After running, gunning, and grunting in the Duke’s boots for a week I’ve been trying very hard to pick out the one element of the game that I disliked the most. The story is a strong competitor for first, because its quality suggests that 3D Realms (or one of the other four games studios that developed this title) kidnapped a group of hyper-active teens, force fed them Mountain Dew and action movies for a week, and then locked them in a room until something resembling a plot and dialogue were scratched into the walls.

Then there is the gameplay, which despite some genuinely fun shooting sequences, is so utterly confused about its own pacing that you feel like you’re being punished for playing the fun portions of the game. “Oh, did you enjoy that epic boss battle? Well, here is a dream segment where all you can do is slowly walk around a strip club looking for popcorn.”

To be fair, Duke had its fair share of “f%^& yeah!” moments, but there is a cloud of disappointment that looms over the whole experience. This is mostly due to some very legitimate reasons, but maybe it’s also because, after fourteen years of buildup Duke couldn’t do anything else but collapse under the weight of its own hype. Fourteen years, we built Duke up in our imaginations to be something more than a game, and that’s where it probably should have stayed.

Duke Nukem Forever
Developers: 3D Realms, Triptych Games, Gearbox Software, Piranha Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Plateforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

The Story

The events in DNF take place twelve years after Duke beat back the alien hordes in DN3D. His name and symbol have been trademarked to everything from burger joints to football stadiums and he plays video games based on him in his penthouse suite with his twin celebrity girlfriends. Duke is the hero, and when the aliens come back seeking revenge the world once again looks to him to save them.

…and that’s pretty much it for story. There is a sub-plot about “saving the babes” who were abducted (including Duke’s twins), but for the most part it just feels like the game is killing time before the final mission at the Hoover Dam. The story suffers from two major flaws, the first of which being a weak plot line. Before or at the end of each mission a military General named “Graves” (or whoever is close) pulls Duke aside to tell him where he’s going to fight next and why. It’s a cheap/patchwork way of justifying some of the game’s locations and it boils the story down to something overly simplistic.

Second is the dialogue. I get that DNF is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek and that Duke himself is a testosterone-driven pop culture quote-spewing killing machine (he’s a classic). The problem is that fans of the series (and gamers everywhere) have grown up; we’ve gotten used to games with deeply engaging stories (like Bioshock) and charmingly witty humor (like Portal), and DNF doesn’t just come close with its sub-level toilet humor, zero emotion story, and dry pop culture reference quotes.

The Bad

From a technical aspect, DNF suffers from occasional frame rate drops and frequent texture pop-ins, these are minor inconveniences though. The most frustrating issue is the far too frequent and time consuming load screens (which you’ll be sitting through every time you die).

Character animations are primitive at best.

Probably the biggest issue of the game is its pacing; when you’re blasting away at pig cops or going on a steroid-induced melee-rage the game is actually pretty enjoyable. The game tries to mix in too many puzzle, platforming, and calm “just walking around” segments though, and it ends up killing the fun. Respectfully, the Duke is supposed to be here to “kick ass and chew bubble gum” not spend three fourths of his time solving environmental puzzles.

There is only one rule in the multiplayer: get the devastator to win.

The Good

Probably the best feature of the game was the extras that were included on the disc. Including Duke’s penthouse that could be upgraded and customized by playing the multiplayer, a complete timeline of the game’s development, and other bits like old trailers and concept art. Additionally, fans of Easter eggs will be happy to see the number of movie and game references throughout the story.

While most of the character models are bland, the bosses look pretty cool.


The one question that kept rolling through my mind during my time with DNF was, “fourteen years of development? Really?” So much of the experience was lackluster and forgettable that I found it hard to believe. I suppose, the one good thing to come out of thisis that it’s finally out; the nightmare is over and we can all move on. More importantly the Duke can move on, start fresh, and one day present us with a title that will be truly deserving of being branded a Duke Nukem game.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Author

Colter Palen

Colter Palen

Behold! The callused conceptions of a conceded mind whose depths have been caressed and convexed into contours unknown. It is I, the confused young coot with a carefully concocted conspiracy to take this corroded circle to the black chasms of my consciousness. There is no need to cower though, for I have contrived this coup to be an occurrence without cringing or crying. It will be a cause for celebration, an occasion and a careless campaign. So come and chart close behind your carnivorous corporal down this chilling crypt and consider not what you construe as inconsequential. Before crossing though, my comrades and cohorts, before we chance this correspondence, let me introduce myself, and I must confess that it is considerably copacetic to meet you. My name is Colter.

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  1. sam
    June 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm — Reply

    i was exited about this game…for 12 years! and what i got was an unfinished uncontrollable and out-dated mess. but i do have to say that i got what i expected to get after 12 years, i expected a bad duke nukem game and while the guns are weak and near impossible to shoot and the enemies take a whole clip to kill on the normal difficulty it is stupidly fun, so if your like me and you wanna come home and give your brain a 2 hour-long vacation so you can enjoy a shooter that has boobies aliens and shrinking levels duke nukem forever is for you

    • Damascus
      July 13, 2011 at 4:21 am — Reply

      I’d rather go put my Unreal Tournament game in and play that instead. At least I love the weapons, controls, gameplay and well everything else involved in multiplayer battles.

  2. HunterDan
    June 28, 2011 at 3:00 am — Reply

    which version are we talking about chaps? I purchased it on the PC as I don’t like shooters on the console) and like sa, found it stupidly fun. By no means a classic but a breather from all these pretentious modern combat games that are hogging the market.

    The original Duke had puzzles so the puzzles fit in with the history of the game. The original duke had levels that took you from seedy cinemas, strip clubs, out of space and mission impossible headquarters (Atomic edition only) which were strung together by a flimsy plot. Forever does the same.
    It was never going to be as good as the wait but for me (in my thirties) Duke delivered.
    I’m sure Gearbox released it becasue of the hype surrounding it made it a sure fire hit plus they have a franchise with which to build on because suckers like me will always bet on Duke.

    Your mileage may vary

  3. Spiro Mansour
    June 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm — Reply

    Truthfully I didn’t care about Duke Nukem, until I heard it was actually coming out but my taste was soured when I saw the reviews. So I rented the game and the game isn’t as bad as the press makes of it but this is the review I most agree with. And when I tried out the multilayer all I can hear are 12 year old kids on the microphone thinking “man if only they played the real Duke Nukem” . So all in all this should have be expected I mean this game is basically a 12 year hot potato game that ended with a splat.

  4. Colt
    June 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm — Reply

    I played it on the xbox. I heard that the pc version had less technical issues and faster load times. In regards to the excess puzzles and the flimsy plot, they have been slowly removed from the FPS genre over the past decade for good reason: they take away from the overall experience.

  5. Damascus
    July 13, 2011 at 4:23 am — Reply

    Now they can get to work on the real game. This was pretty much doomed to fail, the hype was so much that it could never have delivered up to expectations. But now, if they’re willing to try, they can take a little time (LITTLE TIME!) to fix the problems and release a sequel that will actually be a good game without the huge weight on it’s shoulders that 14 years can add to it.

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