If it actually releases on June 14 or ever, I will buy Duke Nukem Forever. I’m not a huge fan of the franchise. In fact, my history with it is relatively scant. I remember seeing one of my friends playing one of the console versions roughly 15 years ago. I played Duke Nukem 3D for the first time when it released on XBLA, and guess what? I enjoyed the game. I’m not going to buy Duke Nukem Forever out of curiosity to see what a game that has been in development for 14 years plays like. Perhaps that plays a part, but I’m mostly planning on buying it because it looks fun.
Like most gamers, I’ve been following the story of Duke Nukem Forever since the cool trailer for it debuted back in the early 2000s. After endless delays that eventually killed 3D Realms, I thought it would never see the light of day, but it appears it may finally be released this summer. The longest running joke in the game industry will come to an end. At this point, most gamers are expecting a terrible game ruined by development hell, filled with outdated humor, graphics, and gameplay mechanics. They could very well be right in their assumptions, but even if they are, I suspect I will still have fun with the game. Even if it is plagued with all of those problems, it could still be mindless entertainment perfect for filling the summer drought.
Duke Nukem’s brand of crude humor may have seemed edgier and played better in the 90s, but have we really advanced so far that we’re too sophisticated for dumb sex jokes in 2011? I hope we haven’t evolved into humorless, boring pod people, and I hope the game is funny in its own way. I recently played the demo for Bulletstorm, which contained the eternally witty phrase “dick-tits,” and by all accounts it turned out to be an extremely fun, funny game. I’ll admit that I’m more excited for the high brow, sophisticated wit of Portal 2, but I’d also be lying if I said I won’t be amused by pissing in urinals, playing with dildos, and watching girls make out. Duke is also known for referencing and parodying popular films and video games, and I look forward to that aspect as well. I just hope some of the parodies reference stuff from the last 10 years. Otherwise it would be as awkward as running into somebody at a party who is still making O.J. Simpson jokes. It is the one aspect of the game I’m most worried about feeling dated.
As for graphics and gameplay, I don’t really care if they’re dated, and I’m not sure why I should. Stellar graphics certainly impress me, but they have never been the primary reason I like games. Crysis 2 looks incredible, but I don’t expect or need every game to be on the same level graphically. I grew up in an era where I remember being blown away by the original Starfox on SNES. I can still play that game now and enjoy the gameplay and graphics. I think people claim to care about graphics more than they really do; one of the most popular games right now among my online circle of friends is Minecraft, which sports really sweet 3D graphics, if we were living in 1995. Duke Nukem Forever’s graphics don’t look stunning to me, but they don’t look terrible either. They look like an early 360 game, where everything looked a bit too shiny and made of plastic. They look fine to me. Chances are I won’t even notice things like choppy animations or bland textures; I never pay attention to things like that, anyway.
But still the naysayers cry, “The gameplay will also be dated!” Only in the first-person shooter genre is old school necessarily a bad thing, apparently. Many gamers argue that the genre has evolved so much in the last 14 years that you can’t go back. There are crucial, required standards that we can no longer live without. I question that argument. No, I don’t want to go back and play Goldeneye with an N64 controller, but Duke Nukem Forever isn’t asking me to do that. How much has really changed since Halo debuted in 2001? There have been gradual improvements in things like aiming and in-game storytelling, but what are the big changes? Looking down the barrel for precision aim? Online multiplayer? Leveling up in online multiplayer? It’s confirmed that Duke has online multiplayer—just like Duke Nukem 3D had back in the day—that will include all the standard modes we’ve come to love. (With a Duke spin on them, of course. Capture the Flag is now Capture the Babe.) I don’t really care if the multiplayer has a level progression system like Call of Duty.
Not every game has to be Call of Duty, and thank God for that. The final argument people make when it comes to Duke Nukem Forever is that it looks like a generic first-person shooter, that it doesn’t do anything to stand out from an increasingly crowded genre. I think that’s a somewhat dishonest argument. I think it stands out by being Duke. In an era when nearly every shooter is moody, realistic, and ultra-serious, it will be refreshing to play one that is purely about having fun. Sometimes I just want to chew bubble gum and kick some ass; Duke Nukem Forever could be the perfect video game equivalent to a popcorn flick for the summer months.
That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway. When I preordered the game at my work, I said to my boss, “I just want to play it, even though I know it will probably suck.” She replied, “But that’s the point.” If it truly does suck as bad as some people expect (and seem to be almost rooting for), I hope it will be so bad it’s good. Maybe we can find entertainment in being amused at how bad it really is, not unlike a bad movie. I’ve consumed my fair share of those, especially in the summer, and I’ve lived to tell the tale.
Duke Nukem Forever could a standard, mediocre first-person shooter, or it could a train wreck that amounts to the greatest punch-line to the longest running joke in the industry. If those are my choices, I actually kind of hope for the latter.