After fifteen years of waiting, Duke Nukem Forever—long thought to only be vaporware now and forevermore—has finally arrived, and the reaction hasn’t been pretty. While the game has garnered some good reviews, most of which seem to treat the game as a nice nostalgia trip to a simpler age of gaming, the majority of the reviews have ranged from “meh” to outright hatred for the game’s lackluster, antiquated gameplay and offensive humor.
Take, for example, Ars Technica’s review:
In another scene, a woman sobs and asks for her father. You see, the women in the alien craft are being forcibly impregnated by the aliens, and during your journey, you hear a mixture of screams and sexual noises. After I accidentally blew up a few of these female victims in a firefight, Duke made a joke about abortion.
This is what passes for humor in the game. It’s not racy, it’s not funny, and it makes you feel dirty. Every time I put the controller down, I felt the need to rub my hands on my jeans as if the game were making me physically dirty. It’s like watching your uncle tell racist jokes at Thanksgiving and praying someone has the guts to tell him to cut it out, but this time it’s interactive—and you’re the uncle.
I’m a fan of humor that’s willing to push the boundaries, but nothing is being sent up, mocked, or lampooned here. There’s just no reason for what you see and hear. This is an ugly game that exists to celebrate ugliness. The people involved should be ashamed.
1Up gave the game an “F”, saying:
When the humor isn’t bad it’s outright revolting. Remember the kidnapped women in the second episode of Duke 3D? They’re back, but this time they scream in a combination of pain and ecstasy as they’re raped and impregnated. Two of them—who had given Duke oral sex earlier in the game—beg him not to dump them and promise to “lose the pregnancy weight.” The player can then choose to kill them on the spot or watch them scream as they suffer a painful death—exploding with their alien babies. Throughout the rest of the level, Duke encounters women in a similar state and is offered the same terrible choice: kill them on the spot or face the alien spawn. Dispatching the woman prompts Duke to quip, “They’re not human anymore.”
Wrapped up in this stomach-churning wrapper is a shooter trapped in time. Some enemy encounters are surprisingly modern and entertaining, while others seem like fossils from various bygone eras. Circle-strafing boss battles and minecart sections recall the mid- to late-nineties. Sections playing as a shrunken-Duke seem like they were ripped out of the early Unreal Tournament mod-scene. Simple physics-puzzles come straight out of 2005. Low-res textures, accompanied by pop-in, make the game look like an early Xbox 360 shooter. This contrast is actually rather interesting, and many sections of the game are quite enjoyable. However, it’s impossible to isolate these sections from the game as a whole, and DNF is a game that revels in misogyny and its own sense of importance.
In fact, the game’s reception has been so poor that The Redner Group—a PR agency hired by 2K Games to help with the release of the game—got on Twitter and began criticizing the critics, complaining that they went too far and were too mean. The Redner Group even went so far as to threaten critics with blackballing, i.e., not sending them games to review in the future. 2K Games responded to this by announcing that not only did they not condone The Redner Group’s comments, but that they had severed ties with the agency.
So let me get this straight… 2K Games has no problem releasing a game clearly intended to be as offensive as possible with rape and abortion humor, but they want nothing to do with an unprofessional PR flack who flies off the handle. Is this what Duke Nukem do?