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Duke Nukem Forever

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Duke Nukem Forever
DNFPC.png
DNF-EU-COVER-ARTjpg.jpg
This game will be remembered as the king of vaporware, forever.
Protagonist(s): Duke Nukem
Genre(s): First-person shooter
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
macOS
Release: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
WW: June 10, 2011
NA: June 14, 2011
JP: March 29, 2012

macOS
WW: August 18, 2011
Engine: Unreal Engine (version unknown)[1]
Unreal Engine 1 (unfinished 2001 build)
Developer(s): 3D Realms[2]
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Aspyr (macOS)
Country: United States
Canada
Series: Duke Nukem
Predecessor: Duke Nukem 3D (canonically)
Duke Nukem: Critical Mass (by release date)
"Wall boobs? Are those wall boobs? Are you serious!? This! Is what I get! In a Duke Nukem Game!?"
Angry Joe

Duke Nukem Forever is a first-person shooter video game developed by 3D Realms and published by 2K Games. It is (so far) the latest installment in the Duke Nukem franchise.

The game achieved infamy as vaporware due to its lengthy and troubled development cycle, having been announced in 1997, and going through numerous delays, redesigns and complete restarts over a tormented dev cycle that lasted fifteen years. It was nearly canceled when developer 3D Realms suffered layoffs and downsizing in 2009, although Triptych Games continued development shortly after. It was eventually picked up by Gearbox Software, who finished development alongside Piranha Games. The version of the game that was actually released is a build created from 2007-2009, with some additional spit and polish added by Gearbox. On May 11, 2022, a couple of unfinished builds of the 2001 version were leaked.

Plot

Duke Nukem must once again save the women of Earth from being abducted by aliens after fifteen years of retirement.

A lot of things happen that don't really matter, even when he succeeds.

Development

The game began development almost immediately after the release of Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, it was first announced on April 28, 1997, and the first official screenshots were sent out in August and September. The announcement claimed the game would be based on the Quake 2 (aka id Tech 2) engine, but the team did not actually receive the Quake 2 engine code until November: all screenshots posted prior to this were bullshots made in the Quake 1 engine instead, which 3D Realms received the previous January. During this time, Duke Nukem Forever was meant to be released early in 1998 and serve as a stopgap while another team at 3D Realms was developing a more powerful engine, intended for its next game: Prey.

The first video footage of the game was released at E3 1998, but director George Broussard was not happy with this build of the game and scrapped it soon afterward to focus on a new build of the game in the new, more powerful Unreal engine, the reason being that the Quake 2 engine was unable to render the vast areas around the Hoover Dam.

This would set a trend: Broussard would see a new FPS come out, and return to his team demanding features from it be integrated into DNF. This caused constant delays and frustrations, led to the game's much-mocked "when it's done" slogan, and also influenced the development of Prey: with the engine switch, occurring when the shareware episode of Prey was supposed to be released, the stopgap (Duke Nukem Forever) suddenly looked more appealing and sophisticated than the main course (Prey). This caused 3D Realms to halt the development of Prey at the end of September 1998, hire Corrinne Yu the following November to work on a new Prey engine by herself, and redirect all of the Prey team to work on Duke Nukem Forever.

Work on the UT build of the game lasted from 1998-2003, during which time Broussard was accused of having a "1995 mentality" towards development, in particular, because of his tiny staff of just 18 people working on the game. Previews were released during this time, with the game highly praised for its advanced graphics and particle physics, but Broussard was still not happy.

Between 2003 and 2006 the game lapsed, with the tide of high-quality games coming out leading to Broussard demanding still more features. Because 3D Realms' contracts were based around a lower-than-average wage for staff in return for a profit share on publication, many staff left in disgust, with some accusing the company of running a scam with no intention of ever releasing the game.

A further clean-slate build began work in 2007, but publisher Take-Two was getting extremely tired of the endless delays. Finally, in May 2009, 3D Realms demanded an additional $6 million to complete the game. Two-Two offered only $2.5 million, and Broussard suspended all further work on the game on May 6th. The entire DNF team was laid off two days after the announcement, but nine members formed their own studio, Triptych Games, and unofficially continued work on the game, while a lawsuit between 3D Realms and Take-Two rumbled through the courts from 2009-2010. As part of a settlement of this suit, Take-Two acquired the Duke Nukem IP and all assets related to the then-current build of DNF.

Take-Two promptly passed development over to Gearbox, who hired Triptych Games and Piranha Games to assist in "polishing" the 2009-vintage build of the game over the period from 2010-2011, finally releasing it in June.

In 2022, Miller released a blog post on the Apogee website about 3D Realms' failure to complete Duke Nukem Forever. He attributed the failure to three major factors: understaffing, the repeated engine changes and the lack of a good development plan. On Twitter[3], Broussard responded that Miller's claims were "nonsense", described him as manipulative and narcissistic, and accused him of blaming others. He blamed Miller for the loss of 3D Realms and the Duke Nukem intellectual property.[4]

Why It Should Be Nuked

  1. The biggest problem is that the game feels more like a parody of Duke Nukem 3D instead of a proper sequel since it goes through similar events and there are many things that carry over from that game but they're made worse. It gets to the point to where you'd think the developers hated Duke Nukem 3D.
    • Where Duke Nukem 3D had small things that you could interact with like a pool table, this was all to make the world feel more alive. In this game, however, these little distractions are now boring and pointless mini-games. To make matters worse, most of the mini-games grant permanent health boosts, and since Duke's base health is so pathetic it makes them almost mandatory to survive.
    • The references in this game aren't based on iconic movies or video games like before but instead a lot are based on things that were popular at the time making them very outdated now, like Christian Bale's meltdown and the Leroy Jenkins meme.
  2. After 15 years of development, the game ended up as a horrible mix between old-school and modern-style shooter games, resulting in a game whose mechanics constantly clash with each other.
    • This includes the use of a two-weapon carrying limit (later four in PC) and regenerating health system (called EGO) similar to Halo and Call of Duty games rather than using health packs and a wide arsenal like other Duke Nukem games. On top of that, certain enemies require a certain weapon to defeat, meaning you are forced to swap weapons when you encounter an enemy that can't be defeated with the weapons you currently have.
      • Despite this, the weapons also have very low ammo caps. They couldn't be bothered to plan out ammo drops either, so there are infinite ammo crates everywhere.
  3. For whatever reason, the game takes multiple jabs at other first-person shooters to the point of outright parodying them.
    • In one scene, Duke refuses to take a Master Chief alike power armor and says that "Power Armor is for pussies", but Duke (like Doomguy, Quakeguy, and other protagonists such as Lo-Wang, and Caleb) always had armor in addition to his health. Ironically, Duke dies very easily in this game compared to Master Chief in Halo.
    • There are several levels which are obviously supposed to parody particular games (Doom 3 in the first level, Prey (2006) in the hive and Half-Life 2 in the construction site) but the game was so delayed that whoever finished it didn't even realize what was being referenced.
  4. Many of the side characters are unlikable and annoying, with The Holsom Twins (a stand-in of the Olsen Twins) and Captain Dylan both being most prominent examples.
  5. Duke himself feels very out of character at times. The worst of this can be seen in the Hive level where Duke cracks jokes while slapping dismembered human wall boobs and jokes about his girlfriends being impregnated by aliens, and then consequently getting torn apart from inside by octobabies.
  6. The writing is terrible.
    • Most of the humor is extremely stupid and sometimes even outright disgusting, consisting mostly of the jokes that were popular in crappy gross-out movies from the 90s. Seriously, there was even a whole trailer dedicated to Duke playing with turds (also, see point 12).
      • One example of this gross humor is the infamous Hive level, which not only has women being raped by the aliens on screen, but also for having "wall boobs" that you can slap to increase your ego meter.
    • It's storyline is poorly written and constantly switches back and fourth without context. In one moment, Duke is given a task to save the Earth's babes, but then it gets forgotten halfway throughout the game and is never mentioned again.
    • Terrible and cringy dialogue, such as Duke's "Duke one, gears nothing!"
    • There are attempts at being self-aware and self-deprecating, but none of it is funny because of how poorly written the game is.
      • At the start of the game, Duke takes a jab at how long it took to develop the game, but because the game was delayed after this line was recorded, he doesn't even get the number of years right.
      • Duke can pick up fecal matter, throw it, and comment on it in a half-assed attempt at "self-deprecation" by the writers.
      • Duke points out how terrible the ending is. That's it. There is no punch line.
      • Having all the NPCs fawn over Duke and talk about how cool he is feels like an incredibly forced attempt to make the player like the character.
  7. There are many things in this game that it can make it come across as myoginistic. Most of the female characters are ditzy idiots like the Holsom Twins or they keep referring to sex with most talking the things they wanna do to Duke. Of course, previous Duke games had sexual things like strippers dancing, but was treated with more maturity and more like a part of the world which in world of Duke is meant to be seedy and a place where sex sells. Couple that with the Hive level and the fact that you can't save any of women, the idea that you need to kill them preventing Octababies from spawning, and that there's a hint in the loading screen that says: "You can touch our wall boobs because they won't let you touch theirs".
  8. The Hive level is easily the worst level in the game. Not only do you fight Octabrains that can instantly kill you, but you also see dismembered "wall boobs" and the emphasis that the women are being raped and to which they will explode with a bunch of Octababies coming out of them. It doesn't help that all the women are constantly crying in pain.
  9. The game seems to have an identity crisis similar to Resident Evil 6 since there are things like puzzle solving, platforming, and driving.
  10. Uninspired, confusing and cluttered level design that's often linear with point A to B mechanics.
  11. Many of the enemies have frustrating mechanics and design choices. For example, the Octabrains, who were able to be killed easily with rockets and pipe bombs in the previous game, will now throw them back and even kill you instantly, even at full health.
  12. Mediocre and forgettable multiplayer. The popular capture the flag mode is modified in this game as "Capture the Babe".
  13. Most of the weapons lack any sense of weight or punch and have been downgraded from 3D. The Ripper and M1911 are in accurate when firing at long rang (most of the time) and the damage especially for the former has been reduced to the point to where it will take several clips to kill ONE Octabrain.
  14. The Battlelord and Cycloid Emperor bosses are both used twice, with only minimal changes the second time. To make matters worse, they can now only be damaged by explosives, which defeats the purpose of boss battles in previous titles.
  15. Padding:
    • The game repeatedly has "guns down" levels where the only thing to do is trundle around interacting with things and picking up items: the extended sequence before reaching the Duke Cave and the Titty City Strip Club are the most obvious examples.
    • The levels where you drive the Mighty Foot (Duke's monster truck). The truck controls poorly and it's a gas guzzler. Throughout your whole time with it you have to stop three times to find a gas canister just to continue the level.
  16. The game runs on a heavily modified version of the original Unreal Engine (from 2001), leading to not awful but outdated graphics with most areas having a disagreeably grimy look to them, with low-res textures and blocky models, and the game has a very aggressive depth-of-field effect that often makes the entire screen look out of focus. The vehicle lot near the stadium is a particularly bad example, as it is more like looking down at a model railroad set than a real location. The animations of the characters and enemies are also poor, with their death animations sometimes glitching out, with Duke's jumping animation looking even worse. By the time then, Bulletstorm, another first person shooter game that released the same year, used the more advanced and superior looking Unreal Engine 3.
  17. The PC version's installer installs a bunch of outdated software the game doesn't even use, such as the AMD Dual-Core Optimizer (which is a software for the Athlon 64 X2 CPU's), even though at the time quad-core and even six-core CPU's already existed.
  18. Many elements and mechanics from the early trailers are never used in the final game (e.g. a rideable motorcycle, enemies including Terminator-like Duke clones and parasite possessed EDF troops who attack Duke on sight, and characters such as Gus the Prospecter, a gangster named Little Caesar and Bombshell, the latter who was originally supposed to be Duke's partner.)
  19. Missed Opportunities:
    • The game builds up towards the President of the United States turning on Duke, but then he gets killed at the Hoover Dam by the Cycloid Emperor.
    • The game makes the gap between it and 3D canon, with over a decade having passed since 3D, and depicts a Duke who's holed himself up in Las Vegas surrounded by glitz and glamor with a museum dedicated to his deeds, with some characters early on referring to him as from another time. Many reviewers remarked that this seemed to be leading to the idea of a washed-up Duke coming out of retirement and reclaiming his old edge or having to reinvent himself for a new threat, but instead, the game depicts Duke as a universally-beloved and unbelievably talented celebrity and never treats him as anything else.
    • At one point, the President claims that Duke, not the aliens, was the first one to kick off the hostilities (something that honestly wouldn't be out-of-character for Duke, and could lead to him learning the consequences of his actions). This goes absolutely nowhere, and it appears that he was inexplicably lying.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Good voice acting especially from Jon St. John who is clearly having fun with it.
  2. The game has an execution mechanic which is used to instantly regen your health.
  3. An update was made for the PC version of the game to increase the number of weapons that Duke can hold from two to four.
  4. The powerups you get for your inventory are actually pretty helpful.
    • Beer: Reduces damage
    • Holoduke
    • Steroids: Works just like the Berserker from Doom
  5. While the intro does reuse the last level of Duke Nukem 3D, it's still a good way to get things started.
  6. Megadeth's cover of the Duke Nukem theme song is pretty awesome.
  7. A now-gone feature allowed players to upload videos of drawing on the whiteboard at the start of the game. Some of these videos were genuinely impressive given the limited nature of the interface.
  8. The DLC packs, The Doctor Who Cloned Me and the Hail to the Icons Parody Pack, were distinct improvements over the main game.
  9. Some of Duke's one-liners are pretty good.
    • I hate to kick my own ass, but it's gotta be done.

Reception

Long before being finished the game was infamous as vaporware, repeatedly winning Wired News' Vaporware award. It placed first in 2001-2003, was given a "lifetime achievement award" so it did not rank in 2004, placed first 2005-2008, was removed from consideration in 2009 when it was believed the game was finally dead after 3D Realms shut down development, and then placed 11th in 2010. It was a long-standing joke in gaming, with no less than three games in the Serious Sam series including jokes at DNF's expense.

Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic calculated the Xbox 360 version 49.36% and 49/100, the PlayStation 3 version to be 47.6% and 51/100 and the PC version 48.52% and 54/100. Elton Jones of Complex chose the game as one of "the most disappointing games of 2011". Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, the creator of Zero Punctuation, listed it as #2 on his list of the worst games of 2011, losing to both Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

IGN criticized "the frequent first-person platforming segments that make up an unnecessarily large percentage of the story mode", although they stated the "shooting sections are simple fun". GamesRadar concluded that "Duke Nukem Forever‍'​s world-record development time has produced an ugly, buggy shooter that veers back and forth between enjoyably average and outright boring, with occasional surges of greatness along the way." GamePro felt that "Unexpected moments ... are really the game's biggest strengths. But they're few and far between."

Angry Joe gave it a 4 out of 10, calling it a copy/paste generic shooter with Duke in it.

It ranked at #1 on Watchmojo's "Top 10 Most Over-Hyped Games Of All-Time".

Trivia

  • Between the time DNF started development and its near-cancellation in 2009, 14 consoles and 4,500 games for those consoles were released. During the same period, 14 Grand Theft Auto games, about over 50 Sonic The Hedgehog games, 75 Mega Man games and 58 games featuring Mario were developed and released.
  • The title has led to frequent mocking alterations, including "Never", "(Taking) Forever", "Whenever", "ForNever", "Neverever", "Forever In Development", and "If Ever"
  • One theory held that DNF's development was some kind of money-laundering scam, claiming that DNF was internally understood to mean "Do Not Finish."
  • In 2013, a mod for Duke Nukem 3D called Duke Nukem Forever 2013 was created, in an attempt to recreate the early versions of DNF (mainly the 2001 build of the game.)
  • On May 11, 2022, after nearly 21 years, two builds of the unfinished version from 2001 shown at E3 of that year, dated August 21 and October 26, were leaked online by a group titled "x0r_jmp", so now that people can download and play it.

Videos

E3 Trailer Videos & Gameplay From 1998, 2001 & 2003

NOTE: 2 E3 trailers are from 1998 & 2001, the gameplay footage is from 2003, aswell the below containing gameplay from leaked 2001 build. This is what Duke Nukem Forever should've been looking like.

References

  1. Released Projects - Unreal Engine 1 - Beyond Unreal
  2. Additional work by Triptych Games, Gearbox Software, and Piranha Games. Piranha ported the game to consoles.
  3. George Broussard's Twitter post
  4. "Former 3D Realms owners clash over Duke Nukem Forever blame". PC Gamer. May 11, 2022.

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