Duke Nukem Forever is finally out this week. I haven't played much of the game yet, but the bit I did play was... well, it was a video game. It ran on my computer, and showed up on my monitor, and I could interact with it via my mouse. That's probably the nicest thing I can say about Duke Nukem Forever.
I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting a good game. Last year when Gearbox made this huge announcement that they'd acquired the rights to the game, and would finally be finishing and releasing it, everyone made a pretty big deal about it. I quietly pondered why people even cared about this game anymore.
I can only imagine that the legend of the game... the stigma surrounding it's development saga is the only thing fueling the hype, and ultimately, will be the primary thing that sells any copies of this game. Point of fact, that's why I bought it, expecting full well it would be trash. It's been such an industry joke for over a decade, myself guilty of making jokes about it, that it was mostly a morbid curiosity to see the thing to its conclusion, for better or worse.
And having watched videos of it, and read about it, and played some of it, I really feel that Duke Nukem Forever was better as a vaporware legend than it is in reality. And had that infamy not existed, I have a hard time believing that anyone truly thought to themselves "You know what we need? Another Duke Nukem game."
I'm not entirely sure where you would even place the blame for this game. Having enjoyed Gearbox's other games, I'm reluctant to say it's their fault. In fact, it's pretty clear it isn't. Everything about Duke Nukem Forever screams attention to it's decade-long development cycle.
The game is outdated, clunky. The Duke comes of 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.
Also I was ten when I first played Duke Nukem, so all the violence and swearing and "babes" was exciting, like staying up late to watch an R-rated movie I wasn't supposed to see.
He hasn't aged well, and now I find Duke annoying.
From a sheer gameplay standpoint, I can't find much to like either, aside from fleeting moments of pure shooty goodness wherein I briefly recall the glory days of Doom and Doom 2. These shooty bits are broken up by a lot of awkward platforming and racing mini games.
Gearbox said to themselves "Hey, let's buy the IP and finish this thing", and I can't imagine why. Nothing about DNF that I've seen begged to be released to the public. It does nothing new, it brings nothing fresh to the table. And at the same time, it falls flat as a "throwback", as a nostalgia shooter from back in the days when times (and first person shooters) were simpler.
I haven't played multiplayer yet, but from what I've read, and heard from friends who have played it, it fares no better than the core game.
I have no doubt that there will be people that enjoy it, that find some charm in it. Really though, I suspect most people who buy it will do so for the same reason I did. For some closure. To say "yes, DNF finally came out. And I played it."
Now let's leave Duke in the past where he belongs.