Duke Nukem Forever is a first-person shooter developed by both 3D Realms (prior to 2010) and Gearbox (with help from Triptych and Piranha) and published by 2K for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on June 14, 2011. A Mac edition was later published by Aspyr on August 18, 2011. The official sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Forever is known for its sporadic development cycle that spanned over fourteen years and many game engines (including id Tech 2 and Unreal Engine).
Set twelve years after the events of Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem is a retired hero, living the good life in wealth and fame (and in his own high-rise casino, the Lady Killer). When the returning aliens (which the President of the United States claim to be friendly), start a wide-scale invasion to capture all of Earth's women (including Duke's "playmates", the Holsom twins), Duke (with help from Earth Defense Force head General Graves) must find a way to stop the invasion and rescue the women (while curb-stomping every alien he can find).
Duke Nukem Forever is set twelve years after the events of Duke Nukem 3D. The first level is a recreation of Duke 3D's final boss battle with the Cycloid Emperor. Once you've defeated said Emperor, the camera pans out to reveal that it really was: Duke playing his own video game while being given oral sex by the Holsom twins. Duke is living the life (he's apparently retired) and he has everything: money, girls, and, most of all, fame. The game then proceeds to explain that a potential alien invasion has begun as giant alien ships have appeared around the world and right outside of Duke's casino, the Lady Killer. However, the President of the United States wishes that the aliens be left alone.
After beating his own game, Duke goes to a TV interview. Unfortunately, the interview is canceled when the so-called friendly aliens begin invading. Duke hurries back to the Duke Cave where he has a conference call between him, the President of the United States and General Graves (head of the Earth Defense Force). The President clearly states that Duke is not to engage the aliens, as he is already in negotiations with their Emperor; the President doesn't want another alien genocide (said genocide was perpetrated by Duke 12 years earlier). Graves is forced to comply. However, when the Aliens attack the Duke cave it becomes apparent that the aliens are out for revenge. Duke successfully destroys their mothership but is knocked out in the process.
Four hours later, Duke discovers that the aliens are capturing all of Earth's women, which enrages both Duke and Graves. All the women (including the Holsom twins) have been regrouped to the Duke Dome and Nukem plans on saving them. Duke heads over to the Duke Dome and discovers the alien's plans: they're collecting women and impregnating them with alien babies. After watching the Holsom twins die (he cruelly tells them that they're "fucked" seconds before they gruesomely explode, unleashing alien babies), Duke gets revenge by killing the "Queen Bitch" before once again being knocked out and having an erotic dream. In his dream, he owns an awesome strip club full of awesome dudes and beautiful women. During this sequence, the player is required to collect three things to have sex with one of the strippers: popcorn, a vibrator and a condom. The scene ends right before the sex scene.
Duke wakes up and takes a helicopter to the Hoover Dam where the wormhole the aliens came out of is located. Graves has "flipped off" the president and has decided to help out Duke who plans on finishing the aliens off once and for all. Not being able to land near the Dam, the E.D.F. drops off Duke's monster truck, The Mighty Foot. Making his way to the Dam and fighting aliens along the way, Graves inexplicably believes the only way to close the alien wormhole is by destroying the Hoover Dam, which Duke does after his partner fails to plant the charges at the base of the Dam. After closing the wormhole, he meets with the President who is extremely angry. He wanted to negotiate with the alien emperor so they could rule together. Now that his plans have been foiled by Duke, he plans to nuke him to kingdom come. He orders the nuke strike but gets killed by the alien emperor who is then defeated by Duke, who pisses in the emperor's eye socket. Graves comes to pick Duke up via helicopter but the nuke goes off, crashing the helicopter and apparently killing Duke Nukem.
A screen appears stating that Duke is KIA. However, Duke states that that ending is stupid (breaking the fourth wall in the process) and that he can't die. The game cuts to a press conference where Duke has just been sworn in as the 68th President of the United States.
Like its predecessor Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Forever is a first person shooter. Despite the length of the game's development, the game features numerous gameplay elements that are commonplace among modern games of the genre; such features include regenerating health, sprinting, driving sections, and only being able to carry two weapons at once.
As in Duke Nukem 3D, interaction with the environment is a big part of the game. Duke can interact with objects such as toilets, whiteboards and gym equipment. The game also has a large variety of minigames available; these include pinball machines, billiard tables and slot machines. Interacting with certain objects in the environment can grant Duke an "ego boost" by extending the maximum size of his health gauge, referred to in the game as his ego.
Upon completion of the single player game, an extras menu is unlocked that includes:
- Development timeline.
- E3 trailers and game play videos from 1997–2007.
- Triptych office pics.
- Concept art.
- A Duke Nukem soundboard.
The multiplayer has four modes that are a variations on common multiplayer modes like deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag and king of the hill. Duke Nukem Forever shipped with ten maps, including some with jetpacks in them and some that are designed to be played while Duke is shrunken to tiny size. It features an eight player limit with two teams of four for team deathmatch.
The name of DNF's multiplayer modes put a spin on standard names:
- Deathmatch is called Dukematch, where everyone has a Duke Nukem skin.
- Capture the flag is called Capture the Babe, where players carry "babes" back to their home base. The "babe" will sometimes protest and the player can give her a "reassuring slap" to calm her down. This slapping mode, along with the rampant misogyny present throughout the campaign, led to a boycott call by Women's right activist Shelby Knox.
- King of the Hill is called Hail to the King.
Duke Nukem has a variety of weapons at his disposal for killing the evil women-stealing aliens.
Duke's primary weapon, this weapon is a gold plated pistol with laser sights. The pistol was designed to be as realistic as possible, which is why during development, George Broussard brought in a real gun so the designers could play with it and transcribe the feeling of wielding one in the game, but the in-game first person model is pretty inaccurate in terms of proportions. There was also much internal debate on what kind of accessories the gun was to have (at one point it was supposed to be a scoped pistol) but the designers just opted for laser sights on the bottom of the frame. Pig Cops and EDF soldiers will drop a plain, black M1911 when they're dead. The previous Duke Nukem Forever builds that ran on different engines had a more interesting Gold Desert Eagle instead of the Gold M1911.
The freeze ray is a short ranged weapon that allows players to freeze enemies for a certain period of time. Unlike the superior weapon from Duke Nukem 3D, this freezethrower only works at short range, which was intentional according to the developers since players would lose a significant portion of health while approaching enemies, but would regain it once frozen. When the enemy is in a frozen state, Duke can or shoot them, or perform a violent execution move involving shattering the enemy into little pieces.
The pump action shotgun lets off six rounds and is the most effective at close range. The gun was modelled after a shotgun that George Broussard bought in a gun shop in Mesquite, Texas. Broussard brought the gun to the office so it could be designed into the game. The gun is now said to reside in a closet at Broussard's home. It is the same shotgun that was used in Duke Nukem 3D, based on a Winchester 1300 with a heatshield mounted on the barrel, stock removed, and pistol grips installed on both the rear and the pump-action parts of the gun.
The railgun is a long range weapon equipped with a scope, essentially a sniper rifle with a different name. It usually takes enemies out in one shot. The weapon was included in the game when the developers decided to design outdoor environments with vast open ground that was ideal for sniping.
The ripper is a massive machine gun that fires from three different barrels. The weapon was originally planned to be an M16; however, it was redesigned to look like Duke Nukem 3D's iconic ripper after the development team changed game engines and decided to create full 3D renders of each weapon, one of the only intelligent moves made regarding the game's arsenal.
The rocket-propelled grenade launcher fires one rocket at a time and is designed after the same RPG in Duke Nukem 3D. You can guide the launched grenade by keeping your reticule on your target after the rocket has been fired, but this is stupid, as it has been since Half-Life, as it forces the player to take damage while exposed.
The shrink ray lets players shrink enemies. By shrinking an enemy, the player can easily squash them with Duke's boot. Also, shrunken enemies have less firepower when shrunk. The shrink ray was born more than a decade ago, as it is one of the legacy weapons from Duke Nukem 3D.
A twin-rocket launcher that shoots mini-rockets at a high rate of fire. It fires 2 mini-rockets with each shot.
If the player examines the last paid numbers at any of the roulette tables the following numbers can be seen: 4 8 15 16 23 42. This is a subtle nod to the popular television show Lost, which was still on the air when the game was written.
Developer 3D Realms began work on Duke Nukem Forever in 1997. Beset with extensive delays, the release date was pushed back again and again until the company chose not to disclose a release date until the project was close to completion. However, that time never came, and the company halted development on May 6, 2009, twelve years after development began, due to a depletion of development funds. The entire development staff was also let go.
Following this turn of events, Randy Pitchford and Gearbox Software approached 3D Realms heads Scott Miller and George Broussard with a proposal that would see Gearbox take over the remainder of the game's development. After a deal was struck and the remaining legal hurdles were cleared, Gearbox set to work on Duke Nukem Forever in secrecy. On September 3, 2010, Gearbox unveiled the revived Duke Nukem Forever project to the world at PAX 2010. As proof of their work, they provided a playable demo spanning two sections of the game accessible to press and convention goer alike, and a trailer filled with gameplay footage.
The development of Duke Nukem Forever was a rocky ride. To get a better overview of the development cycle, fourteen years long, here's a run-down of the development history of Duke Nukem Forever.
- Duke Nukem Forever was officially announced on April 28th, 1997 by 3D Realms, together with the announcement that 3D Realms had licensed id Software's Quake II engine to power the game, with a release planned for late 1998. However, 3D Realms didn't receive the engine until the following November.
- It was later revealed that the supposed in-game screenshots released in the November 1997 issue of PC Gamer were simply mock-ups based on concept art created by 3D Realms employees in their spare time using the original engine.
1998 - 1999
- At E3 '98, 3D Realms released a trailer showcasing the game running on the Quake II engine for the first time.
- In June 1998, 3D Realms announced they had begun porting the game to run on Epic Games' Unreal Engine. The lead designer stated the transition would take "a month to six weeks" and that the game would be delayed until late 1999, also ensuring that the features shown in the E3 '98 demo would be carried over to the Unreal Engine.
- In 1999, 3D Realms announced they had upgraded to a newer version of the Unreal Engine, the same used in Epic Games' Unreal Tournament, resulting in a second delay of release. 3D Realms released another set of screenshots on November 1st, showcasing Duke Nukem Forever running on the Unreal Engine for the first time. The developer released a single screenshot along with a Christmas card in late December, suggesting the game would be released in 2000.
2000 - 2001
- In early December of 2000, publisher Gathering of Developers had announced that they had acquired the rights to publish Duke Nukem Forever, causing a third release delay. Following this announcement, 3D Realms released another Christmas card suggesting that the game would be released in 2001.
- At E3 2001, 3D Realms released a second Duke Nukem Forever trailer to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the Duke Nukem franchise. The two minutes of in-game footage were the first to show the game in action on the Unreal Engine and proved promising. In August, however, Gathering of Developers shut down and Take-Two Interactive took over the publishing rights to DNF, pushing the game further back to a possible 2002 release.
2002 - 2004
- With the announcement of the Unreal Engine 2, 3D Realms would have to upgrade the existing engine to keep the game on par with competition. Several new programmers were brought on board in 2002, and the development team rewrote the Unreal Engine renderer and several other modules, adding technology from an early version of Unreal Engine 2. According to George Broussard, approximately 95% of level design content was scrapped in the process, causing yet another severe delay in the game's development.
- On May 20, 2003, Jeffery Lapin, the then-CEO of Take-Two, told the press that Duke Nukem Forever would not be released in 2003, apparently without the consent of 3D Realms. In a furious response, Broussard responded on Shacknews saying that "Take-Two needs to STFU IMO." In December of that same year, Lapin said that the game was expected to be finished by late 2004/early 2005.
- In September 2004, Broussard announced the replacement of DNF's Karma physics engine with a physics engine designed by Swedish Studio Meqon, causing further delay.
2005 - 2006
- Rumors in April 2005 suggested that Duke Nukem Forever would appear at E3 2005 along with 3D Realms' previously canceled Prey. While Prey did make an appearance, Duke Nukem Forever did not.
- In February of 2006, Broussard made a statement saying that DNF was still in full production, that core parts of the game were finished and that the development team was tweaking and polishing the game and putting all of the pieces together.
- On March 21, 2006, 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller spoke of future plans for the Duke Nukem franchise beyond DNF, stating "...of course as soon as Duke is done we'll begin a new one."
- In April 2006, Broussard demonstrated samples of the game, including an early level, a vehicle sequence, and a few test rooms. One notable demonstration, according to the May 2006 issue of Computer Games Magazine, featured the interactive use of an in-game computer to send actual e-mails.
- In June, in a filing with the SEC, Take-Two revealed that they had renegotiated the terms of the publishing agreement and would pay 3D Realms $4.25 million instead of $6 million upon the release of the game. The filing also revealed that Take-Two was offering a $500,000 bonus if DNF was commercially released by December 31, 2006. However, Broussard denied the rumors that DNF would be released before the end of the year. Quoted in a Gamespot article published on June 13th, 2006, he stated:
"As for the 500k completion bonus, I don't even know where that came from...I do know that we never cared or asked for it, and I think it was just tossed in as part of some other agreement. We're certainly not motivated by that amount of money, after all this time, and getting the game right is what matters. I would never ship a game early (even a couple of months), for 500k."
- The same article also quoted Broussard regarding the game's funding. "We're making the game. It'll be done when it's done. We've funded 99.999% of the game (aside from a very, very small advance from GT Interactive, years ago, before Take 2 bought the game from them). It's our risk, our necks and our gamble. Under the deal we should be earning royalties from about unit 30,000 or so (that's a real small number)."
- On August 30, 2006, Shacknews reported that several key employees had left 3D Realms. They speculated that the departures would lead to further delays for DNF. However, 3D Realms strongly denied these claims, stating that the employees had left over the course of a number of months and that the game was still moving ahead.
2007 - 2008
- On January 25, 2007 and May 22, 2007, George Broussard posted two Gamasutra job ads with small screenshots of Duke Nukem holding two guns and a Pig Cop. Broussard later confirmed that these were real in-game screenshots.
- On March 20, 2007, 3D Realms co-founder Scott Miller stated that DNF was still in development.
- In July 2007, Game Informer released two new, low-res screenshots, one of which appeared to be a previously unseen shot of an in-game level, the other being the image of Duke posted in the Gamasutra job advertisement from a slightly different angle.
- On September 18, 2008, Broussard began revealing some behind-the-scenes information using his twitter account.
- On December 18, 2008, 3D Realms released a single image displaying in-game models of a number of the game's enemies to the press. No other details regarding the game or its release accompanied it.
- On February 12, 2009, George Broussard posted a screen capture of the Duke Nukem Forever bug log when the development was still ongoing.
- On May 6th, 2009, 3D Realms halted development on Duke Nukem Forever and laid off the entire team working on the game. In the days following the initial leaks and subsequent confirmations, development art and video assets for the game were leaked to the internet, giving the public a glimpse of what Duke Nukem Forever looked like prior to the studio's closure.
- The following week, Take-Two Interactive filed a breach of contract suit against Apogee Software Ltd., the company behind the 3D Realms label. As reported on Kotaku, the suit contends that:
"Apogee repeatedly assured Take-Two and the video-gaming community that it was diligently working toward competing development of the PC Version of the Duke Nukem Forever."
- On May 16th, Shacknews published an article with statements from Scott Miller. Among his quotes, he stated that despite Take-Two paying Infogrames $12 million for the publishing rights to DNF, 3D Realms "didn't get a penny of that." He went on to note that "This, along with so much else, is 100% spin, being eaten up by those who have no clue whatsoever." In the same article, Miller also denied rumors that 3D Realms turned down an offer to sell the Duke Nukem IP to Take-Two for $30 million and stated that no such offer was ever made.
- On June 11th, 2010, Shacknews reported that the lawsuit between Take Two and 3D Realms/Apogee was dismissed with prejudice. Both sides agreed to pay their own legal costs, with neither side owing the other any compensation. "Dismissal with prejudice" stipulates that both sides are legally barred from filing lawsuits under the same claim, essentially ending the long-running legal dispute between the companies.
- On August 10, 2010, an unnamed source had told Kotaku that Gearbox Software is continuing the development of Duke Nukem Forever. The source also claimed that a "playable demo" will be distributed at some point "later this year." Both Gearbox head Randy Pitchford and George Broussard had declined to comment on it.
- On September 3, 2010, Gearbox Software officially took the shroud of secrecy off at PAX 2010 in Seattle and revealed that they had picked up development of Duke Nukem Forever. Though they had yet to announce a release date, they presented a brand new trailer for the game to media and convention goer alike, and also presented a game demo that people were allowed to play for fifteen minutes. Some of the elements seen in the trailer and demo previously appeared in footage leaked in early 2009 shortly after 3D Realms put the project on hold. Indications given on the show floor suggested it will be a 2011 game, in development by Gearbox, Piranha Games, and Triptych.
- On January 20th, 2011, Gearbox announced that Duke Nukem Forever was to finally be on store shelves May 3rd in North America and May 6th Worldwide.
- However, on March 23th, 2011, Gearbox posted a video on Youtube of their President and Executive Producer Randy Pitchford, saying that the game has once again been delayed even if not for long. The new release date given was June 14th in North America and June 10th Worldwide.
- On May 16th, 2011, Gearbox posted another video on Youtube featuring Randy Pitchford announcing that the demo would be release to Duke Nukem First Access members on June 3rd.
- On May 24th, 2011 2K games and Gearbox Software announced that Duke Nukem Forever has gone gold. Fourteen years after the official announcement, the game was complete and ready to be mass produced. The game was slated for release on June 14th, 2011 (US).
- On June 2, 2011 Gearbox sent out demo download codes for First Access members. The demo was nearly identical to the PAX demo from 2010, with a slightly extended 2nd level.
- Duke Nukem Forever was finally released internationally on June 11 2011, and in the US on June 14th.
The extended development cycle and perpetual delays that Duke Nukem Forever endured since the early days of its development have made the game something of a long-running joke. Even other game developers have taken cracks at Duke Nukem Forever's expense, such as when a character in Grasshopper Manufacture's No More Heroes breaks the fourth wall in explaining a theoretical development delay scenario that could have resulted in the game's name being changed to No More Heroes Forever.
Duke Nukem Forever had also been given a catalog of unflattering nicknames over the years, all related to the length of its development and the possibility that it may never see release at all, such as "Duke Nukem Never" and "Duke Nukem Taking Forever." It has also been pointed out on numerous occasions that the game's initials, DNF, are also used in automotive racing parlance to place competitors that "did not finish."
Shortly after 3D Realms halted work on the project, the creator of the internet web-series Zero Punctuation, Ben 'Yahztee' Croshaw, released a mock review of Duke Nukem Forever stating that if a studio had over a decade to develop a game, then it should be the greatest game ever made. He also stated that people shouldn't feel bad about the fate of 3D Realms because they were under contract to finish the game and over the extended duration of the development had lost a great deal of sympathy from the gaming public.
The game was finally released in Europe on June 10, 2011 and in North America June 14, 2011. The game received poor reviews, with Metacritic giving it separate metascores hovering around 50 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 versions. The game was criticized on multiple fronts. The graphics were said to be out dated and the gameplay boring. Reviewers also stated that Duke Nukem as a character did not have a place anymore in modern gaming since the character had failed to evolve after twelve years of development. The console versions were noted to have long loading times (1+ min) and inconsistent frame rates. The PC version does not have these issues. The only praise that can really be found for the game is the fact that it was released. Giant Bomb's Jeff Gerstmann said the following about the title:
If you're not willing to play a sloppy, cobbled together first-person shooter just because it has some kind of weird historical meaning, though, just forget this ever happened and move on. It's great, in some ways, that Duke Nukem Forever was released at all. But don't be confused into thinking that it's a great game.
Following the negative reviews, the Redner Group, a firm which was handling Duke Nukem Forever's marketing campaign, issued a statement on June 15, 2011 saying that due to venomous reviews, they'd be reviewing who should get early copies of future games because according to them, some reviewers "took it too far". Later that day, the Redner Group apologized, stating that the threat was made under emotional duress and that Take-Two Interactive had nothing to do with the idea. That same day, Take-Two severed ties with the Redner Group and no longer employs them to market their games.
Some of the staff behind the game came to its public defense in response to the overwhelmingly negative reviews. Jon St. John, the voice of Duke Nukem, told JoyPads:
I have no comments regarding bad reviews by clueless critics. They seem to want to compare Duke Nukem Forever to Call Of Duty and other FPS' and they are missing the point. My thoughts about Duke Nukem Forever: It freakin' rocks! Lots of action, lots of fun, sexy, funny, irreverent... It's everything I hoped it would be.
In comparing the game's low review scores and high sales figures, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford tweeted the following:
With sales data, It seems like *customers* love Duke. I guess sometimes we want greasy hamburgers instead of caviar...
Two packs of downloadable content were produced for the game. They were released on all platforms save for the Mac edition.
- Hail to the Icons Parody Pack - Released on October 11, 2011 for $9.99. Includes four new multiplayer maps (each with their own unique special weapon and parody of another game): Call of Duke (which parodies Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and has the "N00b T00b"), Sandbox (which parodies Halo: Combat Evolved and has "sticky grenades"), Inferno (with parodies Doom and has the "DFG"), and 2Forts1Bridge (which parodies Team Fortress 2 and has the "Tittyana"). Also includes three new multiplayer game modes: Freeze Tag, Hot Potato, and Hail to the King.
The Doctor Who Cloned Me - Released on December 13, 2011 for $9.99. Includes a new single-player epilogue campaign, where Duke is captured by his old arch-nemesis, the cyborg Dr. Proton, in the heart of Area 51. Along the way, he battles various new enemies, including robotic clones of himself, with new weapons (such as the Microwave Expander). Also includes four new multiplayer maps: Sky-High, Command, Drop Zone, and Biohazard.
Balls of Steel Edition
For $99.99 the Balls of Steel Edition included:
- A bust of Duke Nukem with Carpe Nukem inscribed at the bottom.
- Numbered limited-edition certificate of authenticity.
- 100 page hardcover book: History, Legacy & Legend: Duke Nukem Forever Art from the Vault.
- Duke Nukem Forever postcard series.
- Duke Nukem Forever deck of cards.
- Duke Nukem Forever poker chips.
- Duke Nukem Forever radioactive emblem dice.
- Duke Nukem Forever collectible comic book.
- Duke Nukem Forever foldable paper craft.
- Duke Nukem Forever radioactive emblem sticker.
Kick Ass Edition
The Kick Ass Edition of Duke Nukem Forever is a limited edition package exclusive to the Nordic region. It includes:
- Duke Nukem 3D poster with 3D glasses.
- "Duke's Big Package" in-game content:
- Ego Boost - Extends Duke's ego meter.
- Big Heads - A setting that makes all characters bigger.
- 5 in game T-shirts for Duke.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP / Vista / 7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.0 Ghz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 @ 2.0 Ghz
- Memory: 1 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB free
- Video Memory: 256 MB
- Video Card: nVidia GeForce 7600 / ATI Radeon HD 2600
- Sound Card: DirectX-compatible
- OS: Windows XP / Vista / 7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.4 Ghz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 @ 2.6 Ghz
- Memory: 2 GB
- Hard Drive: 10 GB free
- Video Memory: 512 MB
- Video Card: nVidia GeForce 8800 GTS / ATI Radeon HD 3850
- Sound Card: DirectX-compatible