Reviews are in on Duke Nukem Forever. Was it worth the 14-year wait?
Sorry folks, but things aren’t looking good.
Destructoid’s Jim Sterling is not only disappointed, he’s disgusted (2/10): “Duke Nukem Forever is a festering irrelevance with nothing to offer the world. It’s a game with an odious personality, one that could only endear itself to the sociopathic and mentally maladjusted. There may be life in Duke yet, but not his current incarnation. Not while his developers legitimately think he’s cool and hilarious, rather than creepy and nauseating, and not while he’s starring in games that can’t even compete with budget titles, let alone the AAA experiences that Duke Nukem Forever arrogantly launches alongside.”
Ars Technica’s Ben Kuchera feels about the same (no score): “Multiple developers have worked on this game for over a decade, so I don’t know who to blame for the unplayable, glitchy, ugly, offensive mess it has become. No humor can make up for the game’s rampant hatred of women, and the terrible writing and one-liners can’t even be compensated for by good gameplay. The game’s jokes about other titles are laughable when you see how putrid Duke is upon release. Sure, it may still sell millions of copies due to the name alone, but it will disappoint buyers and make anyone with half a brain feel uncomfortable. I have no clue how a game so all-encompassingly ugly can suffer from so many framerate issues, but Duke finds a way. From a business and gaming history perspective, the fact that the title exists at all is fascinating; for everyone else asked to spend $60 on it, it’s merely sad.”
Rock Paper Shotgun’s Alec Meer wants to like the game (no score): “It means well, I have no doubt of that. It wants to be loved, it wants to make us laugh, it wants to show us big things exploding, it wants us to not get bored, it wants us to have ‘fun.’ Unfortunately, too much of that depends on thinking the presence of Duke is in and of itself ‘fun’ enough. Take him (or at least the vague, fan-fiction-like concept of him, which is what we really have here) away, and what’s left? The trailers for about 30 different games from 1997-2011 stitched awkwardly together and made passingly interactive, with little rhyme or reason. Duke Nukem Forever’s legacy, then, becomes a strangely apt one – a raddled document of the last decade and a half of game design fads, trends and values. Duke Nukem Forever was always going to make history, and history it is.”
Wired’s Chris Kohler thinks the sparkle doesn’t outshine the framework (4/10): “… the novelty only lasts for a little while. Eventually, not only does the shock wear off (save for a midgame scene in a bathroom strip club in which Duke finds and utilizes a glory hole, which will not fail to shock anyone), but these amusing bits become fewer and further between. By the time I was running through another bland underground (or worse, underwater) shooting stage with nary a chuckle in sight, I felt like Duke was no longer playing to what we might charitably consider to be his strengths.”
PC Gamer’s Dan Stapleton seems to be one of the few positive reviews (80/100): “I’m sure that years of anticipation will spoil Duke Nukem Forever for some-there’s no getting around that at the end of that long road is only a good game and not an amazing one. It is what it is. He may not be at the top of his game, but even after all this time, Duke still knows how to party.”
IGN Charles Onyett isn’t impressed (5.5/10): “Duke Nukem is an icon of mid-1990s video game culture – brash, vulgar and committed to the art of the one-liner, like a twelve-year old boy with internet access. His association with Duke Nukem Forever’s extended development cycle has propelled him to legendary status, attaching to him an undeserved significance. Duke Nukem Forever isn’t a revitalization of the early days of the first-person shooter genre or a middle-finger to the increasingly complex and sophisticated nature of videogame entertainment. It’s a muddled, hypocritical exercise in irritation with solid shooting mechanics and decent encounter design. There’s some dumb fun to be had in Duke Nukem Forever, but the game tries hard to ensure it’s only fleeting.”
The Guardian’s Neil Davey feels the game is resting on the laurels of nostalgia (2/5 stars): “There are fine touches – a shrunken Duke zooming around on a remote controlled car for example – and nostalgia and bad taste jokes help you overlook some shortcomings, but fond memories only go so far while the gags just get repetitive…. A mark for nostalgia then – it’s the Duke, after all – and one for the game. If this was 15 years in the making, it makes you wonder what they did for the other 14 years and 10 months.”
Eurogamer’s Dan Whitehead pulls no punches (3/10): “In the end, you feel every year of Duke Nukem Forever’s ridiculous, fractured development seeping out of each unsatisfying frame. With four studios sharing title space in the opening animation, and end credits which run for almost 10 minutes, the weight of so many false starts, dead ends and endlessly revised design documents proves too much. For all his muscle and bravado, Duke Nukem is actually a fragile creature. His legacy is based on a specific combination of time and technology and a mercurial element of fun that simply doesn’t lend itself to repetition, especially after so long in limbo.”