The Duke Nukem franchise has deep roots in PC gaming history. The trash-talking action hero made his debut some two decades ago in 1991 on MS-DOS followed by a sequel (Duke Nukem II) in 1993. Three years later, Duke Nukem 3D took the industry by storm. Armed with cigars, a mean flattop and a badass quip for every situation, Duke captivated gamers. I was just 13 years old at the time and I recall loving every minute of Duke Nukem 3D.
Naturally, fans of the series couldn't wait to get their hands on the next installment and in 1997, 3D Realms promised to deliver a sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. Unfortunately, the development process faced various hurdles. In 2009, more than a decade after announcing Duke Nukem Forever, 3D Realms closed its doors. For most gamers, that news was the final nail in Duke's coffin and frankly, we didn't expect Duke Nukem Forever to launch either.
As it turns out, we were wrong. Around the same time 3D Realms went under, the company passed Duke Nukem Forever off to Triptych Games and Gearbox Software (Piranha Games handled the multiplayer). Some 14 years after 3D Realms' initial announcement, Gearbox confirmed that Duke Nukem Forever was finished. The long-awaited title launched in most markets on June 10, while folks in North America had to wait until June 14.
Considering it spent 14 years in creation, many gamers had extremely high expectations for Duke Nukem Forever's gameplay. Others remained skeptical that it would even ship, let alone deliver an earth-shattering experience. You could say we were somewhere between the two. We remained hopeful that the Duke would make a successful comeback, but had strong reservations about DNF's quality -- especially after playing the mediocre demo last week.
Personally I agree with most of DNF's bad rap in the gaming press: the graphics are sub-par, the gameplay is repetitive and the old Duke's witty charm is… well, not witty or charming. The game might spark a little more interest in me if I was still 13, but I'm struggling to get through this one. Other TechSpot editors have checked it out and have a more positive outlook than mine though.
As noted in our news coverage earlier this week "Duke Nukem Forever reviews are in: the game sucks," console reviews have been harsh, with the PC version doing a bit better. However in the last two days its metascore has gone from 76 to 57, with latter reviews giving the game a beating. User reviews seem to be a mix of lovers and haters. If anything Duke Nukem Forever's long history of controversy will not rest for now.
With that off our chest, this review is less about DNF's gameplay and more about showing you how the game runs on a broad spectrum of today's (and yesterday's) PC hardware. Considering it was built with a modified version of the very much dated Unreal Engine 2.5, it's fair to assume that DNF won't be crippling Nvidia's GTX 590 -- in fact, we didn't even bother to include it this time. Instead, we've focused on budget to mid-range graphics products and a few integrated solutions.