Giant Bomb Review

249 Comments

Duke Nukem Forever Review

2
  • PS3
  • PC
  • X360

Duke Nukem Forever is a sad mess of a game, but hey, at least it finally came out, right?

No Caption Provided

I certainly never expected that I'd write a review of Duke Nukem Forever. It was long-dead, relegated to the isle of canceled games alongside StarCraft: Ghost and Thrill Kill. So, in some weird way, the notion that Duke Nukem Forever is a final, shipping product is all the victory it needs. Duke Nukem Forever is practically a historical document, and my advice to you is that if you're the sort of person who followed 3D Realms all the way down and you're feeling like you need to know how this crazy tale ends, you should play Duke Nukem Forever and see what it's finally become. But also know that this final product is kind of a terrible shooter with a bunch of really mindless attempts at referential humor, both of which do a great disservice to the Duke Nukem 3D legacy. If you're not a history buff and you're just looking for a good time, look somewhere else.

For a game that's supposed to be so over-the-top and bombastic, Duke Nukem Forever sure is boring. Its longer-than-average campaign attempts to deliver on variety by mixing in a few vehicle sequences, an underwater section, and multiple levels where you're shrunk down to tiny size and forced to carefully jump from one platform to another, but these only help make the game feel old. Most of this stuff--the platforming and awkward underwater controls, specifically--has been bred out of modern shooters for a reason. In the context of Duke Nukem Forever, a lot of these sequences feel like filler, meant to distract you from the game's lackluster action. Duke can hold two weapons at a time and has a recharging, Halo-like shield meter, though it's called "Ego" here. This doesn't quite lead to the tactical considerations that a limited inventory might initially imply, though, as the only time you really need a specific weapon is when you're in a boss fight. The game's bosses can only be damaged by turrets or RPGs, so whenever you get into one of these situations, the game makes sure that you have the appropriate weaponry nearby.

The arsenal covers most of what you'd expect from a Duke Nukem game, including a shrink ray and a freeze beam that lets you toy around with enemies a little bit. Duke 3D had one of my all-time favorite shotguns (which is a pretty short list), and the gun returns in Duke Nukem Forever feeling mostly intact. Blasting pigs up close and watching them crumble after one shot is kind of satisfying, even after all these years.

No Caption Provided

But that's probably the only true satisfaction to be found in Duke Nukem Forever. We're past the point of getting thrills from basic interactivity like "hey, you can flush the toilets" or "oh, you can sort of play this awful pinball machine." If the core shooting in the game was exciting, these lame little extras would be forgivable. Instead, they make you wonder if the main parts of Duke would have been better if people weren't wasting their time making sure that the pool tables almost work. Enemies don't really burst apart in a satisfying way, and the bulk of the weaponry feels underwhelming. The console versions of the game also lose something extra in the translation, as an unstable frame rate that only seems to get worse when you're firing heavy weaponry makes everything that much harder to follow.

The action is often monotonous and basic in a way that doesn't even leave room for "old-school" thrills. This is a game that allows for headshots, but certainly doesn't require them. Most enemies don't put out too much of a fight and they go down relatively easily. The game doesn't make up for their weakness by throwing large numbers of bad guys at you at once, and there are even large sections of the game where there's no combat at all. Considering most of the non-combat sequences require you to wander and jump around bland, old-looking environments that feel like they were touched-up by someone wielding nothing but a shader that somehow makes every single surface look slightly greasy, the breaks from combat aren't any better than the parts where you shoot your guns. Even the boss fights get repetitive by having you face a sort-of-harder version of the game's first boss as the game's final boss.

The entire campaign is sprinkled with bits of dialogue from Duke Nukem himself. This, you might remember, is one of the key points about the character. He's a wise-cracking, movie-line-stealing misogynist who loves strippers and cigars. Back in 1996, we were still coming to terms with the idea that PC game characters could talk at all, so it was easy to fall in love with Duke's constant chatter. But times have changed, and Duke's schtick just feels unimaginative and sad in Duke Nukem Forever. Duke's still lifting his material from other sources, and he's getting a fair amount of it wrong. Plus plenty of it is way, way out of date. A mangled version of the "remember, Sully, when I promised to kill you last? I lied" line from Commando makes its way in here. At one point Duke sings "America, fuck yeah" just because your commanding officer mentioned America. The Internet isn't safe, either, with "porkchop sandwiches" dropping in straight out of Eric Fensler's GI Joe PSA reedits. That happened in, what, 2003? No jokes are wrapped around these references, making the whole thing feel like some kind of sub-Family Guy attempt at getting you to chuckle just because you remember a line from Starship Troopers.

No Caption Provided

When he's not "being Duke" by using movie catchphrases, he's "being Duke" by alluding to how much trim he gets. In the unironic world of Duke Nukem Forever, Duke's a superstar sex god with his own Vegas penthouse, complete with a set of sexy twins willing to do anything for him. Females that you encounter along the way fall all over themselves when they encounter you, and the first 30 minutes or so is little more than ego stroking, probably designed to remind you that Duke's a bad-ass. Men want to be him! Women want to be with him! The whole thing feels like it's trying too hard, and Duke's act was already kind of lame the first time around. This time, presented at face value without any meaningful wink or nod to modern sensibilities, the whole thing feels like it was written by crazy people. The character simply doesn't work in 2011, and now that I've played Duke Nukem Forever, I'm left wondering if the character ever truly worked at all, or if standards were just so much lower back then that we didn't bother paying much attention to how stupid it all was.

Though some will probably be offended by some of the things in Duke Nukem Forever, it's not worth getting agitated over. Like the previous game, Duke Nukem Forever's tone is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. You'll again see topless women and some other childish dialogue to accompany those boobs. I think this tone is best summed up in one of the alien hive areas, where you stumble upon a trio of human-looking boobs just sticking out of an alien-looking wall. No bodies, just boobs. Sexy, right? You can slap them around via the use button, and Duke chuckles to himself like some kind of sociopath. It's downright creepy, and it reinforces my feeling that a game with a bit more self-awareness about how out-of-touch the Duke character feels would probably be way funnier. There's certainly a place for sophomoric humor in video games, but the attempts to include it in Duke Nukem Forever fall flat most of the time. It makes Duke feel like a sad, pathetic character that continually needs to pump himself up by reminding anyone who will listen that he is, indeed, the king.

In addition to the campaign, the game also has a multiplayer mode with four different game types. These let you take the Duke weapons into standard deathmatch, team deathmatch, king of the hill, and capture the flag games. It has a maximum player count of eight. Hey, at least that's more than Duke Nukem 3D supported, right? You'll find a remake of the Hollywood level from Duke 3D among the 10 maps, but it just looks weirdly filthy. The map design doesn't feel like it sets you up for elaborate trip mine and pipe bomb traps like the previous game did, which is too bad, as that was one of the best parts about Duke's multiplayer. Like the rest of the game, the multiplayer feels a little mindless and old. Not classic--old.

No Caption Provided

When comparing platforms, it's clear that the PC version was the priority for the game's developers. There, the game is capable of running at a smooth frame rate with reasonable load times between levels. The console versions look extra grimy and unoptimized--things like texture pop-in and depth of field effects aren't as clean. The frame rates aren't as stable and the load times are practically a deal breaker, with huge gaps between levels and after any death. They give you just enough time to realize that you could probably be spending your time doing something else.

It feels weird to criticize a game that's been in development for as long as this one has for feeling like a relic, but in the end, Duke Nukem Forever's development history only really matters to a fraction of the overall audience. As I said before, if you're a part of that crowd, part of that faction that finds yourself so fascinated by this whole project that you need to know how it ends, I recommend you play Duke Nukem Forever for yourself. But I'd practically insist that you do so on the PC and try to wait for a sale. 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.

Jeff Gerstmann on Google+

249 Comments

Avatar image for cincaid
Cincaid

3053

Forum Posts

23409

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 5

Edited By Cincaid • 

Disappointed I am.

Avatar image for metal_mills
Metal_Mills

3535

Forum Posts

4049

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 10

User Lists: 3

Edited By Metal_Mills • 

I knew it would get 2 stars. Sad after so long.

Avatar image for aztecjester
aztecjester

29

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Avatar image for phatseejay
PhatSeeJay

3331

Forum Posts

9727

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 17

Edited By PhatSeeJay • 

Still believe they should have just put this one to bed and gotten started on a completely new game instead.

Avatar image for skrutop
skrutop

3812

Forum Posts

23630

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 48

User Lists: 14

Edited By skrutop • 

That Quick Look was brutal to watch. It had to be worse to play through three times.

Avatar image for arker101
Arker101

1484

Forum Posts

1

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Edited By Arker101 • 

Yep, but hey there's always the next one. 

Avatar image for deegee
DeeGee

2192

Forum Posts

54

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 4

Edited By DeeGee • 

Bulletstorm is the closest we can come to a modern day Duke Nukem.

Avatar image for phrosnite
phrosnite

3525

Forum Posts

1

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By phrosnite • 

I'm not disappointed because I knew DNF wouldn't be good.

Avatar image for whizbang
Whizbang

119

Forum Posts

7

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Whizbang • 

Score is too high.

Avatar image for cylemoore
CyleMoore

568

Forum Posts

1210

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 18

User Lists: 7

Edited By CyleMoore • 

At least it came out.  I'll pick it up once it is in the bargain bin.  

Avatar image for liquidswords
LiquidSwords

2728

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Edited By LiquidSwords • 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Avatar image for floppypants
Floppypants

814

Forum Posts

67

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 14

Edited By Floppypants • 

I think Jeff gave this an extra pity star.

Avatar image for buckybit
buckybit

1517

Forum Posts

619

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Edited By buckybit • 

I just read something that wasn't planned to really exist.

Avatar image for rampageassassin
RampageAssassin

438

Forum Posts

13

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 4

Edited By RampageAssassin • 

Overview statement sums up the thoughts of many gamers. Nice work Jeff and good job getting through this damn awful game.  

Avatar image for silentsnake510
silentsnake510

44

Forum Posts

9

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Avatar image for tehjedicake
TehJedicake

965

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Avatar image for mattyftm
MattyFTM

14890

Forum Posts

67386

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 4

User Lists: 11

Edited By MattyFTM  Moderator • 

Cut them some slack, the development was clearly rushed!!!

Bad jokes aside, I saw this coming a mile away. It was never going to be a good game.

Avatar image for tordah
Tordah

2584

Forum Posts

621

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 11

Edited By Tordah • 

So sad to see the Duke has fallen so low.

Avatar image for minlow
Minlow

12

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Minlow • 

What a shame.  Maybe next time, Duke!

Avatar image for innacces14
innacces14

812

Forum Posts

14

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 1

Edited By innacces14 • 

Jesus. You doing alright, Jeff? After I heard you say that you had to play the PS3 and PC versions I belted out a huge sigh akin to Krusty the Clown's.

Avatar image for alwaysbeclothing
AlwaysBeClothing

1854

Forum Posts

6765

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 4

Edited By AlwaysBeClothing • 

Hmm, maybe one of the lowest reviews for non shovelware. I feel like Jeff was generous to this game in light of its history

Avatar image for re_player1
RE_Player1

8053

Forum Posts

1047

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By RE_Player1 • 
I'm glad this is out because it allows Gearbox to create their own Duke Nukem game and not be chained down to a relic.
Avatar image for delta_ass
delta_ass

3776

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 35

User Lists: 7

Edited By delta_ass • 

Morning Silhouettes.
Warriors stand ready-tense.
By noon, pained silence.
-Haiku by Coordinator Minoru Kurita

Avatar image for jedted
Jedted

2954

Forum Posts

1293

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 16

Edited By Jedted • 

2 stars seems generous for this game.  A for effort, huh? 
Avatar image for win
Win

548

Forum Posts

5327

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By Win • 

An honest and well written review Jeff. 
 
You sounded sick in the QuickLook, get better soon duder.

Avatar image for bolgirk
Bolgirk

24

Forum Posts

49

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Bolgirk • 

With this release, it makes me wonder if this was just part of the purchase of Duke Nukem franchise for Gearbox. They were able to near instantly monetize the franchise and at least get the name back out there. Allowing for Gearbox to reboot the series, and try again at a later time. Either way I think I'll do as Jeff suggested and wait on buying it until its on sale as I'm very curious to see the insanity that it is, just not 50-60 dollars curious.

Avatar image for chirag4
Chirag4

586

Forum Posts

27

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 0

Edited By Chirag4 • 

There's always next time!

Avatar image for president_barackbar
President_Barackbar

3641

Forum Posts

853

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Edited By President_Barackbar • 

I almost feel like this is a good thing. Now that they are rid of DNF, maybe if someone else took a reasonable stab at making a new Duke game it could be really good.

Avatar image for nickux
nickux

1573

Forum Posts

47

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 7

Edited By nickux • 

After hearing Jeff rant about Duke Nukem Forever never coming out on old episodes of the Hot Spot in 2006 it's surreal to be reading this review. The people at 3D Realms who managed to somehow not ship this game after more than a decade should be ashamed of how inept they must be. Will we ever know what really happened? Crazy!

Avatar image for afrokola
afrokola

538

Forum Posts

5958

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 6

Edited By afrokola • 

@DeeGee: Totally agree! Grayson Hunt is this generation's Duke Nukem and he isn't a total jerk!

With that said, I love Duke Nukem, but I'm gonna take Jeff's advice and wait for the game to go on sale. I need to play it, I need to close the book on this game, but I am not gonna pay full price for it based on what I just read.

Avatar image for white_silhouette
White_Silhouette

517

Forum Posts

308

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 4

Edited By White_Silhouette • 

This review read exactly how I thought it would and the games sounds exactly how I expected it to be. For good or ill I am picking it up because I want to experience it. It's too bad it couldn't have been better. But props to Gearbox for at least finishing it.

Avatar image for essi2
essi2

200

Forum Posts

158

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By essi2 • 

Well atleast I'm getting a GFX card upgrade out of this... or a 223EUR pile of shitty game... I choose to belive the former.

Avatar image for dukest3
DukesT3

2103

Forum Posts

773

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Edited By DukesT3 • 

I think this game woud've been decent if it came out in 1999 or 2000 at the latest. 

Avatar image for cookiemonster
CookieMonster

2543

Forum Posts

42

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Avatar image for legend
Legend

2727

Forum Posts

17405

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 20

Edited By Legend • 

I was expecting 1 star from Jeff after seeing the quick look. lol

Avatar image for jiquk
Jiquk

211

Forum Posts

41

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 3

User Lists: 2

Edited By Jiquk • 

Such a shame, I'm still happy it was actually released though. Does anybody remember the old footage from that old ass E3 trailer? I want to play THAT game.

Avatar image for kaigan
Kaigan

303

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By Kaigan • 
@President_Barackbar said:

new Duke game [...] could be really good.

Nah.
Avatar image for mistasparkle
MistaSparkle

2292

Forum Posts

999

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 7

Edited By MistaSparkle • 

So, do you think Jon St. John knew that he was laughing at a set of wall boobs, or did they just add in the samples of things he said while recording where they saw fit? Because I have at least a tiny feeling that he wouldn't be as for these actions coming out of his character as Gearbox was...

Avatar image for zombie2011
zombie2011

5598

Forum Posts

8742

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

Edited By zombie2011 • 

Kinda sucks that Gearbox has this shitty game on there resume.

Avatar image for tadthuggish
TadThuggish

1021

Forum Posts

334

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 41

Edited By TadThuggish • 

"But also know that this final product is kind of a terrible shooter with a bunch of really mindless attempts at referential humor, both of which do a great disservice to the Duke Nukem 3D legacy. If you're not a history buff and you're just looking for a good time, look somewhere else."

Jeff, this reads like a 1 star game and your distaste for it is palpable. Maybe an extra star was added for hype or historical importance.

Avatar image for standstrong
StandStrong

127

Forum Posts

192

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Edited By StandStrong • 

So sad, so sad. I promised myself I would play it no matter how bad it turned out. I fear I may break that promise. Why would you in this day and age put out a piece of shit like that? And also... break our hearts...

Avatar image for frankxiv
frankxiv

2597

Forum Posts

8529

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 1

User Lists: 11

Edited By frankxiv • 

haha the front door image for this review is great

Avatar image for president_barackbar
President_Barackbar

3641

Forum Posts

853

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 2

Edited By President_Barackbar • 

@Kaigan said:

@President_Barackbar said:

new Duke game [...] could be really good.

Nah.

If you told me a couple months ago that I could possibly be interested in a sequel to Prey, I would've laughed in your face. NOTHING is impossible.

Avatar image for mariachimacabre
MariachiMacabre

7097

Forum Posts

106

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 3

Edited By MariachiMacabre • 

@Arker101 said:

Yep, but hey there's always the next one.

I think we should probably move on from Duke. His hayday is about 14 years in the past. Most do not find his jokes funny anymore and I think it's time we moved past the Duke series.

Avatar image for ventilaator
Ventilaator

1569

Forum Posts

179

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 2

User Lists: 9

Edited By Ventilaator • 

"...with a bunch of really mindless attempts at referential humor, both of which do a great disservice to the Duke Nukem 3D legacy."
 
Because Duke Nukem 3D was mature and deep and thoughtful-like in it's humour, right?
 
  

  How dare they release this garbage with immature humour in it and call it the sequel to Duke 3D
 
IT IS TAINTING THE PURITY OF THE DUKE NAME
 
*tear*
Avatar image for kinglouis51
KingLouis51

41

Forum Posts

24

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 8

Edited By KingLouis51 • 

you had pretty nothing positive to say in the quick look so why two stars instead of one? you can't give them credit just for shipping the game. if it's shit then it's shit and you should judge it to the same standard you do other games.

Avatar image for pop
Pop

2726

Forum Posts

4686

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 8

Edited By Pop • 

I've finished it, man it's just bad I don't know if my install was bugged or something but I felt that duke said like 20 lines (if that) of dialog in the entire game and none of them were funny, dude Bulletstorm had better one-liners than this and I think that's saying a lot, that was the only reason why I got the game to hear Duke say some immature lines, don't buy this game, only if you really want to prove it exists :D.

Avatar image for donpixel
DonPixel

2865

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Edited By DonPixel • 

No surprise here demo sucks balls

Avatar image for vincentvendetta
VincentVendetta

522

Forum Posts

13445

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 5

User Lists: 5

Edited By VincentVendetta • 

I was seriously anticipating a 1-star review after seeing that Quick Look.

Avatar image for stingingvelvet
StingingVelvet

595

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 0

Edited By StingingVelvet • 

Well I am only an hour or so in but so far I very much disagree (playing on the PC).  First off I turned off processing effects because the whole thing was blury and suddenly I see nice crisp visuals with some great textures.  Turn off processing people, it looks like ass.
 
As for the game itself it seems really fun.  I do not think "Duke doesn't work in 2011"... this kind of satire actually works for me even better today than it did in 1996, since the media tends to be way too politically correct and liberal for my tastes.  On the other hand Conservatives tend to praise simplistic thought and mock education.  In the end Duke works as a mocking of the former and a parody of the latter for me.  I haven't seen anything truly offensive yet, though I have heard of some sections I might not like that happen later.  The shooting and general gameplay are fun for me and work perfectly on the PC.  I like being rewarded for messing around with the environment through ego boosts.
 
There is lots more to play but so far I agree with the PC Gamer review most of all, which gave the game an 8 out of 10.