24. mod the world says:

    No surprise that Mr. Meer doesn’t like the Duke. Too many boobs i guess.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Which would be why they’re not mentioned in the WiT at all. ;)

  25. Mr Ak says:

    You mention the story of the making of DNF. Did you ever read the Wired piece after DNF was originally canned? It was hard to miss when it first went to press, but I figure I’ll link to it anyway. It’s really quite good.
    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/fail_duke_nukem/all/1

    • daf says:

      I also read the article trying to figure out who was to blame for the mess in DNF, the article made it clear 3dr and their race to make the best game were to blame, gearbox being only gilt of gluing and polishing it into something releasable.

      In a way it’s kind of cool to see 12 years of gaming history mashed into a single game, something that we wouldn’t get to see if gearbox actually had tried to fix it (one could argue that by fixing it, it wouldn’t be the real DNF). It’s certainly a interesting piece of history itself and a valuable lesson to future game designers (or at least I hope), but not a game worth paying full price for.

      Afaik Gearbox now owns Duke’s property so they can if they want make a proper game eventually, guess the future will tell…

    • Sigh says:

      I came here to post a link to that article too Mr. Ak..

      The story I remember reading in Wired fits exactly with what Alec is writing here. The lead developer/producer continually delayed DN:F every time another blockbuster FPS was released to favorable critical success. He wanted to outdo each new release produce a game that could conceptually compete with all of the big FPS titles.

      Of course with each delay the project morphed into some Sisyphean task. That would explain why it is a patchwork of ideas stolen from other FPSs and slapped together with spit and wire.

      In some ways the story is kind of quaint and dated like one is reading about the 90′s battle for dominance between Quake and Unreal.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Stense says:

    I’ve been playing it a bit and I’ve been enjoying it, but in the way you enjoy a so-bad-that-it’s-good film. I’ve never come across that sensation in games before. Its strange.
    DNF is a terrible game, its clunky, dated gameplay, dated references, some dodgy design descisions and pointless writting. But I find myself not disliking it. I guess I’m just liking the childishness and mindlessness of it all. Kind of cathartic in that way.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Josh Brandt says:

    Sounds like this is all stuff that Bulletstorm did better. Oh well. Maybe when it hits $5.00 on Steam I’ll give it a try, but, meeeeeeeeh. Probably not even at 5 bucks.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      I bet they could become best selling budget title ever, if they slashed the price to 7.99 right now. The interest is there, hell, I’d buy it for that kind of price, and maybe even enjoy it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Josh Brandt says:

      I bet you’re right, yeah. Unfortunately they think it’s still a triple-A title, and have to at least put up the appearance of trying to recoup 12 years of development costs…

    • Arglebargle says:

      This goes into my category of games called ‘Wouldn’t play for Free!’. Because you can’t get that time back. The concentration of things I don’t like in games, in DNF, is amazing. So the review worked great for me, saving me $5 and several hours.

    • Premium User Badge

      Josh Brandt says:

      Actually at this point it’s saved you FIFTY BUCKS. The earlier you decide not to buy it, the more you save!

  28. Wodge says:

    So how come Prey, the other overly long developed shooter, turned out to be good, and this was a bit.. naff? I think Gearbox just took it on to shout “We finished Duke Nukem Forever, waaah!”

    • 0mer says:

      Prey wasn’t good at all though. It was average at best and most reviews at the time said as much. I certainly thought the game was crap; I had to cheat to end the pain and I rarely cheat to end games. It simply bored me to tears.

    • daf says:

      @0mer

      I enjoyed prey, and looking at popular review site it seems I wasn’t the minority…

    • Bhazor says:

      0mer.

      If you had to cheat to finish Prey. Then you must really, really, really suck.

    • Vinraith says:

      @0mer

      Agreed. It had a couple of interesting ideas, and started out with a bit of promise, but it long overstayed its welcome. Furthermore the insipid death minigame meant that cheating was fundamentally the better way to play. You can’t die either way, after all, so why bother?

      It’s one of those games I regret having bought, even at the $5 mark. All that said, Prey 2 looks quite promising, in large part because it looks absolutely nothing like its predecessor.

    • 0mer says:

      @Bhazor

      It was not due to lack of skill but that the game did not engage me at all. I wanted to see the ending and put the game behind me. I don’t like leaving games unfinished because I don’t think you can give a game a fair shake unless you’ve beaten it, but Prey was one of only a few exceptions to that rule. They took an extremely engaging plotline, mythology and scenario and completely mucked it up.

    • Starky says:

      I do the same, cheat through games not because I find them difficulty, but simply because I can’t be arsed playing them properly and just want to burn through it asap.

      Hell some games are actually better with all the cheats on (for example: just cause 2)

    • Fumarole says:

      I would guess that people who didn’t enjoy Prey didn’t play it multiplayer at a LAN with five or six friends and some beer. I generally don’t like deathmatch but some of those maps were downright inspired.

    • Urael says:

      We’re picking on Prey now? Whyioughtta…

      Prey was fine. Leave it alone. I enjoyed it far more than Quake 4, anyway.

  29. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    So, did you bet on Duke?

  30. Premium User Badge

    Daiv says:

    Just think what could have been done with the time and talent that went into this mess.

    We could’ve had a dozen games that were true to themselves instead of one Frankenstein’s Monster abomination.

  31. noobnob says:

    I’m sure there’s people having fun with this game, but is it really worth 50$ for such a mixed bag?

  32. 0mer says:

    The bigger tragedy is that Gearbox now owns the IP. I’ve always thought they put out passable games. Borderlands was their first good game in a long time, everything else has been pretty generic or lackluster.

    At least that’s my opinion.

  33. danly says:

    How’s the Multiplayer?

  34. AlephAleph says:

    This really looks like the same thing that happened to “Elemental”: too many people throwing in ideas and nobody to balance them. And while Duke Nukem 3d brought so many new ideas to the genre DNF brings only the old ones.

  35. Red_Avatar says:

    I like it but don’t love it. It’s fun – despite the many problems.

    It has some great levels (the one where you have to safe a lady from water in a kitchen being one) and it has some dull ones (the desert) – a lot of areas make you wish for more. The desert screamed for a cowboy town shoot out that didn’t just include 4 buildings. On the other hand, there’s enough variety in locations and while I thought the casino came too early in the game (when you had crappy weapons which made it less fun than it ought to have been), it was a good area as well.

    In the end, I think it’s a fun game – nothing special but nothing bad. The scripted stuff is not as exaggerated as in games such as COD and there’s no re-spawning at least. Enemies are fun to fight as well once you got the proper weapons. With the pipe bombs always at your disposal, it always gives you a little edge.

    The two weapon limit is a big no-no though. Mod that out, and the game becomes a lot more fun. I mean, the freeze ray is available near the end of the game and you soon have to drop it because it’s useless against tougher enemies – so why not let you keep it just in case? It seems a wasted opportunity.

  36. Sangman says:

    Honestly I enjoyed this game and I don’t know where all the flak is coming from. I do agree that most things feel dated – basically everything in the game, the graphics, physics, AI, level design,… is not always up to scratch.

    Even then, I really enjoyed this game. I did not expect a perfect or amazing game, but I had a lot of awesome fun in this one and maybe for some people that’s not good enough but for me it was.

  37. RyuRanX says:

    Unfortunately Duke Nukem Forever is not the Duke Nukem 3D sequel we were waiting for.

    I’d love to play a modern FPS with oldschool mechanics like traditional health and armor system, maze-like level design with keycards, exploration, power ups, secrets, non-stop action… not a Halo clone with linear levels and tons of scripts and cutscenes.

    Always bet on Duke Sam.

    • Dominic White says:

      Halo is pretty famous for its open battlefields, clever AI and encounters that can play out wildly differently on multiple tries. Duke Forever has none of these things.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      There’s not a single Halo game I have enjoyed, so that’s a good thing. What you call clever AI, I call annoying AI. Plus I never liked Halo’s guns – it always felt too fiddly and too much made for a gamepad with a huge reticle. That’s not how I like my FPSs.

    • Dominic White says:

      You may not like it, but you can’t deny that Duke Forever tries to imitate it on a great many levels.

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage it, at all.

  38. Dominic White says:

    To anyone saying that we shouldn’t judge this harshly because it’s ‘old school’… No. Stop it. Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Duke 3D and Blood still have active modding scenes, upgraded engines and more. New content and features and graphics enhancements are relased for those classic shooters on a weekly basis.

    And they’re better games. By a very, very long margin. Duke 3D suffers a bit by having absolutely sadistically quicksave-oriented design (death can come VERY quickly, without any sort of warning), but it offers a whole lot of straight-up first-person shooting, inventive level design, tons of secrets and things to explore and more.

    Duke Forever feels like a grab-bag of FPS elements harvested from the last decade, with little concept of why these elements came into play. It’s not old-school. It’s rubbish. It’s up there with Blood 2 in terms of purely bad design all round.

    SiN, after patches, was a true successor to Duke 3D. Bulletstorm is the game that Duke Forever wishes it could be.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      Duke 3D didn’t have many instant-death sequences unless you were rushing ahead, though. Standing near explosions is pretty bad too, obviously. But Duke 3D easily beats Hexen, Heretic, Blood, etc. – especially when played with the latest emulator of EDuke32. It coming with its own proper editor helped loads as well.

      I wouldn’t call Hexen better, though. Hexen was a good game killed by the trademark Raven approach of “pull lever, open some door in a totally different part of the game”. You spend way more time finding where to go to now instead of killing stuff.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Dominic, your first paragraph says enough as far as I’m concerned. Duke Nukem Forever has cemented, for me, the death of creativity and innovation in the mainstream first person shooter.

      To everyone who cares to read:

      Look at the landscape of first person shooters released recently. How many of them are old-school? How many of them don’t have regenerating health and are not “cover-based” in nature? How many of them allow you to hold more than 2-3 weapons? How many of them are NOT LINEAR? How many of them bother to throw more than a couple of enemies at you at once?

      Doom does all of these things, and it is nearly 20 years old. It still has a fan base. It still has new maps and mods made for it. It is still a highly playable first person shooter that, due to its relentlessly tight gameplay mechanics, it tests a player’s spacial awareness while throwing any number of different enemies at the same time in many different ways, and from any direction. And you’re down to 12 health, surrounded by lava, and only a few shotgun shells left. (Or you’re armed to the teeth and can allow yourself a little spree.)

      More pertinently, Duke Nukem 3D was capable of all this, too. I’ve watched a lot of video footage of DNF, and am quite satisfied that the game simply isn’t for me. It didn’t have to be old-school, but the linearity and the pathetic 2-weapon limit is enough to convince me not to bother.

      The king is dead, indeed.

      So yeah, are there any FPSs any more that are old-school? Are creative? Non-linear? … Fun, even?

    • Thants says:

      Bioshock fits most of those criteria. Although a lot of people seem to hate it for not being System Shock.

    • Muzman says:

      Butbutbut…boobies!

    • Urael says:

      “Bioshock fits most of those criteria. Although a lot of people seem to hate it for not being System Shock”

      It might be more accurate to say people hate Bioshock for being System Shock in just about everything but name and looks. Bio doesn’t just have the DNA of its forebear; it’s practically a clone. It’s the blatant missed opportunity that I think gets most people’s dander up.

  39. n0l0g0_n00bder says:

    An elegant, subtle, and understated review of a coarse and piggish game.

    It’s like reading Brian Sewell reviewing of an oil painting of a man setting light to his own flatulence (but without the swearing).

    Alec, I salute you!

    • Magnetude says:

      Hear hear.

      It must have felt strange writing the closing paragraph of a Duke Nukem Forever review after all this time. Nice last sentence.

  40. The Great Wayne says:

    Dunno. Reading this article, and the live blog ftm, it didn’t feel like we’ve been playing the same game. Is it good ? Can’t really judge. Is it fun ? I think so.

    Not doubting your deontology Alec, but I get the feeling that you might be tainted by the phenomenon you describe in the article – DNF tend to polarizes opinions. But it also poses many questions about the expectations of the gamers nowadays. Is being fun enough ? Do franchises are more of a curse than a blessing ? etc.

    Still, I had fun playing DNF. Will I replay it ? Definitely not (but there aren’t many games these days I would gladly play again), is it worth 50 bucks ? I don’t think so. But it’s a fun fps and in itself it’s already something.

  41. Sunjammer says:

    I think my defence (shut up autocorrect) of it is really not about it being very good, but in that it really isn’t as horrendous as some people seem to think. It offends my palate much, much less than, say, Homefront, which is a stupid wreck of shit that seems to think it has genuine pathos, so my general feeling is just that people seem to give it a much harder time than it deserves. It’s a harmless game with nothing to say about anything, but piles on the effort forever and ever in (perhaps misguided) attempts at entertaining you.
    My vibe, when I came out of it, was that yeah, it was an aberration, but it was a generous aberration that I couldn’t muster up any effort to feel anything negative about. I don’t regret paying the full price for it. I hope there will be more aberrations like it, because shit or not, at least it’s some colour.

  42. BobsLawnService says:

    I could live with everything in the review exCept for checkpoints and that ridiculous. Two weapon limit.

  43. Emil.BB says:

    ” Duke Nukem Forever was always going to make history, and history it is.”

    Golden.

    It seems like really bad games often makes really funnny reviews, in some odd way. I had a good laugh reading this and Dan Whiteheads review on EG, really funny reads both of them. I wonder what it is that draws out the Muse of Funny when confronted with utter shit-games.

  44. Radiant says:

    Daikatana 2011

    • Nim says:

      First go play Duke Nukem Forever. Then go play Daikatana. Then remove original statement.

  45. Lagwolf says:

    I think there are quite a few people wishing they hadn’t pre-ordered and that is sad. As I have said before the guys behind DX:HR better read these reviews carefully. If you think Duke fans are harsh, just wait and see if the new DX is a Duke-esque clusterf***.

    • viverravid says:

      Given the ecstatic response of pretty much everyone to the recent leak of 1/4 of the game, I don’t think Eidos Montreal have much to worry about on that score.

  46. Muzman says:

    It’s like Granpappy used to say: No use in tryin’ to be timeless. You’re either of your time or out of time. So, better hurry up.
    (*noisily shifts cigar stub from left corner of mouth to right*)

  47. Wayward says:

    It’s a poor game. I can sort of see where people are coming from in calling it old school, but it’s still just not very good. If you really want that kind of strafing-shooting action then fire up an old game or Serious Sam or Painkiller. Hell, even Necrovision. But DNF is just a weak game with some pointlessly poor design even down to the smallest details. Why am I pressing a button several times to unscrew a bolt?

    The real problem though is that due to the Hive levels I think it’s the most repulsive game that I have ever played. And I’ve played Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. In that game there’s a sequence where Larry puts a strap-on on a teddy bear in the dark, which a girl screws in the dark thinking it’s Larry. The trauma turns her into a lesbian. That was something of a nadir.

    But DNF steps way beyond that. I’m purile and lecherous, and to a point I’m willing to merrily accept that in games too. But the hive levels went beyond being purile and sexist to broaching a horrific level of misogyny. Alien-rape victims encrusted into the level, their uniformly large bare bosoms heaving while they weep and say ‘I’m too young to be pregnant’. The twins apologising for putting on weight. And all to be exploded into viscera and baby aliens, or killed in a crossfire. I didn’t like the imprisoned women in the original duke, but with more graphical fidelity it was just…

    It made me want to be sick. And it reminded me of Shadow Warrior, another 3D realms game. In that, I played up to the point where I bumped into a half-naked anime girl on the toilet. Lo Wang (ho ho ho) says ‘Ah, very stinky!’ and she starts shooting you – giving you a choice between dying and shooting a half-naked lady on the loo. I stopped playing.

    These designers are warped and have some serious fucking issues. I despise them. And I now despise Gearbox too, for making this rancid turd come into the light.

    • Alec Meer says:

      I steered clear of discussing that bit in the Hive after some agonising, but yeah, they completely lost the grip on whatever the joke was supposed to be.

    • Metonymy says:

      Respectfully disagree. When the aliens invade, the men die. The women get pregnant then usually die. There’s parity. It had emotional heft. It was extremely erotic, in a sick way.

      -And it was lifted pixel for pixel from Duke 3D.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      The abducted, alien-encrusted women in Duke3D had exactly one line of text: “Kill me.” Yeah, they were still naked and hot in a totally twisted fucked up way, but that bit was played straight in the original. I haven’t played Forever (and after reading all the reviews and seeing TotalBiscuit’s playthrough of the first 45 minutes, I’m surely not going to), but the more I read about it the more the original sounds tasteful and subtle in comparison. I mean, Duke had his kickass lines in the original, but they were very tongue in cheek. “No one steals our babes… and lives!” is miles from two sisters making out for your benefit.

    • TariqOne says:

      Thank you for mentioning the misogyny issues. And tsk-tsk, as usual, to RPS for avoiding discussing gaming’s continuing lady-problems.

      For those of us with girl gamers in our lives, or who are girl gamers, or just give a shit about gender parity, things like “capture the babe” matter. They need to be talked about, because this industry really can’t seem to move beyond its sterotype as a grunting adolescent male conclave. Pitchford saying he’s offended by the backlash and laughing it off as “heyyy man, it’s Duke!” betrays a real disrespect for women gamers bordering on hostility.

      Someday, swill like this will be a thing of the past, and I challenge the boys of RPS to pay a little more attention to the issue and maybe even help a little in moving beyond this unfortunate and lingering chapter of games history.

  48. Metonymy says:

    The comments here are more entertaining than the game.

    The real problems:
    -They showed us too much of the game while it was being developed. It felt short, because I had already seen the good sections and the good jokes. (and it was, in fact, short)
    -There weren’t enough shooting sections.
    -Combat wasn’t properly designed. Too many bosses had guaranteed hits. Too many enemies were helplessly weak.
    -Combat feels meaningless when you literally cannot die, can’t run out of ammo, and the game even saves for you. CoD is for 12 year olds. Duke isn’t. Duke needed gameplay for grownups.
    -Doom2 is the best fps game ever made, can you developers please just copy a better game?

    • Premium User Badge

      Okami says:

      CoD is for 12 year olds. Duke isn’t.

      You sure about that? Who else would find the jokes in there funny?

  49. Moraven says:

    Whyyyy would they 2 weapon limit… old fps was about getting 8 weapons by the end and using the right when for the right enemy along with what ammo you had left.

  50. Ateius says:

    “lack of quicksaves”

    Well! There goes my purchase.

    I mean I guess the other stuff is bad too, but the quicksaves break the deal before Alec even starts to elaborate.