Duke Nukem Forever

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Duke Nukem Forever



"I said... when it's done!"
Genre(s): First-person shooter
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Release date: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
WW: June 10, 2011
NA: June 14, 2011
JP: March 29, 2012

WW: August 18, 2011
Engine: Unreal Engine
Developer(s): 3D Realms[1]
Publisher(s): 2K Games
Aspyr (macOS)
Made in: United States
Franchise: 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.


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.


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 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.

Why It's Got Balls of Fail

  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.
  2. 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.
  3. Duke's pistol is a M1911, but he only used this gun in Duke Nukem 64. His sidearm in Duke Nukem 3D is a Glock, while in Duke Nukem: Time To Kill, Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes and Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, it is a Desert Eagle. It was also supposed to be a Desert Eagle in DNF, but this was changed after the first UT version was scrapped.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 and Quakeguy) 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. The writing is filled with extremely stupid and sometimes even outright disgusting humor, 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.
    • Another example is the Alien Queen boss fight, in which she disturbingly has three breasts.
  10. The references in this game aren't based on iconic movies or video games 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.
  11. Duke 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.
  12. 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.
  13. The game seems to have an identity crisis similar to Resident Evil 6 since there are things like puzzle solving, platforming, and driving.
  14. Uninspired, confusing and cluttered level design that's often linear with point A to B mechanics.
  15. Many of the enemies have frustrating mechanics and design choices. For example, the Octobrains, who were able to be killed easily with rockets and pipe bombs, will now throw them back and even kill you instantly, even at full health.
  16. 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.
  17. Terrible and cringy dialogue, such as Duke's "Duke one, gears nothing!"
  18. Suffers from constant framerate drops, long load times, and texture pop-in (at least on Xbox 360 version), making the hands looked like a Team Fortress 2 model before it loads.
  19. Mediocre multiplayer. The popular capture the flag mode is modified in this game as "Capture the Babe".
  20. Despite the two-weapon limit, 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.
  21. Most of the weapons lack any sense of weight or punch: the Ripper, for example, looks like it's made of cheap plastic and feels like you're attacking people with a lawn sprinkler.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Extremely outdated graphics. Most areas have 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.
    • Many of the characters and enemies are poorly animated, with their death animations sometimes glitching out. Duke's jumping animation however is even worse.
  25. It runs on a heavily modified version of the original Unreal Engine (from 2001), which would explain the poor performance and extremely dated graphics. To make matters worse, Unreal Engine 3 was around the time the game had launched.
  26. 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.
  27. 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 and Bombshell, who was originally supposed to be Duke's sidekick.)

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Jon St. John's voice acting is still fun, even if Duke isn't exactly himself.
  2. 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.
  3. The intro is good. Better than the actual game, in fact.
  4. Megadeth's cover of the Duke Nukem theme song is pretty awesome.
  5. 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.
  6. The DLC packs, The Doctor Who Cloned Me and the Hail to the Icons Parody Pack, were distinct improvements over the main game.
  7. It makes Rachael Meadow cranky.
  8. Some of Duke's one-liners are funny.


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".


  • 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.)


E3 Trailer Videos & Gameplay From 1998, 2001 & 2003

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


  1. Additional work by Triptych Games, Gearbox Software, and Piranha Games. Piranha ported the game to consoles.


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