Looking Back At Duke Nukem: Forever

editorials by Sean Halliday

Duke Nukem Forever, the game that acted as a punchline for years. It’s more than just a game, Duke Nukem Forever is truly a landmark in video game history…for the wrong reasons. Development hell is not exactly rare in any media, especially video games. It’s well documented how many redesigns Forever went through, a quick YouTube search will even show this by the various E3 trailers.


Gum & Ass

Slaughtered by critics upon release, Duke Nukem Forever was battered and bloodied. I, being the naïve child I was, purchased the Balls of Steel edition. Packaged with the game came a Duke Bust, postcards, comics and dice…for some reason. At the time, I kept telling myself I bought it was a piece of video game history.

Fast forward to 2016 and I’ve replayed the entire game for the second time. How does it hold up? Was it really as bad as many made out? In truth, at least for me, it was distinctly average. My general feelings towards the game haven’t changed from my initial play through. Sure the game is a hot mess of ideas broken between the constantly changing landscape of video game development but never felt offensively bad.


Hey Fellow Kids

Highlights do appear, but only in brief glimpses. There are a few laughs to enjoy in-between the rough attempts at Duke’s famed humour. Even when he’s talking about how cool he is, It just didn’t feel like the Duke we knew, more like an impressionist. When the action is fully flowing, Duke can inspire some level of nostalgic joy…but not for too long.

Most of the levels ooze of old school design with a severe lack of imagination. Linear corridors and small arena setups do little to engage the player, even if the shooting is adequate. One level stands out in particular, The Hive. Visually, The Hive looks great, mainly due to the cosmetic look of it all. Walls look alive, curious little alien life forms and growths decorate the surroundings….and then there’s all the sexual imagery.


Too Much, Too Often

The Hive became infamous for the sheer amount of imagery that on offer. Walls that looked, and opened, like vaginas. Pairs of boobs attached to the wall that Duke could slap. For the first few seconds, it’s so over the top that you have to laugh…then you start to sigh. The creativity and design are watered down by the overuse of this bizarre sexual imagery, leaving the whole chapter to feel like a missed opportunity.

I paid full price for this. I know…

With the credits rolling I found myself not feeling cheated or bored, merely convinced. My first play through resulted in feelings of underwhelming satisfaction, but an understanding to why the game turned out like this. My views have not changed, Duke Nukem Forever is a piece of history, the timeline of playable development hell.

It may sound like madness, but I feel like everyone should play Duke Nukem Forever. Everyone should experience what can happen to a game when it has been split open and patched up time after time. Duke Nuke Em Forever is an ugly piece of history that has a lesson to tell, for that reason alone I can never hate it like most do.

About the Author

Sean Halliday

Bargain bin version of Henry Rollins. Ex-Byker Grove cast member, former member of Ant & Dec

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