Have you played… Duke Nukem Forever?


Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get a steaming pile of half-baked ideas, geriatric technology and an exhausting cocktail of ill-judged satire and straight-up misanthropy.

In hindsight, what happened was the only appropriate ending for the saga of Duke Nukem Forever, the ever-game, the saviour, the everything and anything. How could all those years, all those promises, all that hype possibly coalesce into anything other than chaos? Look upon my works, ye mighty, and be glad you didn’t pre-order. More to the point, the sorry state of the eventual DNF only adds to the legend.

The most likely alternative – it was released a decade previous, was fine for the time, and then there were a string of diminishing-returns sequels that only looked increasingly pathetic as blockbuster videogame aesthetics moved further and further away from wisecracking lunkheads, ‘babes’ and oversized guns – would, I suspect, have been a sadder fate than burning so brightly for so long, then self-immolating in this insane way.

God, it’s really a thing that happened. I mean – that’s something, isn’t it? And the bit with the poo was funny first time around.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Man, this game was such a trainwreck. Not even just the juvenile tone and poop/boob jokes, but just… everything about it. Controls felt crappy, the graphics were super dated, it made references to so many franchises that had already come and gone by the time the game finally came out, the gunplay was crap, the tone was all over the place, it just… bleh.

    But it was fun, in a farcical kind of way. Briefly. But by the end of the game, I was very, very ready for it to end.

    • Flopdong says:

      I totally agree. I got it in a humble bundle or something and decided to fire it up because I have fond childhood memories of playing Duke3D. The movement and gunplay felt so awful, I quit the game immediately after the first boss fight, which is maybe ten minutes into the game.

      • Addie says:

        The first ten minutes are the polished part, too. You missed out on the ‘Big Rigs Over The Road Racing’-inspired monster truck driving section, with lengthy reloads every time you clip through the scenery, and then the interminable dam section when you fight the same enemies again and again in empty square rooms for 24-hours, non-stop.

  2. RacerX says:

    I was a Duke Nukem 3D junkie. Played deathmatches using a game matchmaking service called Cali over my 33K modem. Ah, it was sweet. So, when Forever came out, I loved it. With all of the aforementioned flaws, I loved it.

    But if I’m honest, I haven’t gone back to play it again. I guess that is telling.

  3. ThePeon26 says:

    Yes I played it and liked it sure it´s not the best Duke game out there Duke nukem 3d is but it was still fun to play and not that bad I don´t understand why people hate on it be happy they did not turn it in to a call of duty clone.

    • N'Al says:

      That full stop at the end really helped me parse your run-on sentence, thank you.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        I was amused by that part the first time around, and upon a second reading, I was rather pleased by the correct apostrophe usage.

  4. nimbulan says:

    I never really understood why this game got so much hate. Sure it felt a few years out of date at release and was definitely more clunky than it should have been, but the gameplay and content was pretty much exactly what you’d expect a modernized Duke Nukem game to be. I feel like people forgot what Duke Nukem was all about during the 11 year development cycle.

    Personally, I quite enjoyed the game despite its flaws. Yeah it could have been better, but what we got was pretty solid and honestly just about the best that could have been expected given the development process.

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      >a modernized Duke Nukem game

      That’s pretty much the problem in a nutshell. Between the much more linear levels, 2-weapon limit (yes I know that got patched to more later, but still), QTEs and regenerating health, it felt like we got a Halo game with Duke’s skin stretched over it. By comparison, Serious Sam 3 came out around the same time and still managed to feel like a classic SS game with higher visual fidelity (I am also aware of the SS HD remasters, but bear with me here). It did add in some modern bits, like optional QTE finisher moves, ADS, sprinting and reloads, but none of those were essential to making progress.

      These days, retro-FPS is a burgeoning genre, and I honestly think the failure of Duke Nukem Forever is partially to thank for that, since we now have many smaller studios willing to follow old frameworks that the major studios won’t touch.

      • Flopdong says:

        I’m so happy that retro FPS games are back in style. I will take circle-strafing and rocket jumping over hiding behind a crate any day. The PS3/360 generation was really rough for me, since nearly every major shooter prioritized cover mechanics and realism over twitchy running and gunning

    • wackazoa says:

      Its moreso that Duke Nukem is like that guy from high school that doesn’t grow out of high school. He was great when we were in high school, but we have grown up and moved on to adulthood. He is still hasn’t.

    • H. Vetinari says:

      never really understood why this game got so much hate.

      1) because it was bad.
      2) there was no way to please the nostalgia. even if the game was pure awsomeness it could not satisfy the expectations; the hype was just to big.

      the same thing would happen if Valve really decided to release HL3 – can you imagine it being satisfactory to majority of fans?
      mission impossible right there.

    • kalirion says:

      “Modernised” = limited to 2 weapons at a time (not counting nades, later patched to 4, yippee), can’t run for longer than a few seconds, can’t even shoot while running, makes fun of women being raped by aliens.

  5. ThePuzzler says:

    No, I played it a finite amount of time.

  6. haldolium says:

    Yes, it wasn’t much fun to play.

    But it did inspire one fan and great artist I happen to knew to do this on the ingame drawing board:
    link to kopfstoff.blogspot.de

  7. cpt_freakout says:

    I received it from a bundle or something, and I had never played it, so I got curious and gave it a shot. First game I hide from my Steam collection.

    • Cyrus says:

      You could remove it from your collection if that is the case. I have, with a few games that I didn’t enjoy and regret purchasing at all.

  8. GallonOfAlan says:

    Yeah, for shame, I pre-ordered it and played it through.

    What struck me most was how you could spot influences from other popular FPS games over its long development period which had been added in a ‘me too’ fashion. For example a section that was obviously Half-Life 2 inspired. But ultimately it was shonky as fuck and sellotaped together. Playing the original Duke on Eduke32 was 100x more fun.

  9. gabrielonuris says:

    Yes, I have, and it was exactly what I expected from a Duke Nukem title. Actually, if you play Duke Nukem 3D again and Forever soon after, you’ll see it’s almost the same game. In short words, if you hate DNF, you probably hate DN3D.

    I think the problem with this game is its fan base: we’re not 12 years old anymore, and a lot of 30-40 years old gamers has a serious case of rose tinted nostalgia eyes, mostly when they think every oldschool shooter was an arena shooter, like Serious Sam and Painkiller.

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      Funny enough, that’s exactly what I did (thanks GOG for the free copy of DN3D). Even if you were to peel away the layers of 90s pastiche and hyper-machismo sillybuggers from Duke Nukem 3D, it still comes out as a superior game to Duke Nukem Forever by virtue of better level design, more satisfying weaponry and the ability to create your own levels/modules. I will grant that the Duke Nukem Forever shown to us in the infamous E3 trailer never actually existed (Broussard/some other 3DRealms person confirmed it was all prerendered mockups), but to honestly equate DNF with DN3D on a mechanical level would be like equating XCOM: UFO Defense with XCOM: Enemy Unknown on a mechanical level.

    • Fenixp says:

      “Actually, if you play Duke Nukem 3D again and Forever soon after, you’ll see it’s almost the same game.”
      Yes, they just have entirely different approach to level design, storytelling and all of their underlying systems. Aside from playing completely differently, they’re pretty much the same game.

  10. mitrovarr says:

    I probably would have played it for old time’s sake if it was just blandly mediocre, or a bit messy and rough around the edges. It’s the insane tonal problems and extreme misogyny that kept me away. I mean, I might have tolerated a bit, the original game had some, but it went crazy with both and I could tell from reviews I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it.

  11. Premium User Badge

    zigguratvertigo says:

    “Look upon my works, ye mighty, and be glad you didn’t preorder.” Beautiful, Alec.

  12. tomimt says:

    I bought Duke 4 from sale out of curiosity. It was as clunky and uninspired experience as I expected, but at least it wasn’t Colonial Marines, which made me feel ripped off despite I got it for a buck.

  13. Spacewalk says:

    I won’t but I’ve watched enough footage of it that I feel like I have suffered an equal amount as the people who have.

  14. mpk says:

    This game is essentially a metaphor for Gearbox as a developer.

    • tomimt says:

      I know a lot of people want to blame Gearbox of how the game ended up as, but it really is more on 3D Realms and George Broussard. He was the one who couldn’t decide what he wanted and kept changing the game for so long, that they lost all the financial footing they had.

      In the end, Gearbox did only something they shouldn’t have and that was to try and tinker something out from what 3D Realms had done and what that something was, was uninspired and directionless. The only real way of salvaging something would have been to trash everything they got from 3D Realms and do it all over again from scratch. But that wasn’t something Gearbox was prepared for as I assume they thought they would have gotten at least something useful but ended up having outdated things.

      I do think Broussard ended up playing Gearbox in order to get some money out of the fiasco he knew he was in.

      • mpk says:

        I was thinking more about how they built their early reputation on the back of other people’s work. Until Borderlands they were, after all, pretty much only known for creating expansion packs for the original Half-Life.

        The Duke Nukem and Aliens: Colonial Marines debacles seem more representative of Gearbox’s output than the happy accident that was the first Borderlands.

  15. fiasco says:

    Yeah man, who doesn’t love a game that combines the worst parts of old and modern shooters as well as hour long driving sections in a car that needs refueling every 30 seconds

  16. syllopsium says:

    I played the demo, and that was bad enough. It didn’t need to be so – Manhatten Project, released not that long before DNF was a solid Duke game.

    Playing DN3D again through eDuke32 revealed that it’s still a solid game, I lost a bit of interest part way through the second episode but the first is a blast.

    Maybe Duke is a little anachronistic, but critics raved about Bulletstorm (personally I thought it was dire).

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      Bulletstorm was a pleasant surprise to me. Granted, I didn’t preorder it or buy it until it was on a fairly deep discount, but the actual rooty-tooty-point’n’shooty was better than most contemporary games, the rocket slide was a breath of fresh air compared to the usual cover shooting, and the game world was intensely colorful. The story was shite and the dialogue was hilariously terrible, but considering you could skip most of the cutscenes they’re barely complaints.

      I’d love to see an actual sequel with PvP multiplayer.

  17. Fabio Silva says:

    Yeah, the game is pretty bad but I found the DLC campaign The Doctor Who Cloned Me to be enjoyable.

  18. Massenstein says:

    Heh, I got this from gamestop for few coins – it was pretty soon after the release, too, and it was sold for pennies – and I will Forever remember the pitying look the clerk gave me. Like he wanted to warn me but then figured I need to make my own mistakes.

    I did somehow play this for over half an hour. Significant part of that was me doodling on the whiteboard in front of the admiring police officers, which may have been the best part of the whole game.

  19. satan says:

    The multiplayer was surprisingly fun and competent. Shame all the servers were empty.

  20. Someoldguy says:

    “as blockbuster videogame aesthetics moved further and further away from … oversized guns”

    If only the same could be said to be true for melee weapons. If anything, they’ve just kept getting stupidly larger. They must be overcompensating for the size of their gun.

  21. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    Yup, but I stopped after a couple hours. Putting up with whatever difficulty it was set to didn’t seem worth the rest of what was on offer, and it didn’t hook me enough in general to restart in an easier mode. However, to be fair, the spectacle and level of interaction up to that point was admirable in some ways.