Duke Nukem Forever
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (June 2014)|
|Duke Nukem Forever|
North American cover art
(multiplayer and console ports)
Aspyr Media (Mac)
|Engine||Unreal Engine (heavily modified)|
|Distribution||Optical disc, download, cloud computing|
Duke Nukem Forever is a 2011 first-person shooter video game for Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 developed by 3D Realms and Triptych Games and finished by Gearbox Software and Piranha Games. It is a sequel to the 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D, as part of the long-running Duke Nukem video game series.
Intended to be groundbreaking, Duke Nukem Forever became a notable example of vaporware due to its severely protracted development schedule; the game was released in 2011 after 15 years of development.
Duke Nukem Forever is an action-oriented first-person shooter. Players take control of Nukem as they navigate through a series of levels which take place on Earth and beyond. The game allows players to interact with various in-game objects, including urinals and water coolers, as well as whiteboards, which allow players to draw their own images. The gameplay is similar in some respects to the first-person shooter games of the late 1990s and early 2000s, with each level culminating in a boss battle in which Nukem has to fight and kill a large, significant alien.
Unlike in the previous games, Duke can only hold two weapons at any one time in a manner similar to the Halo series, although pipe bombs and laser tripwires are considered inventory items and as such are not limited by this restriction. The PC version allows Duke to hold four weapons in the single-player campaign. Items that have an effect on Duke can be picked up by the player; these items are steroids, beer, and the holoduke. Steroids increase the strength of Duke's melee attacks by a great deal for a limited time. Beer makes Duke much more resistant to damage, but blurs the screen. A holoduke creates a hologram of Duke Nukem that looks and acts in a very similar way to Duke, but often says slightly twisted versions of his one-liners. Whilst the holoduke is in effect, Duke becomes invisible and the AI characters do not recognize his presence. The jetpack also returns, but only in multiplayer.
Instead of the health system featured in the previous Duke Nukem game, in which health would be depleted when Nukem was injured and would only increase upon finding a health pack, drinking water from fountains/broken fire hydrants, urinating or using the portable medkit special item, Duke Nukem Forever employs a system involving an "ego bar". The ego bar depletes when Duke is attacked; once it is fully depleted, Duke becomes susceptible to damage, dying and causing the game to reload the last checkpoint. If the player avoids further damage, then the ego bar is restored as is Duke's health. The player can increase the size of the ego bar (thus increasing the amount of damage Duke can take) by interacting with certain items throughout the game (for example, a mirror), and by defeating bosses. The game employs a save system that is solely based on checkpoints.
Twelve years after he saved the Earth from an alien invasion, Duke Nukem is a worldwide icon, and has achieved great fame from his heroic deeds. After sampling a video game based on his past heroics (the game Duke plays is a revamped version of the final level of the third episode of Duke Nukem 3D), he arrives on the set of a talk show for an interview.
On his way to the show, Duke witnesses a news broadcast announcing that aliens have once again invaded. Unlike previous encounters, the aliens initially appear peaceful and at first seem to pose no harm to the humans of Earth. Duke's talk show appearance is cancelled to allow television stations to cover the alien invasion, and he retires to the "Duke Cave", his personal home.
There, he receives a call from the President and General Graves of the Earth Defence Force (EDF). The president orders him not to harm the invaders, and adds that he is in diplomatic talks with the alien overlord. Duke obliges this request, but remains uneasy about the whole situation from start. Before he can leave his chambers, he is attacked by hostile aliens who are swearing revenge on Duke.
Duke is forced to disobey the president's orders and fight his way through the alien hordes in an effort to save Earth. Whilst fighting through his casino, Duke witnesses the aliens abducting women including his two live-in pop star girlfriends. Graves tells Duke that the women are being held in the Duke Dome, and that the aliens have a vendetta to settle with Duke. He also warns Duke that the aliens are using the Hoover Dam to power a wormhole so more aliens can come through. Nukem travels to the Duke Dome, using a wrecking ball to damage the building to gain access. Inside, he finds swarms of Octabrains and the missing women, who have been impregnated with alien spawn; Duke's girlfriends die after giving "birth" to alien babies. Duke finds the Alien Queen in control of the Dome and kills her, but is wounded in the process and blacks out.
After regaining consciousness, Duke fights Pigcops and aliens in through the Duke Burger. Soon he travels to the Hoover Dam in his monster truck; after battling through the dam, he finds his old friend Dylan, mortally wounded. He tells Duke that the reborn Cycloid Emperor is at the dam, and that the only way to shut down the portal is to completely destroy the dam. Before dying, he gives Duke his demolition charges and wishes him luck. Duke places the explosives and destroys the dam, but the currents nearly drown him.
Duke is revived by an EDF soldier; he awakens to find the portal gone. The President, who was also at the dam, rages at Duke for ruining his plans to work with the Cycloid Emperor, revealing that the President was actually intending to have the aliens kill Duke and he would cooperate with Cycloid Emperor so he could control the Earth, and that he has ordered a nuclear strike at the site of the dam to wipe out the remaining aliens, intending to leave Duke there to die as a revenge for foiling his plans. The Cycloid Emperor emerges and kills the President and his security detail, revealing that he intended to kill the President after the deal. Duke kills the Cycloid Emperor and is rescued by Graves just as the nuclear bomb explodes.
The game ends with a satellite surveying the detonation area and listing Duke Nukem as killed in action, to which Duke replies off-screen, "What kind of shit ending is that? I ain't dead. I'm coming back for more!"
Originally in development under 3D Realms, director George Broussard, one of the creators of the original Duke Nukem game, first announced the title's development in April 1997, and various promotional information for the game was released between 1997 and 1998. After repeatedly announcing and deferring release dates, 3D Realms announced in 2001 that it would be released simply "when it's done". No official video of the game was shown for almost 8 years, until 3D Realms released a new teaser trailer in December 2007, but the game "sank" yet again soon afterwards.
In May 2009, 3D Realms was downsized for financial reasons, resulting in the loss of the game's development team. Statements by the company indicated that the project was due to go gold soon with pictures of final development. Take-Two Interactive, which owns the publishing rights to the game, filed a lawsuit in 2009 against 3D Realms over their failure to finish development. 3D Realms retorted that Take-Two's legal interest in the game was limited to their publishing right. The case was settled with prejudice and details undisclosed in July 2010.
On September 3, 2010, after 14 years, Duke Nukem Forever was officially reported by 2K Games to be in development at Gearbox Software. It was originally confirmed to be released on May 3, 2011 in North America, with a worldwide release following on May 6, 2011. This was, however, delayed by a month to June 10 internationally, with a North American release on June 14.
On May 24, 2011, it was announced that Duke Nukem Forever finally "went gold" after 15 years. After going gold the launch trailer for Duke Nukem Forever was released on June 2, 2011, quelling any doubt that release was anything but imminent. On June 27, 2011, Aspyr Media announced that Duke Nukem Forever would be making its way onto Mac OS X in August 2011. It was made available for pre-order on June 27 via their online game distribution platform GameAgent.
Duke's First Access Club is joined by using a code, obtained from either the pre-order of the game, the Borderlands Game of the Year Edition, or Borderlands on Steam (if bought before the club was announced), on the Duke Nukem Forever website. Members are granted access to wallpapers, the demo, concept art, artwork, podcasts (which are added often), the theme song, and screenshots.
Emails were sent asking members to "please help [Gearbox] obtain the most accurate up to date information for your First Access profile." Members were then prompted to choose their preferred platform of choice for the Duke Nukem Forever demo by May 15, 2011. It then stated that "users that currently live in a territory where the demo may not be supported on console will automatically be defaulted to the PC Steam option." Gearbox sent a second e-mail to First Access Members in conjunction with a video showing that the Duke Nukem Forever demo was released on June 3, 2011.
A special limited Collector's Edition was available upon release called "Balls of Steel Edition" for all platforms. This version includes a five-inch bust of Duke Nukem, a 100-page hardcover artbook following the development of the game, postcards, sticker, a comic book, playing cards, dice, poker chips and foldable papercraft, and with every item being marked with the Duke Nukem Forever logo. Another edition called the "King Edition" was made available exclusively for pre-order from EB Games in Australia and New Zealand. It comes with the bonus "Ego Boost", Duke Playing Cards and Duke Bubblegum.
Two themes, avatar items, and a gamerpic pack are available for download for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 systems. The premium theme for the Xbox 360 showcases the inside of Duke Burger during the alien invasion. The avatar items for said system include Duke's outfit, his throne, the Freeze Ray, a Pigcop mask, and a pet Octabrain whilst the gamerpic pack features "babes, aliens, and the King himself." The official Duke Nukem Forever website hosts the free PlayStation 3 theme, which includes three wallpapers and an icon set.
2K Games launched a website titled "Boob Tube" to promote the game. The website features videos and features to download. On May 19, 2011, a flash game was released via the website titled Duke Nudem where players have to shoot targets against a CPU bot "woman" of their choice, and if successful will have a piece of clothing taken off the girl until she is topless. However, if the player loses, the actress will act as though Duke has stripped naked. Additionally 2K released for iOS a Duke Nukem Forever Soundboard which includes a number of Duke Nukem's phrases to be played back.
Duke's Big Package
In North America, video game retailer GameStop promised exclusive in-game content for customers pre-ordering Duke Nukem Forever. The exclusive content, known as "Duke's Big Package" allowed the player from the start of the game to access "Big Heads", and "Ego Boost", and custom in-game T-Shirts. A code printed on the final receipt could, at the time of release, be activated over Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam.
Hail to the Icons Parody Pack
Duke Nukem Forever: Hail to the Icons Parody Pack, contains three new game modes, and four new multiplayer maps, each with new weapons. It is available on Xbox Live, Steam and PlayStation Network. It was released on October 11, 2011.
The Doctor Who Cloned Me
Duke Nukem Forever: The Doctor Who Cloned Me includes an all new single-player campaign which features the return of Duke's nemesis from the original Duke Nukem, Dr. Proton. It includes new weapons, enemies, and bosses. The DLC also includes four new multiplayer maps. The DLC was released on December 13, 2011. It holds a score of 52/100 on Metacritic for PC and 58/100 for Xbox 360. GameSpy rated it a 1.5/5, OXM rated it 4/10 and Eurogamer rated it 5/10 and stated "Duke's trying his best, but there's still too much of the past hanging around and holding him back."
Duke Nukem Forever was critically disappointing upon release, with most of the criticism directed towards the game's clunky controls (on consoles), very long loading times (PS3/Xbox360 45 sec - PC 20 sec), offensive humor, and overall aging and dated design. 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". Jim Sterling, review editor for Destructoid, named it the "shittiest game of 2011". Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, 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.
Many critics took issue with the level design and shooting mechanics, particularly when compared to both the original Duke Nukem 3D and those of other modern-day shooters. Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot felt that the "joy of that game's shooting has been flattened" with "little sense of impact", finding the overall design to be "tedious", and ended his video review by calling Duke Nukem Forever a "bad, boring, bargain bin kind of game". Eurogamer commented that "few of the locations [inspired] the sort of exploration and excitement that made Duke 3D such a memorable experience. Duke Nukem Forever is linear to a fault, and huge chunks of the game are spent simply walking from one fight to another through uninspired corridors." 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." X-Play gave the game a 1 out of 5, criticizing the graphics, load time, number of enemies onscreen, the multiplayer, being called "an afterthought", the game's "creepy, hateful view of women.", and the hive level, with Adam Sessler saying that "this is all played for laughs".
Many reviewers questioned the design choices in comparison to Duke Nukem 3D, with Kotaku stating that "Old-school shooters, and this is definitely trying to be one of those with its basic AI and lack of cover mechanics, always had two great things going for them: speed and a ridiculous arsenal of weapons... Forever eschews this in favour of a plodding pace and two guns."  Noting its negative mix with modern shooter conventions, The Escapist agreed: "having been almost cryo-frozen for more than a decade, then awoken and peppered with modern touches, [Duke Nukem Forever] feels so out of place."
Another common criticism was with the game's lack of technical sophistication, including inconsistent graphics and unacceptably long loading times, which GameTrailers called "unholy;" GameSpy found the console versions took up to 40 seconds to load a level. Edge commented that "the myriad technical shortcomings – particularly prevalent on the console ports – only get worse the further you progress into the campaign", a view echoed by Game Revolution: "when they started on the design, that tech was already outdated". The PC version has since been patched to greatly decrease loading times and to add two optional inventory slots.
The use of the series' trademark humor received a mixed response. In one regard, some critics such as Team Xbox praised the voice work of Jon St. John, who did an "excellent job as always with Duke's persona", whilst others like Machinima.com appreciated the comedic gameplay tips and pop culture references; however, the same critic also noted that "parts of the narrative and dialogue show clear evidence of the game's elongated development. Many pop culture references refer to media in the early 2000s, with one-liners co-opted from 'guy' movies like Old School, Highlander, and Commando, which in itself could cause blank stares from most of the current potential audience." Australian gaming website PALGN felt the game was "saved only by its humor and nostalgic value." Official Xbox Magazine UK thought that the humor "isn't so much offensive or misogynistic as just suffering from an adolescent fixation with boobs and crowbarred-in innuendo." Joystiq noted that the game's multiplayer mode "Capture the babe" capture the flag, involving "spanking a woman into submission", "really is as painful as it sounds". Many critics conversely criticized the characterization of Duke Nukem, declaring his decidedly one-dimensional personality juvenile and outdated in comparison to more recent video game heroes.
One particular section that received considerable criticism is the hive level, in which Duke encounters abducted women who have been forcibly impregnated with aliens. Duke has to kill them before the alien's birth does so. Both the level itself and the inclusion of disembodied, slappable "wall boobs" were listed in GamesRadar's "8 worst moments in Duke Nukem Forever". OXM noted that it "doesn't mesh with the rest of the game's tone at all", and the fact that Duke remains unfazed and continues to crack jokes about the situation was considered "outright revolting," which led to labelling Duke a "thoroughly detestable psychopath" by 1UP and Destructoid respectively. Zero Punctuation noted that the level is "as jarring a shift of tone as you can get without splicing five minutes of The Human Centipede into the middle of Mallrats".
Quite a few critics cited the long and fragmented development time as a major factor in the finished product. In a positive review PC Gamer noted that "years of anticipation will spoil Duke Nukem Forever for some", adding, "There’s no reinvention of the genre here, no real attempt at grandeur... Check unrealistic expectations at the door and forget the ancient, hyperbolic promises of self-deluded developers," and concluded, "Don’t expect a miracle. Duke is still the hero we love, but struggles to keep up with modern times." Game Informer, whilst disappointed in the game concluded "I'm glad Gearbox stepped up and finished this game, but after hearing about it for 12 years, I have no desire to relive any of it again. I’m now satisfied in my knowledge of what Duke Nukem Forever is and ready to never talk about it again. Welcome back, Duke. I hope your next game (which is teased after the credits) goes off without a hitch." GiantBomb however concluded that for those "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." Jake Denton of Computer and Video Games wrote that parts of the game were fun to play and listed it as one of the "5 most underrated games of 2011", while admitting the game's overall faulty structure. Also Joseph Milne of FPSguru.com featured the game on his list of "Top 5 underrated games" at number 4 on the list.
According to research firm NPD, Duke Nukem Forever sold 376,300 units in its first month (sales results do not include digital copies). Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K Games, revealed in July 2011 that the game sales were half of their initial expectations. However, in an earnings call on August 8, 2011, Take-Two stated that Duke Nukem Forever would prove to be profitable for the company.
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