Let me be blunt – I have not finished Duke Nukem Forever. I do not plan on finishing Duke Nukem Forever. In fact I do not plan on inserting the disc back into my PlayStation 3 again. Harsh? Sure. But after fourteen years of battling through development hell, this feels like a game that should never have been finished at all.
WHO THE HELL IS DUKE NUKEM?
What, born in the past decade? Not a gamer in your younger days? No clue who or what a Duke Nukem is? Let me ask you this, ever seen the movie, Army of Darkness? Evil Dead, perhaps? Know who Bruce Campbell is? Hopefully if you’re reading The Dudeletter, you’re well aware of his classic smartmouth badass, Ash. Give him blonde hair, a ton of steroids, replace the zombies with aliens, and throw an endless number of strippers at him, and you’ve got Duke Nukem. First appearing in his self-titled game in 1991, Duke returned twice more, peaking with 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D.
A year after the monstrous success of Duke 3D, developer 3D Realms announced the sequel: Duke Nukem Forever. They had concept art, marketing campaigns, a big push to hype up the country on Duke’s return. Did I mention that was 1997? Fast forward to 2011: 3D Realms folded, and Gearbox Software took over to finish what 3D Realms had started. Duke Nukem Forever was finally, after 14 years, going to be released.
Think about the video game generation in 1997. Nintendo 64 was an infant. Playstation 1 was dominant. And the original Xbox was a pipe dream four years away. Duke Nukem Forever was meant to come out on those consoles (and PC’s). Today we have 1080p HD monster machines like the PS3 and Xbox 360. We have state of the art lighting effects and rendering capabilities. But when Gearbox Software took over, they were given a game built for systems three generations past. For Windows 95. Not for the systems we have today, and actually not for its users.
NOSTALGIA IS A CRUEL MISTRESS
Booting up Duke Nukem Forever should feel like a trip back to the simpler times of the late 1990’s. But why does it have to play like a game from the late 90’s? The graphics engine is incredibly dated, the sound effects disturbingly cheap, and the humor completely past its prime (and all ripped from Army of Darkness, 1992, and Duke Nukem 3D, 1996!). All of those great moments and dialogue we remember so well have become forced, tired, and strangely unwelcome. After just a few minutes of gameplay it became clear that Gearbox just needed to get this thing on the shelves and move on. Give the people what they want (a finished Duke Nukem game), and maybe fourteen years of endless delays and madness will be forgiven. Hell, maybe they can actually start a new one from scratch? We can only hope.
REALLY? NOT GONNA FINISH IT?
Hell no I’m not going to finish it. I’ve given it about four hours of my life. I’ve tried my hardest to get into it, to enjoy the goofy gameplay mechanics. To laugh at the crude, lazy jokes and Ash references. But I can’t do it. And I’m a completionist! I have my Platinum trophies for L.A. Noire (great game) and Infamous 2 (greater game), but I can’t force myself to endure the Duke anymore.
For a game that should be oozing character, distinct among a wave of generic shooters, Duke Nukem Forever feels more generic than anything I’ve played in a long time. I read something that I want to share here, and I completely agree: we’ve already got our Duke Nukem for the new generation, and its called Bulletstorm. EPIC Games (of Gears of War and Unreal Tournament fame) created a crude, immature shooter that has all of the crassness and stupidity we’d grown to love about Duke Nukem – coupled with silly plotlines, aliens, and over the top violence. But Bulletstorm added its own unique gameplay elements, its own original characters, enemies, and universe. It managed to become the game that 3D Realms may have made today, if they still existed. Is Bulletstorm itself a great game? No, not really. Not entirely well received, reviewed, or purchased, maybe this generation of gamer doesn’t care for that style anymore. Maybe the boundaries of crudeness, immaturity, sex and violence have been pushed so far over the past 14 years, that we’ve all moved past the gimmick of a foul mouthed video game with strippers. I know I have.