On the other hand, it's become an industry-wide Running Gag when talking about Vapor Ware. While the game was still in production, it was frequently used as a punchline in the same way as "when pigs fly" or "when hell freezes over", thanks to its constant delays and "When It's Done" release date set by its original developers.
Against all odds, it finally became available on June 14th, 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on DVD or via Steam, just in time for Duke's Twentieth Anniversary. The Hail to the Icons Parody Pack was released on October 11th as the game's first DLC pack. It includes four new maps, each making fun of an iconic FPS series with a parody-weapon based on said series, and three new game modes. A second DLC pack titled "The Doctor Who Cloned Me", released in December 2011, has a smaller campaign taking place right after DNF's ending which gives proper closure to the story along with four new multiplayer maps.For more information about the game's extensive development history, see this page.
Tropes related to the game include:
[Please remember that tropes related to the game's development go into the Development History page]
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Las Vegas gets pretty mashed up by the aliens. Unfortunately for them, it's also where Duke lives, and he's not pleased that they took, of all things, his girls, while he was caught in the middle of all the action.
All There in the Manual: General Graves' full name, Phil Graves ("fill graves"), is revealed in History, Legacy & Legend: Duke Nukem Forever, the art book that comes with the Balls of Steel edition of the game.
Alternate History: Duke's universe is pretty much like ours, except that it has had alien invasions a few times in the past. And, well, he exists.
America Saves the Day: Zig-Zagging. Duke saves the day, but before the final boss battle, it was revealed that the president of the USA was hoping that the aliens would assist him in taking over the world if he co-operated with them.
And Your Reward Is Clothes: Used in the multiplayer's experience system. Killing other Dukes earns you XP, there are various challenges to complete that give you bonus XP, and it all adds up to hats and costumes you can wear. Hats that you can gain include an Uncle Sam hat (with red, white, and blue shirt), an afro for Duke, and a Conehead hat.
Taken Up to Eleven with the My Digs location. Everything you can unlock for it is either cosmetic, a babe you can ogle, a trophy, or an interactive distraction that serves no other purpose than to be interactive. And it is awesome.
Arc Number: 69, for obvious reasons. It's the number of rockets the Devastator can hold, Duke lives on the 69th story of a building, and, if the ending is correct, Duke will be running to be the 69th president.
Ascended Meme - The "Balls of Steel" special edition. (For some backstory, the "Balls of Steel" line was used to harass a Ventrilo server constantly, causing the admin to devolve into extreme, rabid angrish. The resulting video was incredibly popular and popularized Ventrilo harassments.)
In one boss fight, Duke says "I'm gonna kill you old style!' a reference to the woman who threatened the harasser. After defeating the boss, Duke will say "I've got balls of steel.", one of the mainly spammed phrases from Duke during the harassment (also made popular due to BALLSBALLSBALLSBALLSBALLS being spammed as well)
The spamming of "BALLS BALLS BALLS" got its own separate reference in "The Doctor Who Cloned Me."
Patton Oswalt's "Flagon of Chuckles" line from one of his routines was referenced as an Achievement.
Badass: Duke, of course, but special mention goes to Crusty Old Man, the crane operator during Duke's fight with the Octoking, who not only survived the battle but also hurled a few insults during it as though it's all part of his contract.
"Whoa! There's somethin shakin' the crane! Come on out, ya bastard! I'll donkey punch ya in the blow hole!"
Also, occasionally, when he messes up at the pool table in his mansion..
Bland-Name Product: the game has several instances of real-life brands being modified, usually with a Double Entendre. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch becomes Analcrumbly & Itch, while Macy's becomes Fecy's.
Book Ends: In the beginning of the game, you take a piss and kill a giant cyclops alien in a videogame. The last boss is that very alien, and you piss in his eye socket after killing him. To which he remarks before fighting him, is a one liner ascended from a very familiar one: "I'll rip your eye out and piss on your brain!"
Booze-Based Buff: Duke can down a tallboy beer to drastically enhance his damage resistance in exchange for blurred vision. On top of that, multiplayer features Duke-brand Whiskey that provides temporary invulnerability.
Bond One-Liner: Duke has a ton of them. What he says depends on what he kills.
Cosmetic Award: Aside of the achievements, simply leveling up (No challenges required) earns you decorations for "My Digs", which when selected takes you to a whole separate floor of Duke's casino which you can explore at will, much like Lara Croft's Mansion in Tomb Raider. Most of these are just photos of Duke doing manly things or giant gold statues of naked babes.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Some things cause funny reactions even though they are only possible through cheating. For example: you normally don't have guns in any level where you can play pool, but if you cheat and get a gun, you will be able to shoot the balls off the pool table, which will cause Duke to cuss. Also, if you get a shrinker, then you spawn an enemy and shrink it, then you spawn an EDF soldier, the soldier will walk toward the shrunk enemy and squish it under his boot.
Disc One Final Boss: In "The Doctor Who Cloned Me", after you fight and kill Dr. Proton, you'll find that the game isn't even halfway over yet.
Does This Remind You of Anything?: Frequent. For example, while playing pool, Duke will moan suggestively. For bonus points, do this in Duke's Penthouse while the Holsom Twins are nearby.
Dummied Out: Using console commands, players can give Duke a weapon called the Mini Nuke, complete with model, textures, animations and all — everything, in fact, except the damage expected from a nuclear missile.
The console. You need to use an external program to re-enable it.
Everyone Has Standards: In the DLC campaign, Duke, as hedonistic as he is, refuses to play a video game that involves pimp-slapping women.
Evil Laugh: The twins have a wicked cackle, first seen at when, ah, playing with Duke, then again when one of them makes a joke about him.
"Looks like those alien bastards drank all my beer."
Fingerless Gloves: He's got nuke-symbol branded sport gloves as opposed to his old biker leathers.
Flushing Edge Interactivity: The toilets can be used. Unfortunately, one of the toilets has already been used...and that person didn't flush. You can get an achievement for poking the matter in the unflushed toilet.
Follow the Leader: The biggest criticism of the game (arguably except the sexism) is its similarities to other modern shooters.
Forklift Fu: One segment of Duke's trip inside the Hoover Dam encourages him to use a forklift to kill a bunch of pigcops.
Four-Star Badass: During the single-player campaign of the DLC "The Doctor Who Cloned Me", General Graves, of all people, joins up with you and Captain Dylan in battle during some segments, wielding a Ripper and throwing occasional pipebombs at enemies like a boss in his official attire.
Gameplay Ally Immortality: Mauve Shirt Captain Dylan, who can't die because he's a named character. He does get critically wounded late in the game and "dies" of said wounds... and recovers during the single-player campaign of the DLC "The Doctor Who Cloned Me"!
Genre Savvy: It can be said that both Duke and the Aliens are this. The aliens know that beer is a power up for Duke. Duke meanwhile knows that the aliens didn't really return for a peace talk, and even correctly concludes that he was dreaming at the start of the Titty City chapter.
Groin Attack: Appears as a finisher against the Battlelords.
Gunship Rescue: After spending pretty much the entire game as butt monkeys and walking item-drops, the EDF gets a chance to shine in the final battle: Supplying Duke with a BFG, helping mop up the remaining alien foot soldiers, and flying Duke out of a nuclear explosion.
Humiliation Conga: After finishing the first boss, Duke punts his eyeball for a field goal.
Immune to Bullets: Bosses are arbitrarily immune to small arms fire when they took full damage from these weapons in previous games from the same canon. Only explosives or mounted turret guns can harm them.
Incredible Shrinking Man: Duke is shrunk down to miniature size at several points during the game by stepping on special shrink pads. The following sections (played when shrunk) allow you to jump on shelves, use various tools and implements (like small pipes, kitchen spatulas and more) to traverse puzzles, and allow you to ride in an RC car given to you by a young fan.
During one particular section, shooting some barrels next to a Pigcop sends him flying. "Huh. I guess pigs do fly!"
Plenty of other things get lampshaded. For example, when Duke comes across some locked double doors at the Duke Dome, he remarks, "Who locks these things?!"
Ladder Physics: Averted. There's even an animation showing Duke's hands as he climbs, and he has to face towards the ladder while he climbs.
Limited Loadout: Presumably, Duke's ability to hold as many weapons as he wanted to disappeared while he worked through all of that gum. At release, he was limited to just two primary weapons, pipe bombs, trip mines, and one of each of three types of powerups: beer, the holoduke, and steroids. An update expanded his arsenal to four weapons at once, but only for the PC version. One of the boss battles lampshades it with a Shout-Out to Total Recall (1990).
Duke: Baby, you make me wish I had three guns.
Living Legend: Because of the previous game, Duke's now quite famous.
Loads and Loads of Loading: The loading times on consoles used to be atrocious, taking up to a minute to fully load. Further patches and an installation onto the hard drive helped push it down, though.
Luck-Based Mission: The encounter with eight Octabrains late in the game. They throw either wooden crates or steel drums at you; the latter of which cannot be deflected and will kill you with just two hits. If more than two of the Octabrains choose to throw drums at you during the fight, you're basically screwed.
Made of Iron: The Ego bar and direct RPG hits aside, in the DLC The Doctor Who Cloned Me, Dr. Proton seems to lampshade just how much damage Duke can take...
"Rammed that thick skull of yours against the mountain and it moved for you, did it? I knew you wouldn't disappoint."
Nintendo Hard: Some LPers have complained about Duke dying very easily even on the lowest difficulty. When you factor in, among other things, Duke's rather short Ego bar at the very beginning of the game (which can be doubled in length through interacting with several specific objects throughout the game), as well as enemies being capable of emptying nearly three-quarters of that amount with a single attack, not to mention Duke being the One-Man Army that he is, it's not that hard to figure out why.
Ironically, many old-school PC gamers complained how the existence of Regenerating Health, more linear levels compared to Duke Nuke 3D, and the use of waypoints made the game too easy.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Duke lives with the Holsom Twins. The president, whose name is never mentioned in the game, but who is revealed to be a bad guy in collusion with the aliens, looks like Richard Nixon.
No Fair Cheating: One of the load screen hints tells you that if you ever get lost, you could always cheat by looking at FAQs online.
The Steam version would even suspend the game with the Steam key combo so you can take your time to look up whatever it is you want to look up (including youtube videos) using steam's integrated web browser, then let you instantly get back to the game with no time wasted using the same key press.
Powered Armor: Defied. Apparently it's for pussies. Or at least that's what Duke thinks when the army present him with a suit of suspiciously familiar protection apparel.
"Looks like those alien bastards drank all my beer!"
Rated M for Manly: Duke gives his ego a permanent increase by watching strippers, smoking cigars, appreciating himself in the mirror, lifting weights and a whole damn lot of other ways.
Real Song Theme Tune: Duke returns to kick some alien ass to the tune of Invaders Must Die. Another trailer features "Battleflag" from Lo Fidelity Allstars. Ultimately, they make a new remix of the classic Grabbag theme from Duke Nukem 3D.
Taking the above into account and with a bit of Fridge Logic too, the Strip Club level makes PERFECT sense. How else would Duke survive the injuries he picked up from the Triple Boob Monster, not even having any broken bones, unless he gets himself a huge dose of Ego from his own dream sequence?
Of course, the ego bar still regenerates passively when Duke's not getting shot. The above mentioned actions simply make it regenerate faster.
Redshirt Army: The EDF troops mostly exist to witness Duke being awesome, and die because they're not as awesome. Duke even lampshades this when going into the Hive, and finding the corpses of the advance team that was supposed to meet him.
"Advance team, my ass!"
Lampshaded even further when an EDF commander sends a rookie with you and even says "Try not to let him get his ass killed." Of course he immediately goes running into a hail of bullets at the first opportunity, a reference to his name and also probably a joke about terrible team AI in FPS games.
Retcon: In one level, you visit a museum containing artifacts from Duke's previous games, including screenshots from them. One is from the opening from the first game, where Duke says he'll kick Proton's ass and still have time to watch Oprah. The text has been changed from "Oprah" to "Lenoman", a talk show host that briefly appears in the game. Strangely, Duke's salmon shirt still remains.
"Ride of the Valkyries": During the opening segment of the Mighty Foot level. Intermixed with the title theme, slowly creeping from orchestral into heavy metal as the level goes on. AWESOME.
The talking pink car Shrunk!Duke drives in the Meat Grinder chapter of The Doctor who Cloned Me intermittently spews inane phrases that are reminiscent of a talking version of a certain doll back in the 80s (although Gearbox also threw in a few exaggerated lines). Duke's response to those lines pretty much sums up how many people felt about the phrases.
Testosterone Poisoning: Duke might be the most exaggerated example of stereotypical manliness in video game history.
Title Drop: The opening line of the game: "This is taking forever."
Also seen in a trailer close to the game's release: "What, did you think I was gone forever?"
Toilet Humor: It's possible to pick up a turd out of a toilet, and throw it at a water fountain, then drink out of the fountain. And that's just the start of it. If the player chooses to do this, Duke will wonder what the hell is going on.
Unexplained Recovery: Captain Dylan shows up alive and well in "The Doctor Who Cloned Me" after his apparent death near the end of the main game. The explanation is that he only passed out from blood loss.
Unique Enemy: Despite the Duke Clones being the central plot point of The Doctor Who Cloned Me, you only fight about a dozen of them throughout the entire DLC, half of which aren't even armed with weapons. The skinless Terminator-style security bots are a little more common, but most of the DLC is still spent fighting aliens.
Video Game 3D Leap: This was the game that finally brought the main Duke series into Polygons.
Viva Las Vegas: The game mostly takes place around a fictional version of Vegas, the Nevada desert and the Hoover Dam.
"What kind of sick motherfucker picks up wet feces?!"
"What's next, shit finger painting?"
(On the loading screen) Picking up turds doesn't take away ego even though we really wanted it to.
Womb Level: in the final level of The Doctor Who Cloned Me, Duke enters the womb of the alien empress to blow up her ovaries, so that she won't give birth to a new alien army.
Writers Cannot Do Math: The game claims to be set twelve years after Duke Nukem 3D. However, at the beginning of the game, we are informed that the USA is on its 67th president. Even if we assume that all of the presidents in the intervening time only served a single term (four years), that would place DNF in 2104 at least. Therefore, either the writers ignored their mathematics when it comes to the passage of time, or the USA went through some serious political instability.