[NSFW] Duke Nukem Forever (X360)

Through its entire beleaguered development process, Duke Nukem Forever interested me about as much as a gift certificate for a free Christmas ham would interest a Hasidic rabbi. But all that changed

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  • System: Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Also On: PC, PS3
  • Genre: First-person shooter
  • Max Players: 1
  • Age Rating: Mature 17+
  • US Release: June 2011
  • Developer: 3D Realms, Triptych Games, Gearbox Software, Piranha Games
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Similar Games: Bulletstorm, Serious Sam HD, Duke Nukem 3D

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Through its entire beleaguered development process, Duke Nukem Forever interested me about as much as a gift certificate for a free Christmas ham would interest a Hasidic rabbi.

But all that changed at 15:31 into this podcast when Paul said a level in the game was “the worst, most misogynistic thing I’ve ever seen and horrifying, too.” A copy of Duke Nukem Forever was on its way to me within a half hour of wrapping up the show.

I’m not really into the Duke Nukem franchise but I respect Duke’s roots. In its day, Duke Nukem 3D was a good shooter, but it was really popular because of Duke himself. The character pushed limits—limits that, frankly, needed to be pushed. Videogames were at a time when they needed to show they weren’t just toys for children—they could deliver something for adults, too. This could take the form of a deep narrative that’s about more complicated issues than just “save the princess” or “shoot the aliens,” or it could just be, like in the case of Duke Nukem, tits and farts. And, hey, that’s fine; it’s all part of a diverse landscape of games to choose from—videogames needs its Downton Abbey, but it also needs its Benny Hill.

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Sadly, Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t get this. The game is still stuck in the same rut, irrelevantly pushing envelopes that have long since been pushed harder and further. Things that used to be endearing about Duke are now just sad and embarrassing.

Every joke in the game is loaded with forced vulgarity or poo-poo/pee-pee humor. I have nothing against either, but when everything in the entire game from white boards to posters to jars of mustard all make references to taking shits and sucking balls, it just ends up like listening to a third grader who just learned how to swear and realized he’s out of earshot from his mom. Lending more credence to the third-graders-wrote-the-jokes theory is the fact that any time there is anything that requires a number (number of floors on an elevator, how much ammo a devastator holds, etc.), you better believe that number is going to be 69. I refuse to believe that this game was made by four or five different companies and not one single writer stood up and said “Listen guys, I get that 69 is a code word for a sex act in which two people perform oral sex on each other simultaneously, but, really, isn’t just referencing the number constantly something that stops being funny at roughly the same time you grow pubes?” In fact, they’ll go to incredible lengths to even imply the number sixty-nine. During the game’s epilogue Duke is asked in a press conference what he is going to do now that he’s defeated the aliens (come on, you knew that would happen—that isn’t a spoiler), and he says (into a Channel 69 microphone) “I’m going to run for president.” As this is happening a ticker below is giving news about a new president being sworn in as the 68th president of our country. The implication: Duke will be the 69th president. lol?

BillAndTedWell, we thought it was funny, anyway.

I really knew I was in trouble when I found myself playing with a pool table in Duke’s mansion for a solid half-hour because I didn’t want to go back to playing the game. During this time his girlfriends (twins, of course) used the joke “Duke, stop playing with your balls” and “Duke, you don’t have time to play with your balls” because, apparently, this joke was so good they had to write it in twice. Forcing age-old Internet memes into the game didn’t help anything, either. There’s a part where one of Duke’s many admirers tells him “You’re better than Chuck Norris!” First, Chuck Norris jokes haven’t been funny for years. Second, this isn’t a Chuck Norris joke. This is just a reference to Chuck Norris. Simply saying “Chuck Norris” in a sentence doesn’t give you a Get Out Of Comedy Free card.

And then there’s Duke’s famous one-liners. Even in his heyday I never really got the appeal of him just ripping off lines from Army of Darkness, because I heard them already. When I watched Army of Darkness. He forces in lines from other movies too, including Starship Troopers, Passenger 57, Pulp Fiction, Team America, and Small Soldiers, to name a few. His constant quoting of barely-relevant movie lines is like spending the entire duration of the game with that guy who still quotes Napoleon Dynamite. You know who I mean. When they’re not just ripping off movies, original Duke lines include gems like “Stop bleeding, pussy,” which is either a mind-over-matter approach to controlling menstruation, or proof that the writers were incredibly unimaginative. The poor writing in this game degraded Duke’s character from bad-ass to mega-lame, but one part of the game tarnished Duke’s character so much he became downright unlikable.

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This is where that part Paul mentioned comes in. You see, delivering casual one-liners to an alien before you blow his head off with a shotgun is bad-ass, but not particularly over-the-top these days. Delivering casual, snarky one-liners to bound rape victims who are currently in the middle of being raped and are about to die by giving birth to the raper-alien’s baby is another thing altogether. Yes, an entire level of the game has topless girls, bound with tentacles to what appears to be giant penis-type things. Their lower halves are covered up by a cocoon of tentacles, but their screams, cries, and desperate whimpers tell all the story you need to know. The girls are all being raped. Now let me stop right here for a minute. I’m not going to bullshit you and pretend I was aghast and terrified by what I saw. I wasn’t offended; I was just embarrassed for the writers. I could just picture the meeting where they all said “We have to be more edgy, more offensive! What can we do that’s taboo?” “Oh, I know, how about rape jokes!” “Yes, good one! We can have a big room where women are being raped by the aliens.”

I’m not saying rape jokes can’t be funny. If your humor is dark enough they can be hilarious if done right, but it takes a lot of care to craft a joke that makes such a dark topic funny. The problem is that this wasn’t a rape joke; it was just rape. There was no punchline other than “Hey look. Rape.” That’s not funny. On top of this they assassinate the character of Duke Nukem. Once Duke finds his girlfriends who have been raped and impregnated by the aliens, he decides this is a good time to make the joke “Looks like you’re…fucked.” forever turning an endearing, low-class, Al Bundy into a deranged, unempathizable Ted Bundy. As a cherry on top of this misogyny sundae, if you look around the very same level, on the walls you will find clusters of disembodied tits. If you press the action button to smack them, they start lactating and Duke says “Got milk?” I really don’t know what to say about that. Just consider this: a team of grown adults got together, someone first came up with the idea, then someone probably spent hours creating a high-resolution 3D wireframe model, somebody else worked hours on the texture, another grown goddamn adult worked on the milk-spray particle effect, they hired the voice actor to deliver the line, and someone worked on the code to put it all together. All so there could be a disembodied tit-cluster that has no purpose other than to give Duke a reason to slap it and say “Got milk?” Oh, and did I mention the doors in this level are giant buttholes? This game is a facepalm disguised as a videogame.

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I could, however, look past all of this if the gameplay was fun. Spending 13 years in limbo could be seen as a partial blessing for DNF. Its development started at a time when things were still not much more advanced than Duke 3D was, but continued well past the introduction of Halo, Half-Life 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, etc. It had a unique perspective where it could benefit from the best of late 90s FPSs and also incorporate good parts of more modern shooters, as well. Sadly, it did the opposite, ignoring lessons learned since the 90s like “platforming in an FPS is always terrible” and picking up “shirk fun for reality; only allow your character to carry two weapons,” making the game the worst of both worlds.

Sadly, the developers even screwed up the style of the game itself. Duke Nukem Forever starts out looking like it still gets it—explosions, beheadings and a guitar-heavy butt-rock anthem playing while the game logo is shown in front of a tattered American flag. Then the game starts. There’s a bit of a flashback in which you take a piss, draw on a whiteboard and go kill a boss, saving the world. Then you go several years later to the “real” game and find yourself living in a world in which Duke is a rich and powerful icon, like Biff in Back To The Future II. For the first half-hour or so you’ll just be wandering around your complex, watching TV, playing pool, buying drinks from vending machines, signing autographs, and other things that are absolutely NOT shooting the everloving hell out of aliens. Even later when you do get a gun, you’ll find all too often you’re forgoing its use so that you can “solve” piss-poor puzzles or *shudder* jump around and do platforming. Half-Life 2 is often called “the thinking man’s shooter.” That isn’t what Duke Nukem is supposed to be. Duke Nukem is a mindless bullet orgy with dick jokes that you play when you don’t want to think, you just want to shoot stuff and pretend you’re John McClane from Die Hard. You don’t play Duke Nukem because you want to play with RC cars, solve puzzles, or carry around only two guns. You want to shoot things in the face with guns, occasionally finding even bigger guns to shoot into even bigger faces.

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A Frankenstein’s abortion of a game, some levels look better than others since they were made later in the decade, while others look like Dreamcast rejects, but the game never looks any better than an Xbox launch title. The game is also as technically rough around the edges as it looks. In fact, you might as well just set the game to easy mode right up front to avoid having to sit through the punishingly long load screens every single time you die.

Duke isn’t entirely unplayable and, sometimes, it even gets to the action you picked up the game looking for. If it positioned itself as a $20 game, peer to bargain bin or XBLA titles, I’d give it a much higher score. However, it did not. Even though you can pick up the game for less than $10 now, it was $60 when it was first released. This puts it in a league with all the other full-priced games that came out last year (Portal 2, Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City, to name a few) and, as such, these are the games it has to be compared to. This comparison does nothing to flatter the game.

Above all else Duke Nukem Forever is irrelevant. Duke Nukem was always sold as “this ain’t your dad’s action game!”, but games have done a lot of growing up since Duke 3D, and as I type this my actual dad is probably at his house clocking his 1,500th hour on Red Dead Redemption, setting hookers ablaze and tying nuns to train tracks just because he feels like it. He could care less that there’s a game where you can shoot aliens while quoting lines from Small Soldiers, because that sounds stupid and boring compared to a game like Saints Row III, where you can bludgeon people to death with a wiggly purple dong bat.

So they’re right. This game is not my dad’s game—it’s lamer. You beat people to death with oversized marital aids in my dad’s games.

  • GameCola Rates This Game: 3 - Bad
3 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 103 votes, average: 8.00 out of 10 (You need to be a registered member to rate this post.)
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About the Contributor


From 2007 to 2013

5 Comments

  1. Great review gucci purses, etc. Don’t forget the loading screen which helpfully mentioned “You can slap wall-boobs because most girls don’t like it when you slap theirs.”

    1. That loading screen did have some gold moments; “Don’t forget, if you get stuck you can just look at FAQs online” and “Picking up a turd doesn’t take ego away, although we wanted it to.”

  2. I’ve read or skimmed through a few reviews of Duke Nukem Forever out of curiosity, but this is the first one that really conveyed exactly what’s *terrible* about this game, and not just a letdown.

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