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Video Game / Duke Nukem Forever

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Time to cash in your bets.

Holsom Twin: What about the game, Duke? Was it any good?
Duke: Yeah, but after 12 fucking years, it should be.

This is taking forever! Time to stop pissing around and describe this bad boy!

Duke Nukem Forever is, for all intents and purposes, two things.

  • On one hand, it's a first-person shooter and the fourth main installment in the famous saga of Duke Nukem, known for jumping back and forth between Development Hell and actual production for around 15 years, holding the Guinness World Record for the longest development period for any video game until it was surpassed by Beyond Good & Evil 2.
  • On the other hand, the extensive timeline of its completion made it 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 its original developers' assertion that it would be released "When It's Done"; the gaming equivalent of Chinese Democracy, if you will.

Against all odds, the game was finally released on June 14, 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on DVD or via Steam, just in time for Duke's 20th anniversary. The Hail to the Icons Parody Pack was released on October 11 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.

This is not the end to the story, however. In May 2022, a functional and playable development build of Forever from 2001 was leaked onto the internet. Thus, modders are working diligently on the Duke Nukem Forever 2001: Restoration Project, which attempts to both faithfully recreate DNF as it was originally intended back in 2001, as well as make the Duke Nukem franchise relevant again. An early access "First Slice" of the project was released on December 22, 2022. Featuring the first episode, with eight main levels and one secret level. The demo was an immediate hit, garnering more than 11,000 downloads within just its first two days.

Duke Nukem Forever provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In the Japanese dub, this is not the first time we hear Fumihiko Tachiki (Duke Nukem) voicing a main character who doesn't get the girl(s) after having to deal with an alien invasion.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: In "The Doctor Who Cloned Me", Duke is apparently able to survive on the surface of the moon just fine, simply by holding his breath. Electric shimmering on his body seems to suggest he's got some sort of energy shield, but still an impressive feat nonetheless.
  • Berserk Button:
    • This is the first time we have ever heard Duke truly angry. Not just "This really pisses me off", but tangible human rage. Duke loves his babes, and by God does he hate aliens.
      Duke: Not my babes! NOT in my town! You alien motherfuckers are gonna pay for this!
    • 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.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Duke's gold-plated M1911 pistol. There's even an achievement for holding onto it for the entire game.
  • Book Ends: In the beginning of the game, you take a piss and kill the giant alien Cycloid Emperor in a videogame recreation of the Final Boss fight from Duke Nukem 3D. The Final Boss of Forever is that very same alien, and you piss in his eye socket after killing him. To which Duke remarks before fighting him, in 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.
  • Cable-Car Action Sequence: In a dumpster suspended from a crane.
  • Call-Back:
    • You can sign "Why I'm So Great," Duke's autobiography first mentioned in Duke Nukem II.
    • Interacting with the "Balls of Steel" pinball machine back in Duke Nukem 3D would cause Duke to remark "Hmm, don't have time to play with myself." Now that you can play "Balls of Steel", Duke says "Now I have time to play with myself!"
    • The achievements for beating the game on each difficulty are named after the Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels from Duke Nukem 3D.
    • The very first boss is similar to Duke Nukem 3D's Cycloid Emperor. In fact, the entire level is pretty similar to 3D's last level, right down to the field goal with its eye.
  • Captain Ersatz: Lenoman is, of course, a portmanteau of both Jay Leno and David Letterman, both popular and rivaling talk show hosts. Taking the joke further, his middle initial is "O", as in Johnny O'Lenoman, as in Conan O'Brien, and Johnny, of course, refers to Johnny Carson.
  • Captain Obvious: Done as a joke, some of the loading screen messages give obvious advice, to say the least:
    "Take less damage to avoid being killed."
    "Touching the hot grills will cause damage, touching hot girls will not."
    "If you died from falling off of a high ledge, its probably your own fault."
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: It's mentioned that Duke can bench press 600 pounds, which would put his strength as being 5 times that of the average human male. While a 600 pound bench press is within the range of human possibility, the individuals who can manage it are generally the same size as The Mountain, rather than Duke's more normal Heroic Build physique.
  • Colossus Climb: How you finish off the bosses.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Enemies with guns never reload, but you have to, which makes combat unfair at times, especially with how little ammo you can carry.
  • Continuity Nod: Gameplay-wise, many of the weapons and enemies returning from Duke Nukem 3D have the exact same stats as they did in the earlier game.
  • 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 Croft Manor in Tomb Raider. Most of these are just photos of Duke doing manly things or giant gold statues of naked babes.
  • Crossing the Desert: The desert section with The Mighty Foot.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Anyone fresh off of Duke-3D would probably see an Octobrain and instinctively pull out the RPG; only to have the rocket tossed back at them with the Brains' new TK ability, killing them instantly.
  • Degraded Boss: The final boss of Duke Nukem 3D appears as the first enemy you fight in Duke Nukem Forever. He's understandably much weaker as a result; his devastator has a much slower rate of fire, no longer kills you in two shots, and his alternate attack of a spread of mindblast projectiles has been replaced with a single slow-moving easily dodged shockwave. Somewhat justified in that he's a character in an in-universe video game that Duke is playing apparently based on the events of 3D. You then meet and fight the real Cycloid Emperor at the end of the game, and he's pretty much the same as the video game version, only with more phases.
  • Denser and Wackier: Compared to Duke's earlier outings, the amount of sexual content/low-brow humor is increased drastically in frequency.
  • 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.
    Holsom Twin: Duke, stop playing with your balls!
  • Drugs Are Bad: Totally inverted. Not only are drugs good in this universe, but Duke remarks to a child that if he "Takes his pills... er, vitamins" he might grow up to be as awesome as Duke. Duke has his own brand of "Nukem-RX" steroids, which he can take to temporarily give him One-Hit Kill punches at the cost of slightly blurred vision and no ranged attack.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In the DLC campaign, Duke, as hedonistic as he is, refuses to play a video game that involves pimp-slapping women. Also hypocritical, though, considering how the equivalent of multiplayer "capture the flag" of this game is...
  • Evil Laugh: The twins have a wicked cackle, first seen at when... playing with Duke, then again when one of them makes a joke about him.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: The Golden M1911. It's shiny, and it's Duke's. Subverted in that it's not actually stronger than the regular black M1911s you can grab off of Pigcops across the rest of the game.
  • Exposition Diagram: Right at the beginning. You may also add your own thoughts to the white board.
  • Famed In-Story: The story was based around this trope and playing it as hard as they could. For saving the Earth, Duke was given more money and fame than he knew what to do with, building a skyscraper apartment/museum to himself on the Las Vegas strip, cashing in on the lucrative endorsement deals just to pass the time. It swings the other way too, with the entire alien army considering Duke as their arch-nemesis and primary target.
  • Fanservice: The Holsom Twins provide most of this, being blonde twins in sexy schoolgirl outfits who fawn over Duke.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Multiple times. For example:
    Duke: Looks like those alien bastards drank all my beer.
  • 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.
  • Forklift Fu: One segment of Duke's trip inside the Hoover Dam encourages him to use a forklift to kill a bunch of pigcops.
    Duke: Fork you!
  • Four-Star Badass: In the single-player campaign of "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 pipe bombs at enemies like a boss in his official attire.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Like many older games (especially those by less experienced developers), some elements of game logic are tied to frame rate. Most notably, the speed of vehicles decreases at very high frame rates. Usually this effect isn't strong enough to be noticeable, but at frame rates above about 150 or so (which even a modest modern PC can easily achieve on this game), certain ramp jumps become impossible. Vsync can be used to limit the frame rate to the monitor's refresh rate to avoid this (unless you happen to have a 240hz monitor).
  • 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 Doctor Who Cloned Me" without explanation!
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Octobrains have telekinesis, and can throw stuff back at you. That said, you can toss a pipebomb at one, and abuse said habit to blow it up in their face.
  • Humiliation Conga: After finishing the first boss, Duke punts his eyeball for a field goal.
    Duke: Right in the jewels!
  • Implementing the Incomplete: Gearbox apparently decided it was done after 15 years in Development Hell.
  • 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.
  • Indecisive Parody: It's rather odd to see a game with regenerating health and a two-gun weapon system attempt to deliver a Take That! to Halo. Especially right before a segment that bears a striking similarity to Halo 2's second level.
  • Jenny's Number: A restroom wall in Duke Nukem's Titty City has "JENNY 867-5309" written above a urinal
  • Jiggle Physics
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • The LONG development cycle gets referenced in the first level, after Duke ends playing the game while the Holsom twins "do some favor" to him.
    • During one particular section, shooting some barrels next to a Pigcop sends him flying.
    Duke: 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.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: An EDF Red Shirt named Pvt. Jenkins tries to run across a bridge, only to get killed by a strafing run. Duke promptly quips "dammit Leeroy!"
  • 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 Holo-Duke, 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:
    • Implied with Duke's Ego bar. Enemies don't deal physical damage; they merely hurt Duke's ego up to the point he cannot keep fighting anymore.
    • In "The Doctor Who Cloned Me", Dr. Proton seems to lampshade just how much damage Duke can take.
    Dr. Proton: Rammed that thick skull of yours against the mountain and it moved for you, did it? I knew you wouldn't disappoint.
  • Mars Needs Women: The game's plot.
  • Mauve Shirt: Captain Dylan, the named EDF soldier who appears in several levels and swears every other word.
  • Medium Awareness: Numerous jokes indicate that Duke is aware that he's in a video game.
  • Mle Trois: "The Doctor Who Cloned Me" has a couple firefights with Aliens vs. Dr. Proton's robots vs. Duke and his allies.
  • Mercy Kill: In The Hive, Duke Nukem can remorsefully put the impregnated women out of their misery.
  • Minigame Zone: Duke Nukem's Titty City. This is a Happy Place that comes right after Duke blacks out after defeating the Alien Queen that contains an incredible amount of Ego-boosting objects.
  • Missing Steps Plan: Invoked during a conversation between two EDF soldiers. Steps one and two were already "surround it" and "shoot it until it dies", so when he accidentally says step three he trips up:
    EDF #1: Step three is... uh... uh...
    EDF #2: Uh, profit?
  • Mood Whiplash: The infamous 'Hive' level, before reaching the level, the game has kept an unrepentant low-brow tone of humor throughout, but once entering the 'Hive' it turns into outright horror.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Almost certainly a reference to the 2001 trailer, in the opening level of the game, an EDF soldier taunts Duke:
    EDF: Hey pal, what are you going to do? Save the world all by yourself?
    • The "Balls of Steel" special edition is named after the pinball machine in Duke Nukem 3D, which was later defictionalized into a real Balls of Steel video pinball game featuring Duke.
    • The game's long history of Development Hell is thoroughly lampshaded at the earliest opportunity.
  • 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 Nukem 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: Averted. One of the loading screen messages mentions 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 overlay 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Duke sounds genuinely enraged when the Holsom Twins are kidnapped by the aliens, when Duke is usually annoyed at best during any other unfortunate event.
  • Opening Boss Battle: Downplayed. The very first fight, has you facing the Cycloid Emperor from Duke Nukem 3D armed with nothing but a Devastator, alone, in a stadium. It turns out that was a game that Duke was playing while a pair of twins was giving him a blowjob.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Many were taken aback with Duke's flippant attitude towards The Holsom Twins' deaths when he is supposedly fighting to save Earth's babes.
  • 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.
  • Quad Damage: Perhaps as a nod to the Berserker Power-Up in Manhattan Project, picking up a Duke statue in multiplayer gives you double damage and glowing weapons, albeit green instead of red.
  • Random Events Plot: Likely as a consequence of the game's development, a lot of levels don't lead into each other particularly strongly, often with Duke simply being abruptly dropped into the next location. The most evident case of this is the strip club, which is forced to be a dream sequence simply because there's nowhere it could fit.
  • 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 Is Brown: Despite taking place mostly in Las Vegas, the color palette of the game rarely goes anywhere apart from grey, tan, orange and in the hive levels, dark green.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Graves, a remarkably even-tempered and stoic commanding officer, who tends to back Duke on the whole Aliens Are Bastards thing. The president is most definitely not this.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Expected. Oh so expected.
    • The level Duke Nukem's Titty City. Washroom. Gloryhole. Button prompt. Do the math.
  • Regenerating Health: Parodied: Duke's "health" bar is an ego bar, like it was in Manhattan Project. He's not slowed down by piddling little bullets and lasers, but it does hurt his morale, which is why doing manly things like getting drunk, pissing, watching strippers, or drinking from a water fountain gives the bar a permanent increase.
    • Taking the above into account and with a bit of Fridge Brilliance too, the Strip Club level makes PERFECT sense. How else would Duke survive the injuries he picked up from the Alien Queen, 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.
  • Red Shirt 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.
    Duke: 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 (Jenkins, naturally) 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.
  • Self-Deprecation: Duke has several lines mocking the long delay.
  • Sequel Snark: Duke meets a dying character and merrily quips that he won't be in the sequel. "The Doctor Who Cloned Me" reveals that he was wrong.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Unless you're fighting a major boss (which are only harmed by explosives), the game's shotgun is generally the most useful weapon in the game.
  • Shout-Out: Check the page.
  • Shrink Ray: As part of Duke's arsenal.
  • Stealth Pun: This game is the fourth canonical Duke Nukem game, following Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem 2 and Duke Nukem 3D. The title is Duke Nukem Fo(u)rever.
  • Steam Vent Obstacle: There is a steam vent puzzle that doubles as a Take That at Valve Software.
  • The Stinger: The "Press Conference" level.
    Duke: I'm going to run for President. (Beat) Hail to the king, baby!
  • Sunglasses at Night: Duke is never seen without his shades. Justified in that they now have night vision.
  • Take That!: Towards many other games and stuff:
    • When Duke is offered a set of Spartan armor, he spouts this:
    "Power armor is for pussies!"
    • 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.
    Duke: Shut. The Fuck. Up!
    • "That's one dead space marine!"
    • "Duke one, gears nothing!"
      • In that vein, a Marcus Fenix copy mocks his 'pussy' best friend about his quest to find his wife, a take that at Dom's entire subplot in Gears of War 2.
    • "I hate valve puzzles!"
  • 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.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The President reveals his treachery and spells out his plan to kill Duke with an ICBM... while standing less than three feet from Duke, who has a loaded pistol drawn.
  • Trailers Always Lie: In the Debut trailer, the narration claims that after originally saving the Earth from the aliens, Duke disappeared without a trace and hasn't been seen for many years, not resurfacing until the aliens return. This is completely false, as when the actual game begins, Duke is world famous for saving the planet from invasion and is lapping up the celebrity whilst living in a penthouse at the top of his own casino in Las Vegas.
  • 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.
  • The Usual Adversaries: Pig Cops are back, and are by far the most numerous enemy in the game.
  • 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 the Hell, Player?: Playing with the shit in the toilet enough will cause Duke to ponder why the player is forcing him to play with it.
    Duke: What kind of sick motherfucker picks up wet feces?!
    Duke: What's next, shit finger painting?!
    (On the loading screen) Grabbing a turd in the toilet will not take Ego away 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. It was likely intentional however, as a throwaway gag at the end of the game has Duke announce his intention to run for President. Since the 67th President was killed and he'll be running against the 68th, this would make him the 69th President if he won.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: In "The Doctor Who Cloned Me", the robot (who thinks you're also a robot) testing your voice module is initially not convinced that you sound like Duke Nukem.

Leaked 2001 Build


Video Example(s):


Duke Acts OOC For No Reason

Duke Nukem, cocky and perverted as he is, has shown he really cares for the safety of women. Civvie, knowing this, is upset over how Duke suddenly drops this and acts horribly insensitive towards the Holsom Twins' situation.

How well does it match the trope?

4.72 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / OutOfCharacterMoment

Media sources: