Duke Nukem Forever Is Terrible; Why Is This Shocking?
By Alex Cranz
Last week at E3 I made a beeline to the Duke Nukem Forever booth. I wanted to get a chance to see the game and maybe talk to the developers about their thought processes when making the game. Like, when you have a fifteen year development cycle that sees some major leaps in bounds for the portrayal of women in video games would a character like Duke Nukem be kind of a step backwards?
The lovely lady who took my card looked horrified when I pitched that particular question and as of this article they still haven’t gotten back to me.
And that’s a shame because I really want to be on the Duke Nukem fan bus. I loved Duke Nukem 3D. In a time where finding a dirty magazine was a momentous occasion to be recorded in one’s diary here was a game where I could see all sorts of violence and nudity, and because it wasn’t Night Trap (the only game my dad seemed to know about) I could totally get away with playing it. And I did! My brother and I could spend hours punching each other in the arm and grabbing the controller and blowing up pig aliens.
I grew up though. I put my video games in a closet and watched a lot of Gargoyles and Superman and when I finally returned to video games Duke Nukem Forever was already a joke. All I could remember were the arm punches and the pig aliens and some strippers so I was never really jazzed for the game and I didn’t really eat up all the hype when Gearbox swooped in last year and announced that they’d be releasing the game.
But I got to admit that right now, with all the hullabaloo going on about the game I’m finding myself a little shocked. Why is anyone surprised that the game isn’t good? And why is anyone surprised that the video game community has gleefully taken the opportunity to rip this game a new a-hole?
Let’s look at the facts.
- Duke Nukem Forever has been the whipping boy of the video game community for years. You can’t ask old dogs to learn new tricks. If Infinium Labs ever released the Phantom and if it stole our socks and slapped us into space with its awesomeness we’d still find reasons to ridicule it. Why should Duke be any different?
- The game had a nearly fifteen year-long development cycle. When something takes that long to be crafted it’s either a Terrence Malick film or crap.
- The original Duke Nukem came out in 1996. In 1996 Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom were the height of amazing first person shooter game design. Duke Nukem was identical in nearly every possible way–except you could interact with your surroundings, you had a jetpack, and there were boobies.
- Duke Nukem has always basically been an excuse to run around shooting aliens while looking at boobies. It’s basically the video game form of that one bar in Total Recall.
- In the fifteen years since Duke Nukem boobies have stopped being a rare and precious sight to behold in video games. Even Bioware, those paragons of game design and the folks I secretly worship, manage to find a way to stick boobies in their video games.
- Teenagers, the main players of Duke Nukem, played it for the boobies. If they say otherwise they lie. Please note that as it has been fifteen years the internet is now more than AOL and the scary world of Usenet. I’ve got a ten year old stalker who can barely read and he’d have absolutely no problem finding boobies on the internet. So why should he play a Duke Nukem game?
- Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the other two reasons to play a Duke Nukem game, but neither did game developers everywhere! Jet packs? Surroundings you can interact with? Practically par for course now days.
- Fifteen years builds the kind of hype that most properties crumble under. Star Wars? Phantom Menace could have gone down on you while singing an aria and feeding you ice cream and it still would have been found lacking. Heck it could have been a legitimately good film and we all would have found reasons to hate it. Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the best series ever made (top 50 for me easy) and there are actually people who despise it because of their fond memories of Kirk and Spock making bedroom eyes at each other. Battlestar Galactica? The Peabody winning science fiction show? Yeah, it’s got haters. Nerds, when made to wait, will be the nitpickiest sons of bitches on the planet. You have a single flaw in the property you are presenting them and they will crush you and force you to hear the lamentations of your women. That’s what nerds do BEST.
- The game is called Duke Nukem Forever and it had a fifteen year long development cycle. That’s a joke that writes itself and this game’s developers and PR people are honestly expecting a bunch of bored critics to restrain themselves and avoid that joke? As if!
- I only need nine spots to make my case. The tenth fact is I am awesome so everything I’ve said above is spot on commentary.
This all adds up to a game that was dead out of the gate.
Yes they had Gearbox putting the finishing touches on it, but no amount of polish and vim and vigor was going to save Duke Nukem. Fifteen years to wait for the sequel to a mediocre game with some boobies in it? Why is anyone surprised?