Duke Nukem publicists publicly threaten journalists whose reviews contain "venom"

Duke Nukem Forever, a long-overdue sequel in the Duke Nukem video-game franchise, finally shipped this week to scathing reviews. The Redner Group, who were handling publicity for the launch, tweeted a message that warned reviewers that "we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn't based on today's venom" -- in other words, if game journalists say nasty things about our client, they won't get review titles in the future. They've since apologized, but this is not the sort of subtext one usually sees brought to the surface in publicist/journalist relations.

Duke Nukem's PR threatens to punish sites that run negative reviews (via The Awl)


  1. …long-overdue…

    Now that’s and understatement. Wasn’t this originally supposed to launch some time in the ’50s?

    1. Naw dude. WWII. It originally ran on ENIAC and was a jaunty interactive retrospective about the Manhattan Project. It was originally delayed because it was classified with the rest of US nuclear secrets.

  2. Hahaha. I kind of feel bad for the developers, and even the publisher. Everyone in the industry knows threats to reviewers is the equivalent of PR suicide.

    Sounds like the firm doesn’t know arse about the market they’re working in.

    1. “Everyone in the industry knows threats to reviewers is the equivalent of PR suicide.”

      Exactly. No reviews from reviewers (especially the ones that the gamers know they can trust to say when a game is bad) means people assume you’re game isn’t worth reviewing and hence not worth buying.

      So I say, Go ahead, publicize bad games and then react in a way that keeps future games you publicize, bad or not, from succeeding and enjoy going out of business.

  3. Judging by the current reviews I’ve seen, no journalist will ever see one of their titles again.

    The game reviewers have not been kind.

  4. If ars technica’s review is typical (summary: “totally sucks, offensive, waste of time/money.”), this PR firm won’t be sending anyone anything anytime soon.

  5. Sadly, not super uncommon. I lost a great deal of respect for Amazon when they deleted a negative review of mine regarding a CompTIA electronic flash card study aid.

    Many of the questions were obviously arbitrarily pulled from a multiple choice test (Q: “of the following, which best describes…”, with no set of choices) with no form of editing to suit a flash card format, and I stated as much. A week later I noticed my review was gone, although the 1 star rating remained.

    As time goes on I lend less and less credence to the positive/negative review ratio on user feedback pages at product sites and sellers.

  6. “we r reviewing our quality of games next time and hope not to get today’s venom again”


  7. Duke Nukem Forever became the most prominent longest running joke as vaporware that somebody, somewhere, was still working on or planning to bring out.

    There’s no WAY that the game that came out was going to live up to the hype and expectation. Indeed, like many mystery-type stories, the fun had become the expectation, and no resolution could fix it.

    That being said, the game didn’t have to *suck*. And, it didn’t have to replace ribald and edgily funny with stupidly offensive. Yet, it seems to have done both of those, based on the reviews I’ve read.

    One more notch in the “what were they thinking” belt.

  8. Of course, getting bad press from video game reviewers is like the govt telling the truth. It almost never happens and, when it happens, it’s almost never in a place that it’s needed.

  9. Disclaimer: I haven’t played the game (but I have read a few reviews), so this is just my opinion.

    I was an avid player of the sidescroller duke nukems and Duke3D. I still fire up Duke3D every now and then (modded with high resolution textures, 3d models for monsters, and internet play) and play with friends. Duke3D is an excellent deathmatch game, and its single player campaign has some of the best level design (amply rewarding exploration) the FPS genre has ever seen. The game also made waves with its interactivity. Breakable glass, toilets and fountains that worked (and could be destroyed) all manner of trains, doors, platforms, pool tables with elementary ball physics… it was groundbreaking and best of all it was tons of fun. The dirty jokes and Duke’s egomaniacal bad-boy attitude were just the icing on the cake. You either loved Duke himself or hated him but what was undeniable was that the game was awesome.

    The new duke is basically the same formula, and there’s a few things wrong with that:

    Duke’s attitude can’t carry a game. The humour is juvenile. Juvenile humour on top of a good game that brought breakthroughs in interactivity and gameplay was a winning formula. Duke’s attitude on top of a middling shooter that really doesn’t do much more than rehash the old formula and bring some modern FPS sensibility to it is just… we’ve been there and done that and Duke himself just isn’t that funny or interesting of a character unless you’re a frat boy. Not to mention, we’ve been waiting for this game for what, a decade now? It could never have lived up to the hype. I’ve been predicting the negative backlash for years.

    Personally, I’m buying the game. I loved the original Duke enough that I have to play this one. I know at the very least I’ll appreciate the nods to the fans. I dunno, I see why it’s not gonna be game of the year by a long shot, but I think people’s hate has more to do with Duke than the game itself. There are many crappy shooters released every year, none have drawn the venom and ire of reviewers the way DNF has. These reviewers just don’t like Duke. The game being somewhat unoriginal is entirely beside the point, really. Duke’s always been, and remains, polarizing. Hardcore Duke fans will find something to love, people who liked Duke3D cause it was a good game but never thought much of Duke himself… maybe stick to Gears of War and Halo. Perfectly good polished shooters. You don’t play Duke if you want a polished shooter. You play Duke ’cause you wanna shoot some aliens, kick some toilets, and kill some strippers. It’s stupid but it’s fun. These days, nothing stupid can be fun unless it’s also a sly meta-deconstruction. Boring!

    1. I’m not so sure. Some of the reviews I’ve read were from fans of the original that wanted to like it. But the developer(s) replaced the great levels and freedom with boring corridors that were Duke 3D’s archaic competition. And they replaced the edgy humor with misogynistic (to an extreme), offensive (in a bad way), mean, unfunny toilet humor.

      The consistency of these complaints across multiple reviews could be some anti-Duke conspiracy, but I really doubt it. My biggest question is what happened? Gearbox has taken great pains in repeating that they only fulfilled the vision of the previous developers, and if that’s the case, why? The way they keep saying that makes me believe they aren’t being humble but rather trying to distance themselves from the final product.

      If it was this bad (and all signs point to it being really bad), why not create their own game, or just let it die? I would rather have an eternal joke about an oft-delayed game than to have a game I so enjoyed receive this sort of sequel.

  10. Nothing new here. A lot of PR firms actually provide bennies to media outlets, considerably toned down from the coke parties and free women they offered to us back in the earlier half of the 2000s.

    This is just a PR firm being dumb, they overtly admitted that they will in fact cherry pick for the next time. THQ, EA, Eidos, etc… they have been quite public about that fact for a long time, or has everyone forgotten already of Kane and Lynch?

  11. That’s just dumb-to-the-dumb power. Any PR person who knows you *never* publicly threaten reviewers should be fired.

    If a review contains a factual error, it’s perfectly OK to contact the reviewer, privately/off-line, and point out the mistake and ask, if possible, for an edit. That’s it.

    I think someone should write a scathing review of the PR firm and see what their reaction to that is.

  12. I think Gearbox made a great business decision with this, though. They buy the game for next to nothing, whack it into some sort of usable state, and release it. It’s been a joke for a decade, but finally people get to play it. It’s terrible, of course, but the terribleness isn’t Gearbox’s fault, and among all the reviews I’ve seen, nobody blames them. They just made it run, that’s all they did.

    The game is interesting as a dissection of exactly why clear project goals and endpoints are important. They couldn’t make up their mind and played follow the leader for so long they went out of business, and the game is terrible because of it.

  13. I kind of understand the publisher’s frustration, seems like a lot of the “reviews” focus only on the negatives, and were far more harsh than they would have been for any other game. DNF is the Video Game equivalent of “Mega-shark vs. Croco-saurus” and the reviewers were expecting Casablanca.

    Not that publishers should threaten to hold back review copies, but there is nothing stopping a reviewer from just buying a game off the store shelf like the rest of us.

    1. I kind of understand the publisher’s frustration, seems like a lot of the “reviews” focus only on the negatives, and were far more harsh than they would have been for any other game. DNF is the Video Game equivalent of “Mega-shark vs. Croco-saurus” and the reviewers were expecting Casablanca.

      And how did the critics receive “Mega-shark vs. Crocosaurus”? They either gave it scathingly negative reviews or ignored it completely. If that film had been in development for almost 15 years and released with a huge marketing campaign I imagine the critical reaction would have been even worse.

  14. Looks like a stinker all right…when was the last time an AAA title got a below-50 Metacritic rating ?

  15. Threats like that do not work when nearly every major site or magazine gives you a bad review. You start withholding games and it simply means your products get less exposure in places where it matters.

    And then there’s the fact that DNF is a worse game then DN3D. The inventive level design filled with secrets and powerups, the colorfull art direction, the over the top humor, the cool weapons. All of the things that made Duke Nukem 3D a classic are not present in the new game.

    It’s ugly, not funny, dull and really poorly made. The load times are horrific and the frame rate is terrible.

    The game feels verry underproduced, a rush job made by too few people just putt out there to get it out of the way. Yes I played it, I was a huge fan of Duke and borrowed the game from a friend, wanting to like it.

    You can go back and play old games like Quake or Unreal or Half Life and still experience a great game. DNF doesn’t feel like that at all. It’s not retro, it’s just BAD.

  16. The publicists obviously played the game and in so doing, contracted syphilis. What we’re seeing here is the ensuing dementia.

  17. “we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom”

    Boy, that’s going to be a pretty potent threat for reviewers of their next game in about fifteen years.

  18. Also, 2K Games has dropped The Redner Group for representation, and The Redner Group is now mea culpa-ing on Twitter.

  19. Knowing the development hell this game went through, with the creator of the game never knowing when to abandon his work and just publish– always wanting to add just one more cool feature– it is no wonder the moneymen eventually took it away from him after 10 years of stalling. Such products, though, are hardly salvageable, which is why I will not be buying this game, bad reviews or not.

  20. You know, I think what should have happened instead is a multi-pronged teaser type approach.

    Vaporware this epic deserves to stay that way.

    But in the meantime, Duke Nukem 4 U! Duke Nukem Never! Duke Nukem Whatever! Duke Nukem 4play?

    You know, an IOS, an XBLA, a flash/facebook.

    Keep the joke going, never bring out the impossible game, and sneak a Duke cameo into everything else you ever make.

    Every once in a while, tease a Duke game — that still isn’t it.

    In this way, Duke Nukem lives on (sniff) forever.

  21. I’ve been mildly horrified by some of the details coming out in the reviews. Apparently, the very first achievement you can make in the game is to take a turd out of a toilet bowl and throw it at people. That’s the behavior of someone who’s mentally ill, not the behavior of someone who’s mildly drunk and decides to check out the local strip club, which is about the level of DN3D. All that time and money, and that’s what George Broussard & Co. were coming up with?

  22. “if game journalists say nasty things about our client, they won’t get review titles in the future.”

    What, in another 15 years?

  23. The reviews paint a pretty dismal picture. Sounds like the publishers did a really crappy pasteup of all previous dev work, and slapped together something that is not even close to the originals, more like a console rail shooter than a PC game.

    The console curse strikes again.

  24. I’m not aware of what other games or products are made by Redner Group. Given the consensus on Duke-Forever, will the Group last long enough to put out another game and withhold it from mean game reviewers?

  25. Business as usual in the gaming industry. This is why virtually none of the big name reviewers ever give really bad reviews – or at least heavily qualify them by saying things like “it’s got a lot of potential, once they patch the bugs” and stuff.

Comments are closed.