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June 14th, 2011
11:20 PM ET

Is 'Duke Nukem' worth the wait?

It took 14 long years, but gamers can finally get their hands on 'Duke Nukem Forever'.

For those born after 1996, it's the sequel to 'Duke Nukem 3D', a raunchy, violent, but critically acclaimed and popular first-person shooter. It followed 'Doom', but took the genre to another level; instead of a generic Martian base, it's set in Los Angeles. Instead of brown, dreary corridors, you could interact with everything from toilets to pool tables to strippers. And instead of a faceless, mute space marine, it starred Duke Nukem: A man who looked like the result of throwing every 80s action movie star into a blender, with a set of one-liners ripped from all of them.

So when developer 3D Realms announced in 1997 that a sequel was on the way, fans rejoiced and waited eagerly.

And waited.

And waited.

14 long years later, 'Duke Nukem Forever' is finally available. But is it worth the wait?

Well, no.

The reviews have not been kind to the Duke. They range from brutal to, well, more brutal. But I think 'Duke Nukem Forever' is worth playing for a different kind of experience. You won't find me arguing that it is a good game - frankly, it is not. But it has entertainment value beyond being a game.

'Duke Nukem Forever' feels lost in time. This is to be expected from a game that spent over a decade in development. 3D Realms overhauled the technology behind the game more than once; constantly pushing it back, with only the odd screenshot here or trailer there to keep people believing that the game still existed. 'Duke Nukem Forever' made an incredible 12 appearances in Wired's annual Vaporware Awards list. And eventually, the run had to end... when 3D Realms finally gave up and closed down.

Even then, it wasn't over. In 2010, Gearbox Software took over responsibility for the game, fixed it up, and quickly pumped it out for release.

What Gearbox apparently didn't do was overhaul the game. The screenshots you see here make it look like a good-looking game, but they don't tell the whole story. It is not, on my Xbox 360, a good-looking game. At best, it can look a few years out of date; at worst, it is a blurry, stuttering mess.

Playing the game feels like being thrown back into the mid-'90s, and not in a happy, nostalgic sense. You're immediately reminded of every single advance in the genre the minute you start shooting. Does it have a cover mechanic, like Gears of War? Nope. Do the enemies team up and intelligently flank you, like Halo? No. Does it even matter where you shoot them, like GoldenEye 007? Not as far as I can tell. All you have to do is point at the enemy and hold down the trigger.

All the while, Duke is spewing one-liners that would embarrass Jean-Claude Van Damme. Look, I'm a childish guy. I'm cool with toilet jokes. But Duke's humor isn't so bad it's good, it's so bad it's just... bad. It makes me giggle to think that I ever found any of it funny. (And believe me, 15-year-old me thought 'Duke Nukem 3D' was hilarious.)

The individual parts that make up 'Duke Nukem Forever' are awful. But it adds up to an experience like no other. It's a step back in time: A look at what one of the world's most talented developers thought was the future over a decade ago. I can't say I've enjoyed playing it, but I can say that I do not regret the experience. It's less a game and more a museum piece; a sort of historic artifact.

As we waited for 'Duke Nukem Forever', we always wondered just what 3D Realms was spending all that time developing. 14 years on, we have our answer. It isn't good. But the satisfaction of finally experiencing it is enough for me.

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Filed under: Games • General • Personal musings
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Lolz

    Uhh..dude. I understand you and all the other critics complaining that the game blows or that the humor is completley immature and that they should've overhauled the essentially the entire system.

    The problem is that this is DUKE NUKEM! If you are expecting features in this game to be on the level of the best games recent years has to offer, then you are thinking of some other game. I played the first Duke Nukem, yes the one where you had to go to your local arcade and put a quater in the machine.

    This brand has been cheesy at best through out it's rough history. But that's the idea, this game is supposed to suck, the idea of duke nukem was to never play a game that you would want to play over and over and really get into the story line..it was a game where you simply point and shoot, and get some major laughs out of the funny lines duke says as he slaying aliens by punching them in the balls. I don't understand why you people keep hating on a game series they clearly know little about.

    The whole series was supposed to be a joke, making fun of all the action arcade games of the day when it initially came out. So you people trying to compare it to Halo, COD, or anything else is just absurd...

    June 15, 2011 at 12:24 am | Reply
  2. PhilG.

    The original Duke Nukem was a kind of puzzle game with an assortment of challenges and enemies you walked around and blasted the crap out of.

    Along the way you got to see an assortment of rather adult characters and scenes.

    And there was alot of attitude from Duke himself.

    The game was kind oif a joke but a really fun joke to play.

    I never took Duke seriously and I always enjoyed playing it because of that.

    This is'nt Call of Duty-Black Ops-this is supposed to be a game you play to laugh and discover the hidden characterts inside the game.

    I hope it lives up to my low expectations and I'll bet when I fiunally buy it at a cut rate price,I'll enjoy the heck out of it.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:48 am | Reply
  3. Martin

    *face-palm*

    It's kind of sad..... I really was hoping we would have another D.N. 3D to play over and over and over....

    Now it looks like I LITERALLY will have to boot up D.N. 3D again instead.
    Oh well, at least that game is still awesome.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:15 am | Reply
  4. Luke

    Xbox 360 are you kidding me. Duke was made for the PC. No wonder you had a blurry screen.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:26 am | Reply
  5. Ozzy

    Dude???? Duh....
    Hell yea it was worth the wait.
    I'm really tired of this new age reviewers. Duke is Duke same like 14 years ago...

    June 15, 2011 at 4:02 am | Reply
  6. yuppster103

    I like the comments of "You can't review this game against current standards."

    So some how this game shouldn't be held to the same standards? Just because the first couple made a name? I'm sorry I don't like double standards. Even ones based on childhood nostalgia.

    A product should be based on it's self not its name. If the game sucks it sucks. And don't give me "Well it's not suppose to be good/ taken as a good game." This is to entail that you spent money purposely on POS?

    June 15, 2011 at 4:12 am | Reply
  7. Dook

    Quit comparing this PC game to mediocre, overrated console games that anybody could've made with half the budget. I know it sucks, but those games suck too. They're the reason this game sucks and that most other games suck these days. Developers are afraid to risk trying anything new in-case of financial loss, so they just lazily go with what was done before and whatever "succeeds" financially. The gaming industry is turning out just like the music industry... money, money, money.

    This game would've been an absolute gem if it had been released 10 years ago... before this era of washed up, derivative console games had a chance to ruin its design.

    June 15, 2011 at 4:17 am | Reply
  8. duke still the king

    Of course you realize, this game is going to be F*CKING AWESOME. Reviews only matter to the reviewers cuz they suck.

    June 15, 2011 at 4:41 am | Reply
  9. Qasim A

    No, Its definitely not worth the wait. The developers had 14 long years to make it a razor sharp game but instead they made a completely retarded and noob friendly game. And also not to mention, It has a great failure in the frame rate.

    June 15, 2011 at 4:55 am | Reply
  10. eric

    I remember playing this game when was in demo mode it had no sound effects what so ever it was orginaly ment for adults because of the strip clubs and the porn content the serrise that it created wre awsome they had the orginal for the nintendo 64 without the porn and srip clubs in all duke nukme attmoic and duke in D C were my faverits I only wish rame 3D were the ones that made this one because the way I see it they did much better job with the game

    June 15, 2011 at 5:38 am | Reply
  11. Cornel

    I see that many keep defending this game with an incredibly annoying text. "hey trolls if you expected this to be like COD or bla bla than you were wrong this game is something different is bla bla bla". No dear garbage defenders. The cheap jokes are the least annoying thing. The graphics are really bad for 2011. The game-play is not fun at all. Everything seems to happen in closed spaces while the enemies are not so bright, etc, etc, etc.
    Why is this game any better than Bulletstorm? There you have kicking, drinking, very very mature language and much better gameplay. In Bulletstorm I felt part of the game, here I felt like a set of hands in a virtual play. Nothing comes to life.
    This is shameful compared to Duke Nukem 3D. Looks like a low budget action movie.

    June 15, 2011 at 7:13 am | Reply
  12. Steven

    I don't know what people are complaining about so much – 14 years of waiting inflates the hype way too far. It was a fun game! I had a great weekend of playing it through and had fun. The two things wrong was it wasn't as humorous as Duke Nukem 3D, and when you die (which happened a lot to me on Hard), the reload took *forever*.

    Anyway, hopefully it'll sell well enough for us to get a freshly made sequel.

    June 15, 2011 at 7:45 am | Reply
  13. Zaltaire

    Doesn't matter if the game is out-dated. I just love having Mr. Nukem back!

    June 15, 2011 at 8:17 am | Reply
  14. OptiMegaPrime

    To all the d-bags who can't get enough of talking crap about this great game, shut up and go screw yourselves! I am 24 and I love this game. It's funny as hell, random, and FUN. It shouldn't be compared to any serious shooter like COD or BFBC because it ISN'T A SERIOUS GAME! Wake up! Think of the name of the game and understand the meaning of Duke Nukem! All you old, rusty pricks who lost their ability to joke around by continuing to cut this game up should really grow up and leave the critique to the young generation of gamers. Put the controller down, find a real woman to get you off, get out of mommy's basement, and act like a "normal" 40-something year old.

    June 15, 2011 at 11:22 am | Reply
  15. Anon

    Its supposed to be corny with the jokes.
    Its supposed to be over the top.
    Its supposed to be like a cheap action movie.
    Its supposed to be for PC.
    Its supposed to be about chewing bubblegum and kicking a55, and being out of bubblegum.
    ITS DUKE NUKEM.

    If you didnt know this about Duke, you never played a game in the series.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  16. scndnv

    You waited fourteen years..? Get a life bro.

    June 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  17. Josh

    honestly who freakin cares if it isnt up to par with todays games. Its duke nukem. What i find ammusing is all of these reviewers bashing it like they know what they are talking about. Cant believe people get paid to do this.... Rating horrible games A+!!!! or 100!!!!!! Duke nukem is over 9000!!!!!!!!!!

    June 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  18. Benson

    @Lolz – Dude, there was no Duke Nukem arcade game. Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II were PC games. Duke Nukem II was later ported to the Gameboy Color. Duke 3D was ported to everything. But none of them where in the arcades.

    I'm a HUGE Duke fan. I great up playing Apogee Shareware demos I downloaded of of a local BBS. Crystal Caves, Secret Agent, Duke Nukem, etc etc etc. I spent years playing Duke 3D, and still play it every now and then.

    Duke Nukem Forever is not a good game. There's no reason anyone should be paying $60 for this. The publisher released this game just to try to make up some money they've sank into this blackhole. I'd like to know what the game looked like before Gearbox got a hold of it. The game is not up to the standards of thier games either.

    Duke is supposed to be a bad@$$, Duke 3D all you did was diss out justice to alien scum, and maybe 5-10% of the game was some platforming and puzzle solving. Duke Forever is 5%-10% action and the rest is busywork, or just being idle. It's not fun.

    Ignore what I say if you want, but heed this – RENT before you pay $60 bucks for this. Give it a month or so and get it from the bargin bin.

    June 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  19. Been along time waiting

    Yup... from everything I watched on E3, everything I read and researched over the last 10yrs has lead to exactly this. I love the Duke! If the "critics" don't like it, or think its too vulgar... or think its whatever... The they need to find new jobs. I remember when Duke Nukem was a side scroller 8bit game. I loved it then and I love how it has evolved over time. Duke is suppose to be a vulgar, sexist badass. Leave it alone and we will all be happy.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  20. i like your patient

    make it

    June 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  21. KevinS

    I wasn't expecting a fantastic game. Last year when the announcement came that they'd finally be finishing and releasing Duke Nukem, there was a lot of coverage on that in magazine, blogs, etc. I kinda wondered why it mattered, I hadn't played a Duke game in years.

    And having read a lot about it, I never really got excited. I enjoyed them as much as Doom in its day, but was rather over it and meh by this point. To quote a great, well thought out reply:

    "The game is outdated, clunky. The Duke comes off as borish, sexist, immature and unlikeable. He was an outrageous parody back in the '90s, a tongue in cheek take on action heroes, even borrowing some of their one-liners. Duke was violent and crass, and I think we loved him back then because that was all new territory for a video game."

    Except now its a been there done that concept in games for over a decade and will take more than the above to make it great. Those where the days where you felt the exhilarating thrill of being almost "naughty" like sneaking into R rated movies at 15. It was exciting. But that formula as being the main focus of development in this post-Y2K era is clearly...boring. Gamers are more intelligent at younger ages now and need solid story driven Mass Effects or epic combat on the scale of Call of Duty or Halo.

    Duke Nukem hasn't aged well, and let's leave this IP in the past and focus on better experiences with the post-90s tools we have.

    June 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Reply
  22. oldschoolgmer

    advice – wait for it to hit the $9.99 bin in about 1 month.

    Summary – agree with the "tongue in cheek" experience of the game, BUT Gearbox could have done MUCH better – especially after 14 years of development.

    Would like to see – the re-release of the Original Duke Game for console and PC – as well as Redneck Rampage – that game was hysterical!

    June 15, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  23. HMS

    This is why I will never buy another game made by anyone who is using the Redner Group as their PR agency:

    #AlwaysBetOnDuke too many went too far with their reviews…we are reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom

    This is straight up un-American opression of free thought. And unless 2K fires them I might have just have to skip their product line altogether. I have a limited budget for gaming software, and this just made my decision process easier.

    June 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  24. Bob Larson

    Duke Nukem is from the devil Avoid it at all costs if you don't want to be dragged into the pits of the abyss by a group of demons – yes, DEMONS are included with the game, including the demons of wrath and puberty, as well as the demons of loathsome and pride.

    I cast Duke Nukem out in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ Amen Hallelujah!

    June 15, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  25. 1+1=2

    HMS,

    He's spot on. Reviewers are entertainers more than informers. It's one thing to say objective, but you have to 'actually' be objective to consider yourself a journalist of any type.

    Reviewers are a helluva lot more vicious than they use to be for no other reason than they can be. Ridiculous reviewing and irresponsible in my opinion.

    Criticize constructively or don't criticize at all.

    On a side note, isn't it funny that reviewers can give criticism, but have a helluva time accepting it?

    June 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  26. Jamin

    Reminds of the game Section 8. Looks great on the outside for a $60 game, but when you play it probably should have just been an arcade title.

    June 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  27. a s

    This is Duke Nuke EM. EXACTLY what is is supposed to be . If they redid space invaders yet again, it;d still be space invaders.

    June 15, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  28. DMNlord

    I have played the original Duke Nukem and I think that Duke Nukem Forever is a great game. The Duke Nukem is about a typical anti-hero, a guy who would make you to cross the street if you saw him getting closer to you🙂. I still have all of the original Duke Nukem games and they are fun to play after almost 20 years🙂.

    June 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Reply
  29. Holy Spartan

    I won't say that Duke Nukem Forever is a masterpiece, but it's better than everyone gives it credit for. The only true complaints that I can find are that it isn't innovative, but that could be said for dozens of popular games, and that the jokes are offensive, and that depends on the person. The only complaint I can agree with are the graphics. I don't understand how a game can have gameplay graphics that look current but cutscenes that look like 2007.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  30. lysander77

    This review is all over the place. Comparing DNF to Gears, Halo or Golden Eye is missing the point entirely.

    DN3D was a satire on action games. Half the fun was how different it was from Doom2 (and Quake1) as it wasn't about competitive play but about just fun play. The Singleplayer wasn't even in the mix then. It was all about getting online, laying pipe-bomb traps in the Strip Club and climbing in the vent and interacting with the Strippers so your friends would hear the repetitive sound clip, run to the Strip Club thinking they had you and then detonating your bombs.

    Rinse, repeat, use a jetpack.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  31. Thagerm

    Ummm, Lolz. That would be fine and dandy if the game costs $12.99, but people paying 50 or 60 bucks want nostalgia, not lame 90's gameplay.

    June 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  32. Darrell

    I played d3d in 1996 when it came out at the age of 22 and I loved it. I played this and also loved it. The problem is in order to understand Duke you yourself need to be a little messed up in the head and thats what my shrink told me. I know I am a little off but I make 200k a year so me being off is a good thing. Its the young ones that I see doing the bashing mostely because they dont understand duke and were still in their daddys testicles when d3d came out. What was the best was seeing all the halo guys pisses because duke says "power armor is for pussies" Just look at the youtube vids and the comments.

    You also need to understand the wait was because of the incompetance of 3dr. Back in 1997 most their tallent left to gearbox and made some good games during that time. The origional 3dr staff that was left including the owners were so wrapped up in world of warcraft. I think they did a good job polishing a turd and yes that is what they polished was a turd. I have the origional source that 3dr had before gearbox took it over and it was utter garbage. LIVE ON KING IF I WAS GOING TO BE GAY ID BE GAY WITH DUKE!

    June 16, 2011 at 2:19 am | Reply
  33. Don

    Go back and read the stuff out there from before the release date. The publisher told everybody, this wont be a new benchmark for gaming. They wanted to finish this and put all the waiting to rest. Now they are working on the next game and it will be awesome. They needed to restart the franchise, that is all that this game is. I personally love it, if I wanted to play CoD, or some modern shooter I would just put it in and play. When the game started up and we were in the bathroom, I was a kid again sitting there playing a game that was dirty. I dident even know what dirty was back then, but the Duke showed me.

    June 16, 2011 at 3:52 am | Reply
  34. Adam Henderson

    I have no idea why people even buy these games and support the developers. Games like this poison our children's mind. Kids need to be out running around and not in front of electronics all day. I can only hope this is will fade away in 10 years, maybe people will start to come out more and stop being vampires. I love Jesus and he is Lord.

    June 16, 2011 at 4:29 am | Reply
  35. Captiosus

    @Benson – Well said. I couldn't have said it any better myself.

    This is NOT Duke Nukem. It's a polished, rushed, turd that Gearbox and 2K tried getting out to sell on brand recognition alone. It's not fun, it's not entertaining – and I was a HUGE fan of Apogee Games back in the day. This just isn't Duke. It's basically the worst aspects of old school shooters with the worst aspects of modern shooters thrown together with terrible controls (even on PC, which is the platform I got it for).

    I'll go the other direction: People who keep saying "IT'S DUKE NUKEM" obviously don't remember playing Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem II or DN3D.

    June 16, 2011 at 5:36 am | Reply
  36. Kevin

    The only part that made me laugh was when you dodge flying barrels to run up a long stairway, after Duke kills the pig throwing the barrels he says: "Huh, I was expecting a monkey"...everything else was pure cheese.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:40 am | Reply
  37. Josh

    I have been enjoying the game for it's nostalgia value, but I realized something that ties into this review.
    People keep comparing it to Halo...because it IS Halo!

    1) You are only allowed to carry two weapons at a time and have to swap them out (come on, Gearbox! This is Duke! Who cares if it's "unrealistic" to be carrying around a whole arsenal!).

    2) There are two types of "grenades", pipe bombs and laser trip mines. You can only carry 4 of each (again, what gives?) and the trip mines act like sticky grenades.

    3) You have an "Ego" meter which acts just like Master Chief's shield, if it gets depleted you can only take a hit or two before you die and it recharges if you stay out of the line of fire.

    4) Even the ammo counter is just like Halo (upper right corner, you can only reload human weapons, bur you will replenish ammo for alien weapons by running over them).

    5) The graphics look outdated because they are the same graphics for Halo 3. Even you Halo fanboys need to admit MC is showing his age.

    As much as I'm enjoying the game for the humor and absurdity, it saddens me greatly to discover that Duke has been reduced to a glorified Halo clone!

    I think the worst part of this is I've been playing the PC version (Win XP)...which means Microsoft and Bungie should have had no problem giving us PC gamers a port of Halo 2 & 3!

    June 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Reply
  38. Ryan

    @ Adam Henderson

    "I have no idea why people even buy these games and support the developers."

    Based on the things stated in your post, most likely because you are an idiot. But the real answer is: Because its FUN. Fun and fake. Not to be taken seriously. Humour and entertainment value. Nothing more, nothing less.

    "Games like this poison our children's mind."

    Ohhhhh...I see where this is going. No more than those ancient collections of fantasy stories you call "religion", or those institutions we call our educational systems. CHILDREN should NOT be playing these games, hence the ESRB ratings that come on ALL games and the age minimum required to buy games with certain ratings. But more importantly, it also involves a little something called "parenting', which is done by a mother and father (or suitable replacement in some cases). Unfortunately, most of them would prefer to drop their kids in front of the TV or game console and allow those to do the parenting, and then blame both for the corruption of the children they failed to properly raise.

    "Kids need to be out running around and not in front of electronics all day."

    Again, PARENTING. Don't blame the game industry for this. I more or less sense that you just find these games offensive and are using our youth as a reason to justify your opinion. Pathetic indeed.

    "I can only hope this is will fade away in 10 years,"

    Nope. But maybe if you pray to Jesus enough, it will happen ::cough::

    "maybe people will start to come out more and stop being vampires."

    As long as they aren't the sparkly, emo, Twilight vampires, I'm ok with that. But if you don't see a lot of people "comming out", perhaps you simply live in the middle of nowhere. People actually DO come out...quite often.

    "I love Jesus and he is Lord."

    Aww...how cute. Good for you! I guess you still believe in the Easter Bunny too?

    P.S. – If you hate these games so much, then what are you doing on here reading about them? Don't you have something better to do? Perhaps Bible study?

    June 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Reply
  39. Duke got Nuked

    I can't believe anyone is actually arguing in favor of this festering turd.

    While Duke3D was a satire of action games and movies, it was simultaneously a GREAT shooter. Lots of action, with the one liners and general irreverence thrown on as frosting. And it worked.
    With Duke Forever, the "good shooter" aspect got thrown out the window, leaving us nothing but the toilet jokes and f-bombs.
    Lots of people are complaining about the graphics. Whatever. Gameplay is king. Eyecandy is meaningless if the game plays like crap. And for the record, Duke Forever plays like crap.

    June 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Reply
  40. AustinMurphy

    This game has really caused quite the uproar! It even ended a business relationship between the game's creators and marketers. Looks like better high-end decision making is needed in the gaming world. http://www.crunchbase.com/person/robert-kotick

    June 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  41. eric

    After playing the game from start to finsh I liked it it took me a while to get use to the new way of playing I'm use to old the way they had it back then my only problems whith it is there wasn't alot of alien butt kicking in the beginer mode like in the later games it was based more on getting from point A to point B in the levals the bosses were awsome they were varrey tuff and beter then the bosses in the older games I just wish they put some of the orginality like haveing hidden items being able to have moltible weapions but they put some of the orginal conet in which was the porn stuff but I argee with one thing the cridics did say that they didn't realy end it can't wait tell they come up with a new one If they ever do who knows maybe they will make a oliine vershion of it like warcraft and D&D

    July 22, 2011 at 2:50 am | Reply
  42. Fawappomma

    5 дневная чуда диетадиета по методу мадам метьюз2ух дневная диетадиеты от джесики альбычто есть на завтрак по диете 4грация похудениедиета митлайдеравсе о похудении и диетах после родовлечебные диеты историяпохудеть минералка с лимономпищевые добавки для похудения увеличения грудидоплата за 1кг лишнего веса багажа в самолете москва-ереванособая диета для зачатия мальчикагастрит эрозивный диета красная икравид спорта для похуденияовсянка с отрубями и диетадиета кормящей мамы черникаможно ли похудеть на прыгалкахреалакс похудеть до 10 кгстоимость антицеллюлитного массажа в северном бутово

    July 31, 2011 at 5:51 am | Reply

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