It’s finally come to this. Over a decade later and the weight of this game’s release is too much for anyone to handle. Duke Nukem Forever was a joke that’d never die, and when we heard it was coming out of development hell during PAX Prime 2011, it seemed too good to be true. And in a way, it was. Duke’s here, but is he worth hanging out with again? Read on for the full review.
Gearbox Studios are in a tough spot. Initially, they were applauded for stepping up and fulfilling just about every gamer’s wish to make sure Duke Nukem Forever became something real, tangible, and most importantly playable. For that, we were ready to support them wholeheartedly. Except now we see what they did when everyone was rooting for them. They didn’t make a good game, not even close, but they also didn’t manage to make a bad game that’s so bad it’s worth playing. Rather, they just made a bad game, period.
The single player campaign sees Duke come out of retirement to fight a group of ugly aliens because they’ve stolen all of Earth’s women. Why do the aliens need our women? To inseminate, of course. You will see female residents of the Uncanny Valley get raped for humor’s sake in Duke Nukem Forever. Let me remind you, we supported Gearbox Studios during their time as developers and cried out, “No, Duke Nukem’s not sexist or misogynistic! It’s parody! It’s meant to be a commentary!” Our faith was rewarded with rape jokes. Rape. Jokes. I haven’t facepalmed this hard since Resident Evil 5’s swamp levels.
For a game that’s all-too-comfortable ripping on the big popular FPS titles of our generation (Halo and Call of Duty), it seems to have no problem boggarting game mechanics wholesale, such as regenerating health and the two-guns-only style of modern games. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with this, both as a gamer who longs for the “good ol’ days” of gaming (health meters and all the guns you can carry), but also as someone who can’t stand smugness. Taking shots at Call of Duty? Fine, I’m totally on board for that. Then proceeding to imitate what you’re mocking? No me gusta.
Other reviewers are going to tell you that the game looks dated. Other reviewers are right. Duke Nukem Forever isn’t the prettiest thing out there, nor is it exactly the worst. Rather, it just looks lazy. Graphics are inconsistent, indicating a lack of polish to the game, an aspect that’s frankly puzzling seeing as the game’s been in development for longer than every current system’s even been out. Who cares if it would have taken another year to get things spotless? We could have waited a while longer if it meant you were going to do your job correctly, Gearbox!
The biggest feeling I have about Duke Nukem Forever is that of betrayal. Not necessarily by the game itself, or even Gearbox. No, I feel betrayed by the gaming industry itself. Since reappearing at PAX Prime, Duke Nukem Forever was heralded as a fantastic and amazing spectacle to behold. All major gaming sites began devoting any space available to talking about every little PR move Duke Nukem went through, all the while cheering it on and expecting it to be the greatest game that ever was and ever will be. It wasn’t until last week that every game site began doing an about-face and decided that Duke Nukem Forever suddenly wasn’t that good of a thing, game or otherwise. So now I’m sitting here in my living room reading my various favorite game sites and just thinking, “Who do I believe anymore? Do any game sites have any credibility anymore?”
That’s how bad Duke Nukem Forever actually is. It’s called into question all that I believe about video games. I was absolutely ready to go out and buy it Day One, scrounging together any money I had in savings just to get a chance to see what all the hype was about. I’m thankful I was able to abstain as all that’s left is morbid curiosity. I’d even been excited after playing the demo when it was reannounced, but now there’s nothing left to care about.
If you’re looking for a piece of gaming history, then Duke Nukem Forever is a good place to start. It doesn’t function well as a game, or even an artistic statement, but it does serve to educate anyone why video games aren’t moving past their current maturity level for at least another decade. We asked for this, and now we have to live with it. Forever.
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