Duke isn’t the only thing that needs to grow up
Even if Duke is reborn as the cleverest, funniest, most hysterical character since…well, darn near everyone in Family Guy or Southpark... it won’t save the game from suckage if Gearbox doesn’t get the gameplay up to snuff.
Circle strafing boss fight (yawn)? Check. Uninspired 3rd person driving-and-shooting segment? Check. Standard FPS run-n-gun? Check.
Realistic physics? Sandbox gameplay? 3D? Ultra-destructible terrain and buildings? Nano Suit? Ripping satire on other FPS Games? Nyet, which is either Russian for “no” or Internet-texty-teen shorthand for Not Yet. We’ll hope for the latter.
Half-Life 2 (launched in 2004) offers better, more innovative gameplay than what we saw in Duke Nukem Forever. Granted, Half-Life 2 has 100% less boobies, Catholic School Girls, and blowjob jokes than Duke Nukem Forever.
But that’s pretty weak sauce in an age (and a demographic) where potty humor is better on TV, broadband reigns supreme and Internet porn is fast and free. FPS games are an entire order of magnitude better than they were 5 years ago, and light years beyond 10 years ago. Boobies alone (probably) won’t make Duke Nukem forever successful. (It sure didn't help the most recent incarnations of Leisure Suit Larry, but that's another can of worms entirely...)
Still early in the game
We have to acknowledge that what we saw most certainly a montage of early-to-mid development for the game. But aside from the graphics looking more modern, the gameplay felt as old as Duke Nukem, which places it sometime around the Jurassic period in PC gaming years.
Peeing in the urinal and writing on a whiteboard were the most unexpected and innovative features we saw. In retrospect, those segments feel like missed opportunities for…something.
But we're still hopeful. We haven't entirely lost faith. Maybe Randy was just screwing with us. Maybe the real Duke Nukem Forever is coming in 2012 with cutting edge graphics, gameplay, a hilarious story and script, and innovative multiplayer game modes. Maybe there will even be some pointless social media tie-in features, so snippets like “So-and-so found a Shrink Ray and banged a stripper!" can be loudly trumpeted to friends and family via Facebook and Twitter.
Because as we saw it, Duke Nukem’s gameplay was a joke—and that sh*t ain’t funny, man—especially for a title likely aimed at the triple-A $49.99/$59.99 price point, likely to be milked further through future DLC installments. (Let’s face it, it’s a game just screaming for a Vampire- or Zombie Whore DLC pack.)
Keep the shades, Duke
Gearbox Software created the 2009 hit Borderlands, so they’ve earned our respect and admiration. And taking a beat up game that has been put through 12 years of screw-ups, delays, bad luck, and everything in between, is a ballsy effort. We sincerely hope Gearbox can give Duke the triumphant, long overdue resurrection that he’s due. We haven't lost the faith just yet.
But there needs to be a significant evolution of the character and the gameplay to make them both relevant and entertaining. If Gearbox can pull it off, then Duke could have a long, bright future ahead of him. If Gearbox fails, Duke may need to hide the black eyes from the beatings he’ll take in the press.
And this may be Duke’s one and only chance to come back. If he doesn’t rise from the grave gloriously, he could be headed for permanent retirement.
Duke nukem Forever is currently expected to ship sometime in 2011. In an article on Speakeasy, Pitchford was quoted as saying “We’re in the polishing phase now. This is a game where we can not make a promise we can not fulfill. We need to get past the shock and awe and then we can go to all the retailers and first parties and work out a launch plan.”
Take your time, Randy. We all want to see Duke done right.