Duke Nukem Forever: Performance Analysis

Image Quality Settings

Duke Nukem Forever has a really odd mix of art asset quality. Characters received the most time and attention, and some of them actually look quite good. On the other hand, there are environmental textures that look like they came from somewhere around 2000, which is quite possible given this game's development cycle. The result is a lack of cohesion. Nevertheless, the final product is good enough that Duke Nukem Forever stands or falls on the content.

There are five visual settings you can alter: Texture Detail (Low, Medium, High, and Ultra), Shadow Detail (Medium, High, and Ultra), Shadows (None, World, and Word and Characters), a Motion Blur toggle, anti-aliasing (None, FSAA, and FXAA), Film Grain Toggle, and Post Process Special Effects toggle.

This game is based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, actually based on code from Unreal Tournament, with many updates included from Unreal Engine 2, and even some lines of code from the Unreal Engine 3 at the end of development. In any case, Epic Games' platform is well known for its relatively low requirements so we don't expect it to offer a big challenge for modern graphics hardware. Therefore, we limit testing to two presets. First, we set Texture and Shadow detail to High, and apply shadows to both the world and characters. We also turn film grain on, but keep motion blur and post process special effects off. We'll call this a medium detail setting.

Second, we crank everything to its highest setting. We're calling this the pinnacle of what you can achieve in Duke Nukem. Have a look at the difference between the two:

It looks like there’s a lot of pixel shader work going on when post-processing is enabled. So much so, in fact, that a lot of detail is lost in unnecessary blurriness. I’m not sure what the developers were doing here, but either they favor heavy filtering of they’re trying to cover up lackluster textures with blurs and special effects.

Aside from this, the game world seems to have a yellow hue at our medium setting (or maybe it just has a blue tinge at the highest settings). It's difficult to pinpoint the cause, but there is definitely a color shift between the two options.

FSAA and FXAA Anti-Aliasing

Nvidia developed a post-process anti-aliasing filter it calls FXAA. Think AMD's morphological anti-aliasing technology, but implemented in-game instead of in the driver, and available to work with any vendor’s graphics hardware.

A representative from the developer let us know that the FXAA option was included for three reasons: it delivers better results than standard FSAA, it performs better on mid-range and high-end graphics cards, and it’s extremely easy to integrate.

Nvidia’s FXAA whitepaper lists five modes, called presets zero to four. Duke Nukem Forever makes use of a slightly modified version of preset three. For technical details, check Nvidia’s FXAA whitepaper here. In any case, this game gives us a good opportunity to try out FXAA and see how it compares to FSAA.

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  • kcorp2003
    I have yet to purchase this game. waiting on a nice sale to pick it up. I waited for this game for so long and i will play it! but not on my #1 priority list of games to buy right now.
  • wiinippongamer
    I never played the first title, yet I played only the first 2 hours or so then uninstalled it for good, the game is a turd.
  • megamanx00
    Got it on sale at Target for like $20 ($40 but half price if I bought another game at the same time ^_^) so yeah I was happy with what I paid for it. I'd say for $40 it's not bad since it's funny, crude, and the graphics are all right. It's a shame that some of the effects that probably tool alot of time to develop (like the rain in the first level) were used only once and sparingly. I thought the monster truck stuff towards the end was cool, but the RC driving in the beginning was a little odd.
  • lmlim
  • RazberyBandit
    Your benchmarks show some rather obvious CrossFire and SLI issues, yet you chose not to even mention it. Why?
  • cleeve
    RazberyBanditYour benchmarks show some rather obvious CrossFire and SLI issues, yet you chose not to even mention it. Why?

    From the benches it seems kind of self explanatory that SLI and CrossFire aren't working. This is the case with a number of other titles, so it's not really a huge surprise. SLI and CrossFire are inconsistent at the best of times.
  • JMcEntegart
    Don ... causing Duke to hand money to a topless dancer and say “Shake it, baby!”

    This was literally my favourite part of Duke 3D. Oh, to be eleven again.

    As far as Forever is concerned, I'm waiting for an irresistible sale.
  • haplo602
    do we still get the fying eyes from killed enemies ? like when you hit an alien with an RPG, you got quite identifiable fying eyes :)
  • tomc100
    Is this a joke? Might as well do a benchmark test on the Sims.
  • youssef 2010
    Like the gamespot review put it

    "If Duke Nukem Forever weren't called DNFE, nobody would be paying a bit of attention to it; it's boring and ugly and........"

    This reviewer really hates the game. but after watching the review, I can't help but agree with him.

    I mean, If a game ever took 10 years to mature, then it should be something like Crysis, Far Cry, COD, Medal of Honor.

    I enjoyed Manhattan Project but this sequel looks just.....too boring to play.

    It took 13 years to make it...after buying it and playing it, I wish I'd waited another 13 years to purchase it.
  • Anonymous
    Why so much work for a review of a very bad and simple game, that you can run on any low end system ?
  • professorprofessorson
    Talk about being late to the party. This article must have been a afterthought considering how long the games been on the market now.
  • back_by_demand
    The next Duke should be a prequal.
  • kingius
    Where are the six cores in the CPU charts?

    Toms is biased to Intel yet again...
  • Zeh
    There really wasn't an improvement from 3 to 4 cores on a Phenom II, it's assumed 6 cores wouldn't help.
  • Parrdacc
    professorprofessorsonTalk about being late to the party. This article must have been a afterthought considering how long the games been on the market now.

    This review comes after the sales for June put DNF as #2 selling game for xbox and ps3 despite the bad reviews. Hmmm? http://www.tomshardware.com/news/NPD-Duke-Nukem-Call-of-duty-Pc-Gaming-LEGO,13089.html
  • Owenator
    I enjoyed it. And had a lot of fun playing it. A refreshing break from the current spate of rehashed FPS titles. DNF doesn't take itself seriously and that makes it all the better IMHO. But I'm and old school gamer (Duke was new when I was in college). Apparently you have to be "old school" to enjoy the new Duke. So be it.
  • cleeve
    kingiusWhere are the six cores in the CPU charts?Toms is biased to Intel yet again...

    Biased? You have no idea what you're talking about, sir.

    If we wanted AMD to look bad, we'd add Phenom II X6 results, because they would be identical to similarly-clocked X4 results. No game I know of makes good use of more than four execution cores...
  • Th-z
    Don, maybe you can add more samples in core scaling test in future review, at least one more speed in the mix, e.g. 3.5 GHz, and add Intel CPU in the test, thanks.