In Defence Of Duke Nukem Forever

In Defence Of Duke Nukem Forever

Who is Duke Nukem, and why – after all of these years – are we still talking about him? One of our readers has described him as a “character that people actually love or hate. Or feel something about. As opposed to military personnel (1) and (1a).” In a sea of “blandness,” according to the reader, the Duke is something to be excited about – outdated graphics and overlong loading screens be damned.

When Stephen Totilo posted his impressions of Duke Nukem Forever on Sunday afternoon, the response was dizzying. It consisted of nearly a thousand comments, forming a labyrinth of impressions almost as daunting and erratic as Forever’s decade-plus development period. One recurring argument stood out amongst all the rest: the Duke’s fans love him not in spite of, but because of his being an anachronism of epic proportions.

Reader evilmajikman chimed in to remind us that Duke Nukem Forever was never supposed to be playing in the same ballpark as Call of Duty or Halo.

Honestly I find all the criticisms on this pretty stupid. Like people hating on it for not being the most advanced shooter, well no shit its not the most advanced shooter. It was never supposed to be.

I am sick and tired of shooters being nailed as bad games for being too different than Call of Duty or any generic war first person shooters. Take Aliens vs Predators for example. It was exactly what it was supposed to be. Aliens fighting Preds. I remember the Game Informer review bashing AvP for Aliens being able to crawl on walls and Predators being able to go invisible… well no shit. It’s AvP.

Another commenter, Ian Paul Freeeley, was content with a Duke title that simply did what it was going to do, even if in doing so it failed to turn the gaming world on its head.

Not every game needs to be made into some highly critically praised blockbuster. Besides, a lot of that shit gets too much credit for its own good anyhow. I’ll take this over Call of Duty any day of the week. Pitchford’s crew did a noble thing by finishing this, and it’s an ode to old school gamers around the world.

Perhaps Duke Nukem Forever is a victim of a lousy port-job to the Xbox 360; commenter richjdonato isn’t alone in suggesting that the game is far better when played on the PC.

Sure this game was never going to be GotY material but the complaints I hear of long load times, bad graphics, bad AI. All I can say is play it on the PC. None of those problems exist. My games take a total of 5 – 8 seconds max to load. After dying I have maybe a 4 second screen. Consoles is why your DNF experience is bad. As for the bad AI, well I havn’t noticed anything bad and it seems like the stock standard enemy AI that has been used for every single FPS since Half-Life boosted the enemies to attack, run away and throw grenades.

Some readers, like Arctic Tabasco, have argued that by peeling away some of the sub-par workmanship and graphical shoddiness, Forever is actually a perfectly competent game.

Without a shadow of a doubt, there is a full, enjoyable game here, that will take a good while to finish as well. And at no point did I feel they padded the thing out with unnecessary levels. The weapons are the good ol’ friends you had way back in Duke 3D with a couple alien weapon additions, the aliens are the same motherfuckers as back then (though some have learned some new tricks), there’s lots of different things to “fuck around” with (pinball machines, porn mags, answering machines, vending machines etc etc.), and the babes are pure exploitation material. This game is pretty much what I expected it to be – Duke Nukem 3D gameplay with modern graphics.

A reader called Muel made an especially eloquent argument in defence of some of Forever’s gameplay mechanics.

This is when the game starts to remember it’s meant to be a fun shooter as well as just being Duke. The enemy patterns aren’t as predictable, with more space to move around. The weapons have real bite and punch to them, in particular the excellent shotgun and the Assault Commander laser (with its odd gatling gun spin-up time, but relatively low rate of fire). There’s a real fluidity to the combat as you duck and weave to take down the enemy groups. Some enemies engage from the front, others teleport around you, forcing you to run and gun; there are different options and you aren’t just in a shooting gallery any more. It’s far better than the first part of the game and, despite the ropey graphics, manages to be exciting to play.

It even – occasionally – feels emergent in a Killzone or Halo sort of way.

And what about the violence and the chauvinism, the exploding women and microwaved rats? Are these lines that – in the gaming climate of 2011 – ought not to be crossed? A reader going by 0LunarEclipse0 had some rather big thoughts on this particular quandary.

No there are no lines. Duke pushes lines always has always will. Just because you can’t handle shock humor does not make it not funny. Everything can be funny. I’ve laughed at some of the most racist and disgusting jokes. Maybe that makes me a horrible person. But that is fine. I am tired of people’s delicate sensibilities. Rape, Murder, Drugs. We see it all in games, movie and books. Sometimes these mediums make jokes out of them. This is nothing new. You sit there and cry and I laugh. Sorry shock humor is funny. Just because something pushes you to far doesn’t mean it pushes everyone to far. NOTHING is off limits. Not rape, murder, religion or politics. Nothing should ever be off limits. If we sacrifice freedom we sacrafice life.

The very fact that this offends you is more truth that it should be defended. Because you want it silenced. Censored. Well freedom means free. Regardless of how much something offends you, we can say and do what we want. Because your feelings don’t matter.

I don’t support rape and this joke goes a little to far even for me. But I beleive in freedom. So nothing ever should be off limits.

OK, so maybe you don’t agree that how a person feels about Duke Nukem Forever is a good barometer of that same person’s attitude toward the idea of “freedom”. But being a fan isn’t necessarily about being logical or objective. Of all of the sentiments I stumbled across in the still-expanding thread, the words of a reader going by Nivenus – in which they likened a fanboy to a person defending the honour of a family member – were the most insightful.

A fine analogy might be between a family member and a friendly acquaintance. You enjoy the company of the latter, but you’ve got nothing invested there and you’re far more willing to stand up for and defend the former than you are the latter. The same thing is true for a fan and their favoured series/genre – they’ll stick up for it when someone who is only casually fond wouldn’t.

The difference between a good game and a great game is that a great game is enjoyable by fans and non-fans alike. The mistake you’re making is assuming that anyone who isn’t a fan is an anti-fan, someone who dislikes the game off the bat. But that’s not true. There’s a middle ground and it’s the middle ground that great art wins over.

Fans of Duke Nukem Forever may not be arguing that the title constitutes high art—but that isn’t stopping them from enjoying it.

“We just needed some fun,” wrote commentor Obi_Al_Kenobi. This game need[s]to be reviewed not against 90’s standards, but [as]a standalone product [come back]from the ’90s to complete the circle that now is closed.”


  • As I said in an earlier post, some people want their games to be nothing more than tech demos. Just enjoy a game for once.

  • I played it for the first time last night. I didn’t even notice that the graphics were not Cresis-like. That’s because the game itself was funny and witty enough to keep me entertained without the need for that.

    It’s like Leisure Suit Larry, Simon the Sourcerer, Day of the Tentacles, and any other 8bit classic graphics games, they didn’t rely on graphics to keep you entertained, they had to be good games. I am enjoying Forever because it’s different and entertaining.

  • I think they forgot about those who give a crap about him?

    But since everyone is jumping in on the bandwagon… relating to the first quote… Yeah in today’s gaming world it’s not meant to be the most advanced shooter. But no doubt it was meant to be or tried to be if it was released ON time that lifetime ago.

    But it was completed and released as an ode and to well, finally give the fans of the series the game they have patiently waited for, for so long. Others should just respect that – don’t hear many people going on about how much of a letdown Starcraft II was as much as you do people criticising DNF.

    • That’s because Starcraft II was NOT a let down.

      A fantastic 14 hour cinematic campaign and a well polished multiplayer that will still be going strong when people are saying ‘Duke Who?’.

      Starcraft II was worth the wait. Duke Nukem forever was not.

      • Oh look it’s you again. Care to contradict yourself some more? Perhaps make up some facts while you’re at it?

      • “That’s because Starcraft II was NOT a let down.”

        Well SC2 was a let down for me before it even came out. As soon as they made it Starcraft 1.5 with nothing but prettier graphics, no new races or hardly anything new at all. Then they take out LAN and split the game up into three so they can sell it to us three times over.

      • Star what? You mean that thing with the asian servers and the no LAN?

        Yeah, no thanks.

        Someone call me up when they make a sequel to Starcraft. It’s gonna happen one of these days. Shame Blizzard isn’t around anymore, they could’ve done it justice.

  • I just can’t get over the loading times on the xbox. Started playing at medium difficulty and wanted to drop it back just to avoid those damn loading times… unfortunatly there is no option to drop difficulty once you’ve started so I guess i’m going to continue to wait my way through the game.

  • honestly I think it is good to have DNF around… everything else is trying to be COD and taking themselves so serious… I want my game to be a game. while, lets say I rather shoot aliens in a strip club instead of shooting people in the third world country… not every movie needs to be schindler’s list; Hang over 2 gets to be made too.

  • Fuck’em! Duke rocks!

    I’ll take Duke’s side against any-nameless-marine-thrown-in-a-battle-for-2-seconds-of-story-line-so-we-can-get-to-multiplayer.

    I loved Duke Nukem games when they were side scrollers and love it as a FPS. It is something different and great

  • I agree with most of the points above. I think one of the overarching reasons for the flak that Duke Nukem Forever has copped from reviewers is the fact that alot of reviewers have forgotten what a “fun” game is.

    It probably has a little to do with the fact E3 was on too. Yes, Uncharted 3 was shown and everybody’s remembering how pretty Uncharted 2 was, how well the story was written, how Uncharted 3 is most likely going to be game of the year.

    The fact of the matter is that Duke Nukem Forever is the first game in a while that has actually made me laugh out loud, and have me stupidly smiling through most of it. Sure, it’s immature, unpolished, and glitchy, but Duke Nukem Forever is fun.

  • I’ve found the game has been FUN that’s it i can play it for a bit and just have a smile on my face

  • I’d like to see how this game would have been reviewed back in the days of say, Half-Life 2. From what I’ve read, a lot of the hate is around fundamental mechanics like bad AI and pacing which I understand. Though I’ve also seen a lot of hate directed towards Duke as a character himself which I don’t agree with. Duke is Duke, you can’t bad mouth the type of humour that comes with him and you can’t expect some sort of fully fleshed out story either. I’ve yet to play the game but one thing does bug me – two weapon limit. I’ll play it eventually.

  • I echo the sentiments about DNF being better on PC – I had little loading time either between levels or upon death and restarting.

  • You know, games used to be fun to play. Entertainment on a level that didn’t require hours of grind, or co-ordinating an assault on a map. And to be quite frank there is way too much of the latter and not enough of the formoer in today’s gaming line-ups.

    It’s one of the reasons why I love LittleBigPlanet and its sequel on my PS3, both of those titles are bloody good fun to play. And I have enjoyed Duke on my PC; Graphics problems? What graphics problems?

    The load times on my laptop are great and its sweet in 1920x1080p. But thats not why I’m enjoying it. I’m not playing it for sophisticated story, and certainly not because of overly elaborate, complex set-ups but because there are some Aliens, some big guns and not enough gum…. It’s a game not Shakespeare.

  • I’m finding these days, most reviewers soon lose their perspective on their job. As a result (like a lot of jobs out there) they either begin to hate their work, or the enjoyment of videogames begins to dwindle. As a result, they tear away at new games they’re reviewing and completely lose sight of what they’re actually reviewing.

    IE: They become nit-picking, negative motherf*ckers.

    Some mates asked me to sum up the new duke cos I got it a day before them. I wrote back


    nuff said

  • Amazing how many people are chalking the game off as ‘fun’ instead of ‘shit’, simply to avoid acknowledging the fact this game was not worth waiting 14 years, or even 3 months for.

    At least the whole Duke Nukem thing has some closure, good or bad. That’s something.

  • Hmmmm, the thing is, nobody has the right NOT to be offended.

    Think about it.

    Personally I don’t get all the hate. All of sudden people have this sexist moral compass and an infinite supply of hate for macho / ego induced duke.

    I love the campy 90’s action hero persona, and I cant understand why the ‘womanizing’ is so looked down from lets face it, a bunch of predominantly geeks that probably watch way to much hardcore pornography and Sasha grey in real life anyway.

  • Anyone who says they laugh at any of the jokes in this game are either lying or laugh hysterically anytime someone says “the game”

    Sorry but if you think throwing references every five seconds is funny, then I think we know which people are the ones that keep supporting the horrible movies of Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and Vampire sucks

    Besides that this game isn’t colourful fun, it does the exact same crap as Halo and Cod.
    Linear gameplay, scripted events, two weapon system, regenerating health
    Its even mostly grey and brown for christs sake

    How does this hearken back to Duke 3d at all?
    He was funny and didn’t rely solely on throwing game references out of context hoping people will giggle at it, his games were not linear, they encouraged exploration and it let you keep whatever weapon you wanted

    Even the fricking multiplayer they couldnt get right, with what could have been an excellent thing is ruined by P2P play, nonexistent dedicated servers and them locking out the command console

    This game is no better than COD or Halo which is all the more ironic considering it does the very same things they do, but worse

    I can’t blame Gearbox for this, they just put the pieces that were left behind together, but christ if they make another Duke game, do not follow in the footsteps of 3d Realms design choices for the love of god

  • I think if you look at this game from a purely technical perspective, its hard to argue against the reality of extremely long load times (even restoring a checkpoint), short/simple level designs (before having to load the next level again!), low frame rate when more than 3 enemies on screen and strange sound cues (Duke sounded different during the same audio cue, like the 2nd sentence was recorded at a different time and place than the 1st sentence in the cue).

    I agree with the folks who humor/attitude/’Dukeness’ but technically it is very difficult to defend this game.

    I think it shows its age the most from the level design. I honestly felt a greater sense of freedom in Duke3d. How many airvents did you use in DNF that WERENT part of the main path as compared to Duke3d.

    I personally would say zero…

    • EDIT:
      “I agree with the folks who DEFEND humor/attitude/’Dukeness’ but technically it is very difficult to defend this game.”

    • Well yeah but when I look at a 1969 Dodge Charger running a 350 chev under the hood I don’t look at it from a fuel economy perspective…

      • Even though a Dodge Charger was made in 1969, it embodies ‘cool’….


        Because of ‘Design’…..

        • If that was an attempt to counter my remark you in fact helped back it up. 😛

          The awesomeness of the Charger comes from it’s design not it’s fuel economy.

          The awesomeness of DNF comes from it’s crassness and simplicity not it’s graphics engine or level design.

          You can always tear something down if you pick at it from a certain angle. The problem with that though is it normally means attacking something over something it never tried to be or tried to achieve.

          • “You can always tear something down if you pick at it from a certain angle.”

            I had to laugh at this especially from someone with your username….ahh the irony.

            Listen all Im saying is that Im not comparing to COD or Halo or other ‘newish’ games because its not trying to be those.

            But when Duke3d has better level design than Duke Forever, there is an issue.

            Example: more than one way into a room (air vents/jet pack/hidden cracks in walls to explode)

            Thats my opinion but Im happy to keep discussing fuel economy on 40+ year old cars if you like…Seems to be a passion of yours

          • Better level design? Maybe, but that’s purely opinion.

            I think you know as well as I do that things like linear versus non-linear for DNF is a catch-22.

            They use linear they get the “It’s not the same as DN3D” nerd rage. They use non-linear they would’ve got “Zomg! Way to keep it fresh guys! No one uses non-linear in an FPS anymore for a reason!”

            All in all. DNF is the closest one can get to DN3D without being an EXACT clone. It may not have the same level design or let you carry all the weapons and use regen health instead of health packs but so what? That’s three things it’s lacking in comparison to DN3D. Three!

            What does it carry over from DN3D? Everything else! Duke’s attitude and terribly corny one-liners, strippers, aliens, shrink rays, blood and guts, jetpacks, pissing in a toilet, steroids etc etc.

            So what we have missing are three things that weren’t essential Duke mainstays, they were just standards for all FPS games at the time replaced with standards for FPS gaming in the present day.

            The things they kept were the things that were essential to a Duke game.

            Where’s the issue?

          • @ Dissection

            No…. its really not
            Its more akin to COD or Halo than it is to DN3D

            It carried over the weapons, but none of the fantastic gameplay from the original game
            Plus its linear as hell, with the worst addition I think of turret sequences where you shoot at enemies for 5 minutes until your done, nothing to make it interesting to watch either

            Take Bulletstorm and the the Giant wheel part for example, your on a turret but the whole things a impressive spectacle to watch

            As for jokes? hahahahahahaha
            Does “goddamn it leeroy” actually count as a joke? Does punching a fake Christian Bale count as a joke?

            No it doesn’t, it just references to other things,continually throwing them at you, so you recognise them and say ohh yeah I remember that, that thing was funny

            Do you also frequently watch Meet the Spartans and find that hilarious?
            Cause its the same type of humor

            See the thing about DN3D is that it had excellent gameplay to back up the jokes about other genres
            Now its making jokes about them,but falling into the exact same ones its mocking

            Its missing everything that made DN3D a good game, from the exploration in levels, the funny charm, the colour, able to carry more than two weapons at a time and everything else in between

            Take off the nolstagia glasses there mate, its blinding you to the flaws

          • Ok, ignore the linear level design and ignore the two guns thing. I’ve covered those, the non-linear level and carrying all the weapons were not Duke staples, they were FPS staples at the time which have been replaced with FPS staples for gaming today. They didn’t make DN3D an awesome game, they just made DN3D the same as Quake, Doom, Wolfenstein and those of their ilk. It was the humour and the attitude of Duke that made it stand out.

            Speaking of the humour, if I recall Duke had the ‘DOOMed space marine’ thing, there was a reference to Snake Plisken and quite a few other things relevant to pop-culture in that time period. That’s what we have in DNF, pop-culture references that are relevant to the time period.

            And what is different about the gameplay now other than advances in AI that make them do a bit more than run side to side a few times before running directly at you? More importantly, how did the gameplay back up the jokes exactly?

            I’m also curious as to what this ‘funny charm’ is that you speak of.

            Oh and the colour? Last I checked, DNF was pretty darn colourful. The casino levels, the outdoor levels. The only levels so far that weren’t that colourful were the Hive ones, and that kinda made sense considering.

            I’m fully aware of it’s flaws being the occassional bug and the graphics not exactly being Crysis but that’s all I’ve found wrong with it. I don’t think I’m wearing nostalgia glasses at all, I think you’ve just forgotten exactly what DN3D was like and how similar it is to DNF.

  • remember everyone Duke is not 14years of development. They started, didn’t like it and then binned it several times.
    My point is there is about 4 years of a small studio making a game with way more single player content than most current games like COD.
    If it was this one iteration of the game then it would be a massive let down.

  • I dont think nostalgia is a good enough reason to say a game is good enough. I’m a zelda fan and i still judge each game by the same standards, I dont instantly love it just because of nostalgia.

    In honesty for 14 years of development this game is shameful and they are counting on people like you and the idea that “people should be able to say what they want” to sell the game. I admire the people that criticized the game for what it is, poorly made. Because they aren’t being sheep like the rest of you riding on the idea of a meme thats been around for far too long. in fact im pretty sure that duke nukem was better when it was a meme “never coming out”. This was just horrible, they should have started from scratch not tried to fix 14 years of messing around. and witty humor would have been appreciated.

    if somethings shit theres no reason to defend it. Dont pity the devs because they got bad reviews, bad reviews make devs work harder and make better games and learn from their mistakes. anything else breeds mediocrity and in regards to gaming id rather the time i spend on a game to be something incredible not something half assed.

    But you know, games like this can be fun. Primarily though, its not worth the 79.99USD they are charging. seriously?? 79.99?? for that? If it was like 20 i wouldn’t have anywhere near the grudge i have against it.

    • Awesome! I love it when people like yourself comment on DNF. It’s mainly because no one has to counter what you say, you’ve done the work for us.

      ‘In honesty for 14 years of development this game is shameful’

      That one half of a sentence sums up exactly how much you know and it’s laughable.

      If you’re going to bag something at least know what you’re on about.

    • Agreed!

      I wanted this game just as much as every other duke fan. But I’m not going to pity it because it is getting bad reviews.

      Yes it’s funny and cool to play as Duke again but really that is it.

      I don’t need to say what is wrong with it as that’s the gaming medias job and frankly they are giving it the reviews it deserves.

      I am glad I played it, had a few hours fun and got my $10 worth from Video Ezy but more importantly, I’m glad I saved the other $90 for something else that will hopefully be worth a new release’s asking price.

      I’m not upset…..just disappointed.

  • So all I got from this article was basically:

    “Don’t bash a game I like(to a degree) because I like it and even though I can love it in silence, I feel somehow obligated to defend it.”

    “I hate Call of Duty, so any advancements and contributions it has made during its time in the spotlight should be temporarily negated and ignored when seen next to Duke Nukem Forever.”

    “Duke Nukem shouldn’t be reviewed by today’s genre standards because it’s an “ode” to old school gamers around the world, and we should just fight our feelings and give it an 9/10.”

    Duke Nukem games were great for their time. But guess what, that was because they were fun, not because they were trying to be fun. If you bought DNF full-price and had a good or great time with it, more power to you. But don’t try to tell me that every reviewer who hated it is wrong. Because all that does is make you look desperate.

  • The problem is that people are comparing it to the best games of this year, it should be compared to the games of the year it was designed to be released for. It’s a five year old game being reviewed as if its meant to be a technological narrative masterpiece. Make opinions on what its effect on the industry would have been ten years ago when it was meant to be released, not how it’s technology cant compete with COD

    • reality is reality my friend.

      Just as you think DNF should be reviewed as a game meant to be released years ago, what’s stopping developers like Kaos studios from spouting the same nonsense with regard to Homefront?

      “I don’t understand why Homefront was poorly reviewed, we [Kaos] intended for it to come out you know… just BEFORE Call of Duty 4 did, because if it did it would have been critically acclaimed. THIS IS UNFAIR!”

      • Homefront wasn’t designed and already in development before Call of Duty 4. Duke Nukem Forever has been in development since roughly the same time as the release of the first Half-Life (technically)…

        What you said misrepresents reality.

  • All these opinions flying around about Duke Nukem Forever reminds me of something that happened to me awhile ago.

    Superman II: the Richard Donner Cut came out on Blu Ray and I bought it. I watched it, and I thought “wow, this is pretty cool”

    So later I showed it to my brother and my Dad… and all they could say was how crappy it looked and that the special effects were terrible. I tried to explain that this was put together so that it could be sort of a *watchable* “rough draft cut” of the movie that Donner had intended to make but was not allowed to finish. It wasn’t supposed to be competing with Transformers for a Special Effects award or something…

    They didn’t get it and just thought I was some kind of moron.

    Obviously, this situation is different in lots of ways, but it feels similiar in lots of ways too.

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