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Ugh, stop twitching
duke nukem forever -- one-hour review
games Posted 2011-07-05 17:55:03 by Jim Crawford
Duke Nukem Forever is a first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 et al by 3D Realms et al.

I'm really doing it you guys. I'm really playing this game that really exists.

(Yes, I totally ripped this format off of Games For Lunch.)

0:00 Five company logos fly by in the splash screen: 3D Realms, Triptych, Piranha, Gearbox and 2K. A year ago I would've said that that many cooks in the kitchen was a sure sign of a troubled development, but Bioshock 2 and Dead Space 2 had just as many logos. But Duke Nukem Forever sure as fuck had a troubled development, didn't it?
0:01 The intro evokes Duke Nukem 3D effectively, using a style reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animations. It depicts Duke Nukem literally shitting down someone's neck, so it can't be said that he's hyperbolic.
0:01 Difficulty selector. I'm going with easy. I don't completely hate myself.
0:02 Wow, this is a long loading screen.
0:02 Loading tip: “You can pick up rats.”
0:03 Loading done. “Those alien bastards are going to pay for shooting up my ride,” Duke asserts over a black screen.
0:03 Casual whistling. A POV shot of a urinal fades in. Context interaction: “RT: piss.” I stare agape for three or four seconds and Duke complains: “This is taking forever!” Shy bladder happens to every guy sometimes, Duke. Just put the audience out of your mind.
0:04 I get some control of the camera, but none over the stream of piss, which really misses the point if you ask me. Context interaction: “X: exit.” In case barely-interactive pissing minigames wasn't what you signed up for when you plunked down your $60, I suppose.
0:04 As I'm finishing up, the soldier next to me gives me some pissing advice. “You know what helps me? I like to think of the ocean.”
0:05 Wandering around a locker room. Here are some showers. One of them's running; I run up under it to see if Duke says something pithy and iconic like “I'm here to kick ass and sing in the rain, and I'm all out of ass!” Instead of Duke reacting to getting wet, I get a context interaction: “X: turn off.” I press X and he shuts off the water. Yep, that's what we all thought was awesome about Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, because it hadn't occurred to anybody that the really fun part is actually using the shower, not just turning it on and off.
0:05 The locker room is attached directly to a conference room. Here, a soldier identical to the one who watched me pee is fumbling through describing a plan of action. to an audience of one. “Step three is, uh, uh.” Said audience chimes in: “Profit?” First, that's not how that joke template goes. Second, ugh.
0:06 They run off to profit. A bystander looks over at me. “What do you think, Duke? Want to add something to the whiteboard?” Can't let an incidental feature go unnoticed, huh? I draw a penis to try to get into the spirit of things.
0:06 I get an achievement -- probably not for drawing a penis, but for drawing in general. “Drawrings,” it's called. Is that an attempted joke or just a typo? “Check out the red marker,” the dude says. “Smells like cherries.” Multiple colors of dry-erase marker must be the killer app for first-person shooters now.
0:07 I scribble the eraser over the existing plan. “I don't understand that, but I bet if I did, that guy over there would still have his arm. And at least one of his balls!” Enough of this. I walk up to a door and press X to open it. The door opening action turns out to be a violent kick.
0:07 Ah, I see why Duke was all excited to get through that door: there's a drinking fountain down the hall. I race over excitedly to to interact with it.
0:08 In complete sincerity, that was the most engaging drinking fountain simulation I've ever met.
0:08 There's a pitched battle down the hall. I head over that way, but there's another water fountain on the way and I can't help but drink from that one too. God, those slurping sounds are revolting.
0:08 I'm knocked on my ass by a shockwave as I near the battle, then put up my fists to fight. Duke doesn't need firearms!
0:09 “Hey pal, what are you gonna do, save the world all by yourself?” They might as well have hired Eddie Murphy to walk onscreen and give the camera a glance.
0:09 I'm trying to run up and punch aliens, but the armed soldiers shoot them too quickly. “That devastator's all yours, Duke,” one says. Huh. I see the thing he means. The name sounds like a weapon, but it looks more like a jetpack. Either way, I run up to grab it.
0:10 I take an elevator going up. Nearing the top, Duke speaks up: “It's down to you and me, you one-eyed freak!” Who? Ah, a few seconds later, I emerge from the elevator shaft to see the creature Duke's talking to: a big alien -- with, yes, a single eye -- tearing up a football field.
0:10 The devastator seems to be a double-barreled missile launcher. I empty it into the “cycloid” -- his health bar is labeled -- and run around looking for more ammo.
0:11 “Ammo supplies are dropped!” says a voice on the radio. I see the shadow of a dropship, but I don't see any ammo. Did they add this bug in the patch?
0:12 There we go; I spot some flares in the distance marking an ammo drop and run over to fill up.
0:13 I run out of ammo again immediately and spend another minute looking for another ammo drop. Oh, the cycloid has changed attack patterns and I didn't even notice.
0:13 I empty his health meter and it starts flashing red. Should I should keep shooting? He falls to the ground and flails for around a bit.
0:14 I run up to him and see a context interaction. “X: Climb.” Right away it vanishes and he stands up, getting a little bit of health back. Luckily it takes only a few missiles to take that health away and I get the opportunity to do the climb thing again.
0:14 “Tap A repeatedly to rip out!” Rip out what? I mean, I see I'm holding this Y-looking thing. Is that an antenna?
0:14 Seems to be an air hose or fuel hose or perhaps some other kind of hose. After a short cutscene, he falls over and his eye plops out right in front of me. Context interaction: “Kick field goal.” Sure. Okay.
0:15 I don't get to control the kick; it just goes right in. Duke: “It's good!” Title card: “Duke Nukem Forever.” Okay. If they can keep up this level of bro-vity, this game has justified its existence.
0:15 Aaaand straight to the blowjob scene.
0:15 “After 12 years, it ought to be [good]!” Sure, okay, they get to make a joke about the length of time the game was in development. I'll allow that.
0:16 The news is talking about alien ships that have been passively hovering around. One of the blowjob twins pipes up: “I wonder if they're the same aliens you had to fight 12 years ago?” Yeah, I guess they wrote that “after 12 years” joke back in 2008, because it's actually been fifteen years since Duke Nukem 3D.
0:17 Instructions: “Take the elevator down to the talk show.” Am I in an especially opulent green room? I assumed this was Duke Nukem's garish home.
0:17 Wandering around, I find a bathroom rather than an elevator. Interactivity score!
0:18 Triumphant guitar riff as I start pissing in the toilet.
0:18 The answering machine has a message about how the flower delivery man can't deliver flowers because of all the aliens. I guess Duke subscribed to the flower delivery status mailing list? And the mail gets delivered to his phone. Wait, Duke Nukem has a physical answering machine? 1996 called! Also the answering machine is in his bathroom.
0:19 This shower has three separate shower heads in it. This can only be Duke Nukem's house.
0:19 My maximum health (labeled “ego”) goes up as I admire myself in the mirror. (A context action.)
0:20 I see lots of artwork of myself on the way to the elevator.
0:21 Loading tip: “Blue barrels are heavier than regular barrels.”
0:21 Stepping out of the elevator, there's a horde of terribly-animated women screaming outside the door. “Omigod it's Duke!” I sidestep to see if their dead eyes follow me, and they continue staring straight ahead. “Look, there's Duke!”
0:22 Trying to find the door to the talk show, a random woman accosts me. “After the show, I want your autograph somewhere special!”
0:23 It's a fucking maze of hallways back here. I run into another random fan. “Three days after I get married, I meet Duke Nukem.” Huh, I'd just assumed all relationships in this universe were implicitly open relationships when it came to Duke.
0:23 Nope, this isn't the right door either. “Must not fanboy, must not fanboy, I named my daughter Dukette! I got her tiny rocket launchers to play with! You should record another album!”
0:24 Shadows are strangely jittery. I wonder if the engine is only recalculating shadow maps every few frames or what.
0:24 A kid runs up to me and asks me to autograph his copy of my book, entitled “Why I'm So Great.” “I want to grow up to be just like you,” he says. “Take your pills, er, vitamins every day,” Duke suggests.
0:25 While I'm scarfing down a plate of donuts, someone pipes up from my right. “Lookin' good, Duke!” Maximum ego increased. Jesus, is it really counting the compliments I get? I was hoping it was just looking in mirrors that increased your maximum ego.
0:25 I walk onstage and a Conan O'Brien lookalike apologizes that the station has interrupted the show with a special alert about aliens at Duke Burger.
0:26 Instructions: “Head to the Observation Room and access the Duke Cave.”
0:26 Oh, I get it, this backstage rant is an artless allusion to the Christian Bale thing. Hilarious.
0:26 A voice on the intercom warns us about alien invasions. Well, that's what I'm here for, right?
0:27 In the makeup room, I find a vibrator with the Duke Nukem logo on it. Context interaction: “X: use.” I press X and it starts bouncing around the counter. But that's not... well, I guess it makes sense that developers who'd make a game like this have no idea what a vibrator is actually used for.
0:27 Looking at a chair. Context interaction: “X: Spin.” I press X and Duke reaches out to spin the chair. I keep doing that for a while.
0:28 The lady on the intercom is still complaining about alien invasions. Also the vibrator has fallen to the floor now.
0:28 I find a cigarette vending machine and purchase a pack. Now I'm walking around holding it. So far it's offered the context interactions “throw” and “drop.” Maybe there'll be a “trade for child pornography” at some point. Duke's into that sort of thing, right?
0:29 I enter an elevator and press X to choose a floor. I don't know which of the 69 -- yep -- floors I picked, but presumably Duke knows where he's going.
0:29 The lights go off in the elevator and it takes me about 15 seconds to realize I'm supposed to be looking out the window behind me. Alien ships are doing barrel rolls out there. I wonder what I've missed.
0:30 Seriously, this reminds me of the “Vector” part of Unreal. The 1991 demo I mean, not the game. It's like they're trying to show off their 3D function plotter.
0:30 Okay, maybe this isn't what I'm supposed to be looking at? I turn around again and there's a glowing rectangle near the door. Let's have a look at that.
0:30 I open the rectangle to reveal a button. I can't read the button's label because the texture resolution is too low, but I press it anyway. A ladder drops from the ceiling.
0:31 And now I'm on top of the elevator. Apart from digits painted on the wall to tell me I'm on floor 69 -- yep -- I can't see anything to do up here. Maybe I should go back and watch the spaceships fly around some more.
0:31 Oh, never mind, here's a glowing door to open.
0:32 I'm back in my penthouse on the 69th -- yep -- floor. “Due to technical difficulties, the Duke Museum is now closing.” I guess my penthouse is a museum as well. None of the patrons seem to be noticing all the screen-shaking explosions. That's okay; I barely do either.
0:32 Hey, there's a guy sitting on a throne. I approach him and Duke speaks. “Get lost, pal, the king needs his throne!” “No way, I'm not leaving until I get my picture on this throne!” Is this... a puzzle? Really? For such a self-centered jackass, Duke sure is accomodating.
0:33 “Hey, could you hit that picture button over there?” Okay, so not technically a puzzle, but my point stands. I press the button, because what is there to do in this game aside from pressing buttons?
0:33 Camera flash. “Thanks, man!” He runs off. I sit on the throne and it lowers itself into the floor. I guess this is the Duke Cave they were talking about.
0:34 Loading tip: “Grabbing a turd in the toilet will not take ego away even though we really wanted it to.” I sympathize; programming is hard.
0:35 The computer tells me I have a conference call with the president. (President Clinton, I hope.) I'm pretty sure every female voice in this game is performed by the same 3D Realms secretary.
0:35 The president -- not modeled after any recent president, for the record -- yells at me for destroying Los Angeles twelve years ago. Hups! “I am in diplomatic communication with the Cycloid Emperor himself. Do not get involved. That's an order.” Fine by me. I'm pretty much enjoying this Duke-Nukem-in-retirement game.
0:36 I spin a nearby chair to pass the time while he yammers on for a while about how I just get in the way and make things worse. “I've got a bad feeling about this,” Duke says, after the call ends. You know, they really missed the boat here by not having you sit in the chair and spin.
0:37 “Alien lifeform detected,” the computer says, then starts showing onscreen information about the lifeform. Am I supposed to watch that, or is it there for flavor while I go do something else?
0:38 Oh, the door's unlocked now. I guess the door being locked during a phone call is a feature's so I don't sleepwalk out of the room during a conference call.
0:38 An alien starts breaking into the room. The president sure was wrong fast! Duke puts up his fists. I go try to punch the alien, but he claws 3/4ths of my ego away with a single swipe. How emasculating!
0:39 I finally manage to punch him out and try to open the door. “Red keycard required,” the computer says. Man, remember Apogee shareware from 1992?
0:39 “Keycard? I don't need no fuckin' keycard,” Duke says. Good, the poorly-appropriated movie lines are back.
0:40 These aliens are using my gym equipment! I murder them with a trophy and a basketball, then play pinball for an ego boost. Actual pinball sim in here!
0:41 “I've got balls of fail,” Duke says as I lose my last ball.
0:42 I try bench-pressing some pounds and/or kilograms, but Duke's having none of it. “Safety first,” he says. Where'd that fanboy go? Can't he spot me?
0:42 The fridge is empty. “Looks like those alien bastards drank all my beer.” What does this say about alien physiology? They're humanoid, too -- did we all descend from the same parent species?
0:43 I can't figure out where to go, so I guess I'll play some more pinball. The pinball table plays some General-MIDI-sounding music. Probably from the Duke Nukem 3D soundtrack.
0:44 Balls of fail again. I guess I'll try poking around for the missing red keycard some more.
0:44 Oh, here's a glowing orange thing. I press X to “rip off” and there's a tunnel of some kind behind it. We must be in the vent-crawling section of the game now.
0:45 As I leave the vent, context interaction: “Drink Beer.” Why couldn't I do that before? Is there beer here? I don't see any. Anyway, I guzzle some, and the game explicates: “Drinking beer makes you tougher.” Take your pills, kids!
0:46 After I pugilize a couple of aliens while belching repeatedly, the screen goes dark. “Power outage,” the computer says. “Please use your Duke Vision.” I press the listed button, and now I can see again, with scanlines and a VHS-looking tracking effect to let me know I'm using Duke Vision. Patent-pending, no doubt.
0:47 This minute spent wandering around in a maze of vents and pipes, sucker-punching blind aliens.
0:48 After the seventh or eighth alien, Duke thinks of a quip: “When you get to hell, tell 'em Duke sent ya!” Good one, Duke.
0:49 This minute also spent wandering around in a darkened maze of vents and pipes.
0:50 One of the aliens finally drops a gun that Duke is willing to pick up. “Ba da bing,” he says.
0:51 I fix the power outage by placing energy cells in a reactor. That's some innovative shit right there. I've never fixed a power reactor a billion fucking times in a game before; no sir.
0:52 After some more killing, I run into a door that I have to unlock by driving an RC car around. That's little bit of a momentum killer in the context of an alien invasion, but sure, okay, I'll do this modestly-entertaining thing for a few minutes.
0:53 I misinterpreted the goal; I'm actually supposed to use the car to push another energy cell out a slot near the door. I was hoping the energy cell puzzles were behind us, but... maybe they'll never be behind us.
0:54 Hey, I just realized, I'm not holding those cigarettes any more. I wonder when I lost them. Probably a really long time ago, come to think of it.
0:54 Computer voice, upon replacing the third energy cell: “You really know how to turn a girl on.” Somebody wrote that. Somebody came up with that line.
0:55 Back to wandering around in a maze again, albeit a brightly lit maze this time
0:56 Is this vent on the wall the way forward, or the way I came from? I can't tell. Let's say it's the way I came for now, because I can't figure out how to enter it. This'll all be over in four minutes anyway.
0:57 Still wandering.
0:58 Hey, here's a glowing bottle of pills labeled “Duke Nukem RX.”
0:58 Context interaction: “Press left to take steroids.” The steroid-taking animation is actually pretty funny. “Taking steroids makes your melee attacks stronger.”
0:59 Aliens start dropping into the room. This encounter, Duke's got faucet mouth: “Raining blood, baby! Another day, another disembowelment. You've got a lot of guts; let's see what they look like! Hail to the king, baby! Quit bleeding, pussy! Killing you is as easy as breathing.”
1:00 So yes, if you were wondering, this game has gunfights and bad one-liners in it.
1:01 I hop into a gun-elevator and take the controls. Loading screen: “mothership battle.” So I guess there's that kind of fight too.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes, but to be clear: I'm continuing to play because I have no choice. I can't not play this cultural event. I wish I could say I'm playing because it's any good, but it's not. It's just bad.

[link to this] [See more on “games”]

voice acting
Posted by Anonymous (Adam) on 2011-07-05 18:58:30
Hey, long time no see.

I watched the "WTF is Duke Nukem Forever" video (, and what struck me the most was how bad the voice acting seemed. Duke sounded, I donno, like a dork pretending to be a badass instead of a real badass, but I thought it could have been due to quality loss all the way from his recording software, through Youtube, to my crappy laptop speakers. What did you think?

PS. Preview doesn't seem to work. Here goes, into the ether...
re: voice acting
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2011-07-06 19:52:38
I tend to agree. It makes sense, though, given that Jon St. John seems like a big geek:

Also, fixed the preview.

Also, where have you been?
re: voice acting
Posted by Anonymous (Adam) on 2011-07-07 18:24:13
That's a great link. Jon puts my voice-changing skills to shame! :-) Duke's voice sounded pretty decent on the DNF one-liner compilation video I just watched, so I think it was just the gravelly quality of his voice not coming through on the WTF video.

And I don't really want to say on a public website. :-P
re: voice acting
Posted by Jim Crawford on 2011-07-11 04:46:01
So hop on IM?
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