The 8 worst moments in Duke Nukem Forever

Fourteen years. It took 14 years for Duke Nukem Forever to go from idea to finished product. Fourteen years of work by passionate individuals, some of whom wanted to finish the game so badly that they found ways to continue working on it even after its apparent demise. And after all that time, their efforts have amounted to a game that, while not as terrible as some critics would have you believe, is a relentlessly average disappointment that feels like a bland echo of its 15-year-old predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D.

As problematic as the game is, however, some problems stand out more sharply than others. Problems that, when they appear, send the game spiraling down from just “average” to “terrible.” And in the interest of prolonging the critical dogpile that the game’s found itself under during the last week or so, we’ve pulled together a list of our very least favorite ones for your perusal.

(Oh, and in case you're interested in DNF's story and haven't played it yet, you should be aware: SPOILERS AHEAD.)

1. The Holsom twins show up

Appearing just minutes after the game starts, the Holsom twins neatly embody about 70 percent of what’s wrong with Duke Nukem Forever. Concocted as an extremely timely Olsen twins reference by people who find blowjobs inherently funny, they’re ditzy, annoying and spout clumsy innuendoes in cloyingly childish voices. And that might not have been so bad, if every other woman in the game didn’t look, sound and act almost exactly like them.

So, OK, nobody’s ever accused Duke Nukem of taking a particularly progressive stance toward women, and harping on him for it is like complaining that Jaws eats too many swimmers. Even if the uniformly crass objectification doesn’t rankle you (and it clearly doesn't rankle a lot of gamers), there’s something eerie about the Holsom twins that makes them unacceptable as sex objects. Even ignoring the cutesy voices and idiotic demeanor, they’re really strangely animated, from the way they giggle through gritted teeth to their stiff, robotic walk.

Couple that with their corpselike stares and the way they stick around for way too long (delaying DNF’s supposedly over-the-top action so you can watch them comment on the news), and they set the stage perfectly for the dull stroll through Duke’s casino that makes up the game’s second level.


2. Jumping in front of a mirror

Even for what could be considered a two-year-old game (production originally halted in mid-2009), DNF isn’t exactly pretty. When jumping in front of a mirror, though, would it really have been so much trouble to make Duke move his arms? Just a little?

Above: We’d make a Riverdance reference, but we’re afraid that would be too topical and fresh for this game

3. The falling elevator

All right, so you’ve made it through the uneventful casino stroll, you’ve punched your way through the Duke Cave, and you’ve shot down alien dropships in the overlong stationary-turret sequence. You’ve got a gun now, and you’re ready for some badass alien-killing.

Too damn bad. First you’ve got to pull a handbrake and stop an elevator from falling!


The elevator-brake sequence is a strange, dull roadblock in what’s supposed to be an extreme first-person shooter, but it might not have stood out so badly if the game had made it clear exactly what the hell it is you’re supposed to do. Pulling the lever just slows the elevator and overheats the brake, at which point it disengages and the elevator starts falling at full speed again.

Aside from a view of the Vegas skyline out the windows to the right, there’s no real indicator of your progress down the shaft, so success or failure can feel completely arbitrary. You’re just falling and pulling a lever, and whether you live or die depends on some accident of luck and timing. That’s not fun. It barely even counts as a quick time event, and at best it’s just an annoying bit of filler standing between you and the game’s action. At least it’s short, and not something that’s ever repeated again (which tells us that the designers at least understood that something was wrong with it).

4. The second Battlelord fight

So far, the examples we’ve cited take place in the game’s first few levels, which might give the impression that we didn’t get very far into Duke Nukem Forever. Not so! While most of DNF’s terrible stuff is crammed into its first few hours, there are a few uniquely awful things that pop up late in the game, and the fight against the second Battlelord atop the Hoover Dam is one of them.

Above: His entrance, however, is easily the best

Easily the most frustrating boss fight in the entire game, the second Battlelord confronts you on what amounts to a long, narrow arena filled with cars you can take cover behind. After a while, though, he’ll start aggressively chasing you and kicking cars out of the way, forcing you to run scared through cover-free areas to grab ammo while the Battlelord unloads his oversized minigun/rocket launcher into your back. While that’s happening, annoying aliens with jetpacks will shoot at you from the air, and if you manage to whittle the Battlelord’s health down to zero, you’ll stab him in the neck via a quick time event – and then he’ll get back up, at full health, and chase you even more aggressively than before.

So yeah, it’s difficult, frustrating and unfair. But it’s a boss fight, right? Modern games hold our hands too much and have turned us into mewling crybabies, right?  Well, when Duke Nukem 3D threw a grossly overpowered boss at us, it didn’t make us sit through any fucking 30-to-45-second loading screens every time we died. There's absolutely nothing old-school about that. It also didn’t have weirdly consistent texture pop-in issues, which kick in every time Duke comes back to life here.

5. The physics puzzles

Every so often, DNF puts the action on hold so you can tackle a Half Life-style physics puzzle. These involve such exciting actions as throwing barrels into a shipping container to make it tip over and form a ramp, or throwing barrels onto a crane to make it tip over and form a ramp.

Above: Lots of barrels and ramps all around, really

At first, this seemed kind of cool, because we haven’t seen a high-profile game use puzzles like this in quite a while. Then, after playing through them, we realized why that is: they're boring.


  • Stridefizzel - July 12, 2011 6:37 p.m.

    Ummm... I'm actually enjoying this game just fine. Yeah it's a little over the top, especially during the hive level, but I've been playing shooters for years and this really is pretty fun. The shooting mechanics remind me of bioshock, and they're waaaay better than the left for dead series (seriously, the L4D shooting mechanics can suck my balls), the multiplayer is actually a blast - i love the chaos of it, and I'm actually having a lot of fun with some of the things you do in the story. I really think the shrink down sequences are some of the most unique things I've done in a shooter since the old days, and I would take Duke Nukem as a protagonist over every other bland, cookie-cutter dead beat protagonist from pretty much any modern first person shooter (Bioshock, call of duty, etc.) At least Duke has personality! I give gamesradar kudos for not jumping too much on the bandwagon of hate for this game, because it's really not that bad. Actually I think it's pretty fun, and I'd give like a 7 or 8 if I had to review it.
  • LTS - July 12, 2011 4:06 p.m.

    I'm sick and tired of people complaining about load times!! It's like... [COMMENT LOADING... 70 percent] [COMMENT LOADING 90 PERCENT] [COMMENT LOADED. PRESS X TO CONTINUE] X. ... Have they even played Fallout New Vegas? I literally sat through an HOUR LONG load screen the other day, because consoles can't handle the game and have shit memory. Literally. It started freezing up, so I left it and did some stuff, came back an hour later and it finally loaded, only to crash immediately later. At least the loading screens in DNF are long for a reason and it doesn't crash.
  • yoshiking - July 12, 2011 9:06 a.m.

    Was I the only one that, after watching the loading screen video, who really didn't see what was so wrong about it? You know what's bad? An 80 minute cutscene... that you can't skip
  • MidianGTX - July 12, 2011 5 a.m.

    I love how the mindless fans instantly assume the reason people don't like the new Duke game is because of the sexual innuendos, rather than just accepting they don't like it because it's total and utter crap in general, WITH innuendos plastered on top just to give it an extra glossy coat of turd.
  • XxSwiftyxX - July 11, 2011 12:07 a.m.

    I think we live in a generation with people who simply have no patience to wait, we expect instant gratification or in this case everything to load without delay. Firstly I don't even think the loading times are a problem, I have a cell phone and a netbook I can browse on while waiting no big problem. I think that Duke Nukem deserved better than a 3 on gamespot or ign. The game was not perfect but it was a great game, the problem being most people had a big expectation for duke nukem, understandable that we had waited so long, but if you are a true Duke fan you should have understood why. Those who had not played previous games such as Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Planet of the babes ect.. Don't understand Duke is not to be taken seriously its an escape in reality, the one liners make Duke, the crude humor is apart of it, and if you can't handle the content in this game its certainly not for you.
  • prevet - July 7, 2011 11:50 p.m.

    You can't take a game like this seriously, if you just roll with it is a very fun game no, it is a awesome game.
  • lhjwamangoo - July 1, 2011 7:23 a.m.

    Hell no. Guys who bash Duke are just Modern warfare like game fanboys n graphic whores. I play all kinds of shooters and duke is something new. Something awesome. I was playing bad company 2 (ya im late) but Duke made me forget about it :D
  • lhjwamangoo - July 1, 2011 7:12 a.m.

    I'm playing on xbox 360. Except loading time it's awesome as fuck. Duke deserves at least 7 or 8. If bullshit like crysis2 got 8, duke should get 9 or 10.
  • The Ledge93 - June 28, 2011 4:41 a.m.

    Who made this game? Running With Scissors?!?!?!
  • zarathustra - June 26, 2011 8:51 a.m.

    Boy what a shit game. Fanboys that pre-ordered will obviously deny it - they blew plenty dollaz on a turd. Hopefully in time everyone will forget this total piece of meh & Duke will finally rest in peace.
  • Fiirestorm21 - June 25, 2011 4 p.m.

    Alright, at this point, if you've paid any attention at all to the gaming media, and STILL got Duke Nukem Forever, then you've lost the right to bash the game as a whole for the loading screens. Seriously, I hate talking with people about this game only for them to obnoxiously keep bringing up the upon-death loading screens. Granted, it is objectively a valid criticism, but it's just one facet. You've all been warned now, get it for the PC, it's not exactly a resource hog with its graphics. Let's move on. So, on that note, death never bothered me (or many other PC gamers from what I've seen) nearly as much as 360 gamers. Hence the general discrepancy in complaints on the game's difficulty. Boss fights didn't bug me. Level design I'm also not fully understanding people's complaints on. As the article notes, this is largely the same stuff that Half-Life 2 did, and is considered to be one of the greatest shooters ever made for it. Where the hell did our standards change? I like this kind of level design because it introduces VARIETY. You know, that trick designers used to use to improve the game's pacing, before it was all-shooting-all-the-time like in Call of Duty? (Excuse me, COD's quick-time-events, I forgot. Those definitely count.) The puzzles are a change of pace. If I'm shooting stuff ALL the time, that gets boring. It's literally repetitive. By definition. The puzzles are a break, a chance for me to relax a bit before tensing up and becoming ready to constantly utilize my reflexes against further waves of enemies. I will generally concede to the game's humor. Yeah, it's not supposed to be sophisticated, but even then, it does feel out-of-date (for obvious reasons) or it simply misses its mark. Thank you for a reasoned reaction to the Hive level, though; while I'm not a fan either, it's like you said, the reaction has been just a little overdone. Tasteless attempt at humor through rape and OMG how horrible is that? No, more like just a botched attempt at straight-faced Alien-style sci-fi horror. That and the whole thing that came out towards the start of the review wave, where people were making a big deal over how "hypocritical" the game was to be poking fun at Halo's regen health while DNF uses it own. Setting aside another obvious response which is that it's a joke, not exactly an intellectual examination of the merits of different types of health systems, the joke had nothing to do with regen health whatsoever. It was a joke on Master Chief needing power armor while Duke does his thing in a tank top. That's all. Way to blow it out of proportion. *deep breath* Wow, anyway. I'm a newcomer to this series, having only barely played the original, so don't mistake my motives here. Just been annoyed by a lot of the response to this game.
  • boxterduke - June 25, 2011 3:01 a.m.

    And let me tell you why you wrote this article. You know that Duke is famous and that any article about it will bring hits to your site. IGN did it with the second review and now this site.I'm still waiting on Gamespot to do the same. If you guys are professionals then you would know that nothing and I mean nothing that has been in development for 15 years would live up to the hype. So why don't you enjoy the game for what it is. I think enough is enough. Stop bashing the game, there are tons games worst that DNF. It is a fun and enjoyable game.
  • Japanaman - June 23, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    Duke jumping made me laugh. If he didn't jump like a stiff, (if stiffs could jump), it wouldn't be funny and if it wasn't funny, it wouldn't be a Duke Nukem game.
  • Fiirestorm21 - June 25, 2011 4:01 p.m.

    Alright (GR, add an edit function in, seriously), I meant at the beginning if you got it for the consoles. PC it's fine. If that wasn't clear from context.
  • boxterduke - June 25, 2011 3:03 a.m.

    Oh and loading times? Why don't you grow some balls and play the game on a PC. pffft
  • AndIThoughtHeSmelledLikePizzaOnTheOutside - June 23, 2011 3:11 p.m.

    I would love to hear more commentary from everyone as to what they would like from a sequel. I think if the reason they didn't tone down the stupidness is that it would be boring otherwise. Maybe in a better game, they could be more subtle with their humor.
  • CitizenWolfie - June 23, 2011 9:29 a.m.

    You bitch and moan about loading times and then put 45 second adverts before a video lasting 45 seconds. I really can't give the Duke as much grief as everyone else seems to be. It sort of feels like kicking an old man after he has shat himself and said something offensive. I guess if it doesn't come with a portal gun, plasmids or a celestial paint brush any game is ripe for riducule?
  • thewulfen - June 23, 2011 3:42 a.m.

    Lots of mad bros up in here. Its sort of adorable.
  • kyle94 - June 22, 2011 8:33 p.m.

    @Misfit119: Wow. Just. Wow. I didn't like the breasts, I didn't like throwing poop around. But good lord, that was almost comical. Are you trying to be a parody? Or are you unintentionally a paradox? Here's a hint; saying "We're not putting ourselves above you, you're lowering yourself" is contradictory to exactly what you're doing. By simply saying that, you're putting yourself over the target while denying you're doing so. You're either making fun of people who actually do that, or you're a complete bugger. If you're going to attack a target group, go ahead. Just have the common courtesy to not try to pin the blame on them. Just say "I have higher standards than that" and you would be respected, instead of laughed at. Hell, I like psychological horror films a whole lot more than slasher films, but I don't go around acting like a snob. I don't act as if their choice of entertainment makes them lower than me, nor do I act as they're purposely choosing to degrade themselves. Though, if you were trying to be a mockery of snobs, good job. Your comment did get a laugh out of me.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - June 22, 2011 8:17 p.m.

    @misfit119 Who the hell cares if you want to play with shit? And you're saying that by doing that, you're lowering yourself? I hate you mother fucker for thinking you're better than everybody else. Go suck your brothers cock.

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