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Delayed Reactions: Duke Nukem Forever: The Mild Pleasures Of Occasionally Betting On Duke

For People Who Like:

Duke 3D, Andrew Dice Clay routines


+ At it’s best when reveling in old-school glory

+ Multiplayer is a fun, brainless throwback


+ Awkwardly shoehorns modern FPS gimmicks into a game that didn’t need them

+ Sense of humor manages to offend everyone – even Sean

+ Just a plain old mess

I was 15 in 1997. Simple math tells you that I’m currently pushing 30. Over the past several months I’ve fallen into one of those periods that young men often do where I’m constantly musing over the way time passes and how we interpret it. See, when I was younger, the time between summer vacations seemed interminable.  Waiting two months for a game to came out felt like years  And there was no greater torture than visiting one of my mother’s friends for “a few hours”.  I’m sure there’s some biological reason why time started to speed up for me around the age of 20, (spoiler alert: there is) but no matter.  Long story made slightly shorter: I stopped waiting around for DNF around 2002.  The wait for it between 1997-2002 seemed absolutely cataclysmic. As for the past nine years?  Couldn’t tell you where they went.  The sticky part is this: nine years is a long time. The five before that, also a long time. In the fourteen years this game has taken to develop, I have done the following:

- Gotten married
- Met almost all of my groomsmen
- Dropped out of college
- Buried several close friends and relatives
- Gone through 20 jobs
- Visited almost every major city in America
- And a few in Europe, too

You can make your own Duke Nukem List (for what it’s worth, here’s the definitive one), but you’ll arrive at the same conclusion I have: many, many things happen in fourteen years. The ‘me’ from fifteen years ago couldn’t possibly wrap his head around the world of today.  I would lash out in a violent wave of uncomfortable humor, spilling Sunny D all over my Silverchair shirt in an attempt to deflect attention from anyone noticing that I really didn’t belong in these times anymore.

Which brings me to Duke.  Long in development, he seemed all but dead in 2009 until Gearbox stepped in.  So here he is, plucked from 1998, given a final polish before being thrown in front of us as a bratty teenager completely unaware of what year this is, desperate to please us with an array of gags and design choices that would have felt dated seven years ago, and thrown into new clothes that really don’t fit him. In the year 2011, can we still bet on Duke?

Kind of.

I’m A Bit Of A Stranger Here Myself

Let’s get this out of the way now: if you’re looking for the product of fourteen years of development, you won’t find it here.  To most people, hearing that something has been worked on for fourteen years would lead one to believe that the product in question would be a highly polished, meticulously crafted affair.  The assumption behind this is that the artists in question have slaved endlessly over every detail, fine-tuning the mechanics with thoughtful craftsmanship until the results were exactly what they wanted.

This was not why Duke Nukem Forever took fourteen years.

If you happen to be artistically inclined, I’m sure you have one project that eats at you: a song you can never quite get right, a screenplay that is always under constant revision, a painting that you are continually blotting out with white and starting over again.  It’s the curse of certain types of people, you see, to always have the urge to tear something down and start over.  Everyone has a friend who is always working on a “masterpiece” that never seems to get done (hell, I’ve re-written this review 3 times).  Enter 3D Realms.  Flush with cash from Duke Nukem 3D and the licensing of it’s engine, the team was free to work without deadlines until everything was “just right”.  The problem is that, in the realm of videogames, this simply doesn’t work.  Technology is always evolving and there comes a point where someone needs to put their foot down and say, “finish it”.

Unsurprisingly, what we are left with is a game that feels equal measures overstuffed and unfinished…..still.

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1 Comment

  1. Posted by Adam on 14 August 11 at 3:46pm

    I’m 2 years younger than you (according to your intro to this piece) and remember playing Duke Nukem 3D on my dads computer, and loving it! I really didn’t follow the whole development process of Forever but I know it took Forever to come out. A few thoughts about your review.

    From start to finish Forever pays homage to Duke Nukem 3D. From the carefully created environments in Duke’s mansion showing off his past exploits, to the stripper level where you’re required to collect a condom, dildo and popcorn (if I remember right). They all pay homage to the original.

    And if you remember the Aliens in 3D did the same thing to earth’s women as they did in Forever, its just more graphic this time around.

    Your whole review is one big bash fest. I feel bad that some people were not able to find a good time in Forever, turn off the over analytic part of their bran and just enjoy a fun game.

    The game play is smooth and fun. Yeah there are only 2 weapons and ammo conservation is key, but that’s not a bad thing. Jokes are crude, but this is the Duke for God’s sake. I read all the bad reviews before I played the game, but I’m glad I didn’t take them to heart, really Duke Nukem Forever was one of my favorite gaming experiences of 2011 so far.

    I had fun, and to me that’s what matters and what many reviewers overlook. Also the one reason we all love a good game, because we have fun playing it.

    (wow, longest comment ever, lol)

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