back to article Duke Nukem Forever dev slams unfair reviews

Developer Gearbox this week said Duke Nukem Forever was reviewed unfairly, with co-founder Brian Martel comparing the Duke's return to the classic Half-Life. In an interview with Eurogamer at Gamescom in August - by which was published yesterday - Martel expressed confusion over the game's bad reception and insisted "everybody …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nobody reviewing games wants to be the one to stand up and say, this is good, when everyone else is being persuaded to say it's bad.. Add all the lazy reviewing where opinions are just copy and pasted from elsewhere without actually reviewing anything, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    This particular game was so long in the making, that it had unfair expectations on it, that it could never achieve, for that reason it was slammed by the power crazed media who love to feel in control of a game or developers destiny ("don't fuck with us, we tell readers how to think").

    We have seen this happen time and time again, where pre-hype and then poor reviewing destroying games that aren't nowhere near as bad as the reviews make out (games that spring to mind are Lair and Haze - the former had dodgy motion controls in a otherwise good game, the control problems were quickly patched, the latter was dubbed a Halo Killer, and that prehype and resulting not living up to that destroyed Free Radical).

    1. Ian Ferguson
      Thumb Down

      Maybe you should try playing it

      and then see if YOU can say anything positive about it.

      Most (professional) reviews are written simultaneously, so your argument goes out of the window. Of course, occasionally a publisher will refuse pre-release reviews, which is always a bad sign... guess what happened with DNF.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Maybe you should try playing

        "Most (professional) reviews are written simultaneously, so your argument goes out of the window"

        Not all were published simultaneously - if you look at the metacrtic round-ups, the reviews (most of which are online and what most would call professional) range in date from June to August - in the case of the PC version, up to September.

        The better write-ups did tend to appear around the the same time and were published relatively early - there were negative reviews appearing at the same time, but as time went on, the subsequent reviews tended to be very negative.

      2. tekHedd

        Re: Maybe you should try playing it...

        I played it. It was OK. It didn't change my life or cure world hunger, but I don't feel cheated. Better than most of the games out there, although that's not saying much. Certainly better than games that were reviewed much more favorably. I'd think it would rate about a 75 if judged as a new game, but when I consider the high scores of some stinkers I've played, that actually feels stingy.

        I played it, and I say that reviewers were particularly cruel to DNF.

    2. DrXym Silver badge


      Reviewers didn't want stand up and say this game is good because it wasn't a good game. It was a clunky, linear, dated first person shooter with long load times. I'm not surprised it turned out that way given the history of the project. I expect Gearbox were handed a pile of unfinished crap, a hard deadline and had to turn it into an actual product come what may. I don't blame them for that but at the same time they should take the criticism.

    3. Rob Moir

      While you raise good points about the problems with games reviews in general, I really do thing in this case the reviewers said it was a bad game because it was... well... a bad game.

      Sometimes things are just what they are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ Rob Moir

        But opinion varied. For example, PC Gamer gave the game 80%.

    4. Chad H.


      Noone reviewing games wants to be the one to stand up and say this is bad. Have you seen the size of Marketing budgets and how much advertising is in your average gaming mag? These guys pay the rent with money that comes from the publishers; its in their best interests to say everything is good.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Time machine needed

    So what he's saying is, everyone is panning it now, but if it had come out 10 years earlier they'd have loved it? He's probably right, but they didn't release it then, they released it in 2011 and have to stand up to 2011 standards.

    If this is their thinking, that an outdated game is fine and should be judged on outdated standards, my hopes for the next in the series are falling fast!

    1. Mr Cheddarfingers

      But everyone isn't panning it now, only the handful of review sites are. User scores average it over 70% which is in the average - above average range for games, certainly not the 30% - 40% flop most review sites claim it was.

      There is a fundamental disconnect between the 30 - 40 reviewers in the industry and the thousands of gamers, and in this case it's more prominent than ever. It's demonstrative of the fact that reviews about games aren't done based on quality but for other reasons.

      1. Brezin Bardout

        User scores

        @Mr Cheddarfingers

        Metacritic seems to disagree with you there.

        Review sites give it an average of 54, user scores give it 5.9.

        Not that I'm saying review scores should be taken seriously at Metacritic. I don't think reviews should give scores anyway, it just leads to ridiculous 'how is this game only 1% better than that game' type arguments. A good review will tell you whether you would like the game or not without some number attached to it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Old-time gaming?

      Maybe it would've faired better then if it hadn't been release at today's pricing?!!

      1. Rob Beard

        Well you can pick it up on the PS3 for about 13 quid at Game now. Doesn't seem too bad at that price (yes I've played it, thought it was okay what I did play, but certainly wouldn't have paid 40 quid for it).

        What I'd like to try is getting some of my old friends together who I used to play Duke 3D with and try a multiplayer game, if it offers as much fun as Duke 3D did then I'd be a happy bunny.


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      And people never play outdated games any more, do they?

  3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Was it fair

    I never purchased it as I didn't think the previews made it look like a game I wanted to play. Problem is it might be a good game but everyone expects as its been in development for so long to have buckets more of any other game out there and doesn;t look like it does.

  4. DPWDC


    If its unfair to compare Duke to a current generation game, then surelly it is unfair to charge the same price!

    Had it been £15 at release, we might have forgiven it for being really REALLY awful, but at the same price as Modern Warefare it needs to be something special.

    Then again, Ghostbusters and Jurasic Park are currently grabbing full price at the cinema.

  5. Ben Lambert

    Fail? Nah.

    I'm an old(er) school gamer who grew up on Duke3D. I waited until it went on sale on Steam. Frankly, it's not a bad game and it does remind me of Duke3D. Could it be better? Sure. Is it a steaming pile? No, not at all.

    I agree with the developer about the reviews, I read a lot of them and came to the same conclusion. People were expecting CoD:Duke Nukem and didn't get it.

    Meh. Reviews are so subjective anyway, and half of them don't even bother hiding their personal opinions.....that's why they hold very little wieght in my mind.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was in no way an old school gaming experience, the duke is slow and arthritic and stands around to regenerate. Unlike the good old days of 100 hit points and health packs and runnin and gunnin, like an old school fps should be, and a dozen guns that appear from nowehere, and good old fashioned fun.

  7. Thomas 4


    I think Gearbox can make a very good Duke game. Borderlands was very successful and pretty solid - it's worth remembering that they were essentially building 4 games with several different engines into something workable.

    Is DNF a good game? From what I played of it, no. Is there still the potential for a good game with the current dev team? I think so.

  8. The Bit Wrangler


    Really? Unfair? No, I'm afraid not Gearbox. DNF is a prescient acronym since I could not be bothered to finish what was a truly terrible game. Waiting forever for restarts and scene-changes to load is so 90s. Games have moved on. The graphics are also dated a the gameplay itself is awful. The humour is superb (if you're a big child like me) but, sadly, can't detract from the fact that this is a very old game dressed up as something new.

    To quote Good Morning Vietnam the Duke "sucks the sweat off a dead man's balls".

  9. Miek

    "with co-founder Brian Martel comparing the Duke's return to the classic Half-Life"

    Reality is this way Brian >>>

  10. Euchrid

    Do they have a point?

    Haven’t played it myself, but one friend (who knows his gaming onions) said it wasn’t nearly as bad as the worse reviews, any means and that he felt that collectively, hacks felts it safe to put the technical boot in.

    One thing my friend claimed was that some publications gave it a lower mark than games that were broken (i.e. as in they were so buggy or flawed to the extent that they were unplayable). After having a quick scan, found some examples where that was the case. Although there was a lot of criticism of DNF, I can’t recall any reviewer saying that it was so bad to the point of unplayability.

    IIRC, early reviews were reasonably positive (e.g. 8 out of 10) or at worst, gave it an average score. As time went on, the scores started getting worse... why?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Would Half-Life today be reviewed as highly as it was?

    Yes. Yes it would. You see the difference here is that Half life is a *good* game and Duke Nukem Forever is a *shit* game.

    This really should be something a games developer with Gearbox's experience should have grasped by now; shit games get bad reviews.

    Tell you what Gearbox; rather than bitching about how unfair it is that better games got better reviews, how about you make a *good* Duke Nukem game?

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      Maybe he fell asleep for 10 years

      As I recall, HL2, HL2:Ep1, HL2:Ep2 were reviewed highly. So yes, evolutions of a game can happily be good.

      To that end, you could argue that Portal & Portal 2 were spin-offs of HL, and were still good.

      For his HL vs DNF argument to work, he has to be saying that they've just re-released one of the original DN games without any advancement, and is upset that people think it's stagnated.

  12. JDX Gold badge

    "Would Half-Life today be reviewed as highly as it was?"

    No. It's 10 years out of date graphically for a start.

    1. The Original Ash

      You're kidding, right? Compelling narrative, interesting environments, exciting combat events... It was, and still is, a great game.

      What would let it down today would be AI, which is 10 years out of date. Gamers have gotten better, and even Hard difficulty is a walk in the park compared to newer games.

      If you think the graphics are all that will let it down, look out for the Black Mesa mod for the Source engine. It's what HL:Source should have been.

      1. Miek
        Thumb Up

        "You're kidding, right? Compelling narrative, interesting environments, exciting combat events... It was, and still is, a great game." +1

  13. Thomas 18


    Good luck getting that funded.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Sadly it was profitable

      Sales were very disappointing but it still managed to make a profit for the publishers, Take-Two Interactive, per their earnings call. So I guess they'd fund a sequel since it couldn't possibly cost as much to make as this one must have.

  14. Piro

    I don't think it's bad in context

    I haven't played it, but it doesn't matter that it's bad. It's not the fault of Gearbox.

    It had to come out, it didn't matter if it was bad, it had to mark the end of the saga.

    They can do something new with the franchise in future, but the blueprints for DNF were already set out.

  15. Gareth 18

    rose tinted specs

    The problem with creating a nostalgic game, is that it has to be nostalgic and at the same time appeal to a more modern audiance. That is why HL2 and the chapters that followed were so successful. They took what was great about Half Life and updated it and kept it relevant.

    Forever isn't a nostalgic game made for a 21st century audiance. It's a 1990s game that has had a face lift. It isn't relevant, and it just comes across childish and a bit embarassing.

    Plus it was buggy as hell, and parts of it just looked and played atrociously bad.

  16. Mr Cheddarfingers

    Yes but it's true.

    DNF wasn't great, but it was given a reception far more negative than it deserved.

    The problem is most reviewers nowadays in their early - mid 20s are too young to remember DN3D when it came out and many were under the impression the fact it was cheesy was because it was a bad game, not because it was intentionally so because that's what Duke Nukem was always like. The joke was probably lost because when DN3D came out in the 90s it was a somewhat amusing take on over the top action films of the mid - late 80s like Commando and so forth.

    The game had it's bugs but no more so than most titles nowadays, and it didn't even flop, it still achieved pretty decent sales and still sold much more than some drastically higher rated games have.

    User score at sites like show it as averaging 76% over 361 ratings, despite the site giving it only 45%. The game certainly wasn't an 80% or 90% imo, but it was an easy 70%.

    So really, when it did what it set out to do as a game, when it sold well enough, the users liked it well enough, what exactly is the problem with the developers complaining at the reviews that were completely out of whack with reality? If anything it's the greatest example in a while of how politicised review sites are, and hence, how utterly worthless they are.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Yes but it's true.

      FWIW, our DNF reviewer is rather older than that.

    2. Daniel B.

      The fun thing with DNF is that most sites went on saying that it was a 90's FPS that felt dated, blah blah. I found the true problem with DNF to be that it was basically Halo with Duke-themed stuff. The things that hamper DNF are the same ones hampering Halo:

      - Linear level design, can't really explore everything: Check

      - Carry only two weapons: Check

      - Regen health that gets you killed quickly while waiting for refill: Check

      I'd add the long loading times, and the surprisingly LESS interaction with the environment compared even to older games like Doom3. Hopefully they'll fix this on a sequel.

      Interesting tidbit: my 15 year-old stepson (who was porn after Duke3d came out!) actually liked DNF, sans the loading times. Maybe it isn't that much dated?

  17. Atonnis

    I think...

    ...that Brian Martel might not have actually tried his product in a real-world example.

    For instance, sitting around waiting for regeneration is boring...

    ....and being able to run around for 30 seconds and then waiting for a 2 minute loading screen is boring...

    ....and pointless stuff like a gym you can f--k around in doing pointless things is only fun if it's a fun respite from a sh*tload of action...

    ....and enemies that can shoot through badly placed objects is annoying...

    ....and overdoing the same line over and over is boring....

    ....and a game full of bugs is frustrating....

    ....and waiting for minutes at a time for a reload every time you die when you always play a game on it's hardest setting for the challenge is REALLY FU--ING BORING!!!

  18. dotdavid

    Duke Nukem Forever

    ...was better as a meme than a game. If I were Gearbox I would have released it as "Duke Nukem 3D 2" just so people could still claim DNF was "on the way".

    Eat this because I'm all outta gum.

  19. CD001


    I actually played the original Half-Life (ok, technically, the version they ported to the source engine and bundled in the Orange Box) through again recently - for the first time in years... and, yes the graphics are dated, yes it has some questionable "platformer" moments and yes it's actually quite short (you can play through from start to finish it about 15 - 20 hours), but you know what, it's actually still a pretty solid game.

    By modern standards it falls short in many areas but what they did well was playability - even more than a decade on it's still quite playable ... I'll admit, I've not played DNF and I suspect it's not as awful as it was made out to be; but comparing it to Half-Life ... I'd be very dubious about that claim. If it had the playability of Half-Life I suspect a lot of other flaws may have been overlooked slightly and it might not have got universally panned by every reviewer on the planet.

    1. Anonymous Cowerd

      try looking up Black Mesa

      I'm hoping to see that completed one day, just as I'm hoping to see Ep3 or HL3.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Black Mesa guys are unfortunately using Valve time. It could come out anywhere between now and the year 2357.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would wager the developers are too emotionally involved to be able to view the game objectively. At least I sure hope so.. Who in their right mind would compare it to Half Life for crying out loud

  21. tmTM

    Cheap now

    I've seen it on the shelves in stores for £12, now it's cheap enough to be cheesy fun I'll probably give it a whirl.

  22. Absent

    "Would Half-Life today be reviewed as highly as it was?"

    Would Manic Miner today be reviewed as highly as it was?

  23. SpaMster

    So the developers are throwing their toys out the pram because people didnt like the game, and claim it was because they started making it 15 years ago so it's not going to be up to scratch with other studios games coming out at the same time?

    I'm sorry but thats a complete cop out, why even release it if you already know it's dated by todays standards? They should have just released it as a budget title if they already knew this was the case

  24. Paul Shirley

    Forever was a cynical 'contractual obligation' release

    Some of us remember that Gearbox were forced to implement the existing Duke Forever game design mainly to gain the ongoing Duke franchise. It's a real pity Gearbox seem to forget that (and that we know). While it feels cynical, punting out a dated piece of shit as the price of reviving the franchise is something I can live with.

    What I can't accept is Gearbox punting out a budget quality 'contractual obligation' game at AAA prices then turning round and bitching about the reception it gets. Gearbox knew exactly what they were doing and need to just shut up and take the well deserved condemnation for poor implementation and creaking gameplay.

    If they want to bitch, the morally outraged merkins that wasted their reviews on dissing the Duke character are a suitable target, they really are idiots with no excuses.

  25. HP Cynic

    It was crap

    I got the demo and played it and reviews were right: no baggage or context required it was simply NOT FUN.

  26. Bailey
    Black Helicopters

    There's something strange about the moon

    I entered DNF with an open mind and came out with an impartial, balanced view of the game - as I like to think I do for all my reviews.

    I can't speak for other review sites, but I firmly suspect the majority of reviewers did likewise.

    It's easy to speculate about some cynical, conspiratorial attack on DNF, 3D Realms or Gearbox, or some wider disparagement of old-skool mechanics, or, most damning of all, perfunctory, sheeple journalism.

    And I completely understand the allure of conspiracy theories (Nibiru, DUMBs, 'a measure of wheat for a penny' anyone?).

    But once in a while you just have to sit back, chillax, and accept that...

    ... drum roll...

    ... drum roll...

    ... drum roll...


  27. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Nothing is better than Half-Life

    And I'm talking about the original, dated graphics and all (there's a texture patch by the way).

    The storyline, compelling action, marvellously devious AI, everything in Half-Life was tailored to perfection. Half-Life is only just as good as Half-Life, with better graphics obviously, but with the same limitations (rails, essentially).

    There is no other game yet made that has ever matched the Half-Life series for AI, story or atmosphere. Not in the FPS genre in any case.

    I do not hesitate to give Gearbox the credit of having made Opposing Forces, far from it. OF was a great addition to the genre, and the first game offering truly useful sidekick performance. Once again a great Half-Life AI success.

    But DNF is not in the same league, it's as simple as that. Of course, the turkey Gearbox was handed is most likely heavily responsible for its current reception. But maybe the Opposing Forces developers are not there anymore either. Taking over someone's code is hard enough, taking over someone's knowledge is next to impossible.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If Gearbox weren't delusional they would have given up on this turkey a long time ago.

  29. Aggellos

    DNF was less than impressive, humourless and void of anything one could call atmosphere,.

    Here is one for brian "if DNF was released 10yr's ago would it still be as crap"


    Good rule to follow here is brian , if the majority say it is crap then more than likely it is crap.

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