It has been over a year since Duke Nukem Forever finally came out, but I only just recently managed to sit down and play through the entire demo without trying to jump out a window…more than three times. During the moments I wasn’t trying to attempt suicide, I began to question why this game was actually released. I don’t mean in the state it is in, though that is a problem as well, but why it was ever released at all.
I understand that it was in development Hell for about 15 years (and that can do horrible things to a game), but why am I left with such a bad taste in my mouth? I’ve played Duke Nukem 3D, and while I’m not quite as quick to praise it as others are, I’ll at least acknowledge that it’s a pretty fun title. It’s still just as fast-paced and humorous as it was back when it was released, and I think the game has aged exceptionally well…the problem is that Duke hasn’t.
In an age where video games are getting closer and closer to becoming a true storytelling medium, I’m beginning to think that Duke Nukem is a relic of the past. It’s not his one-dimensional personality, distasteful humor, or even his completely sexist attitude — I’ve them seen all before, and done better too. No, all of those things are just (major) annoyances. The real problem is that Duke just doesn’t fit in anymore.
He’s like that good friend that moved away in the seventh grade and came back years later. He is still awkwardly telling jokes that you used to find funny, still randomly hitting on girls in the most misogynistic way possible, and still acting like a 12-year old who just discovered the internet. Then you realize he may not be as cool as you once thought he was. He was gone for so long, and even though you’re happy to see him come back, you can’t help but be embarrassed by his actions, attitude, and appearance.
It’s hard to blame him for it. After all, you haven’t seen him in years. He’s had no time to mature or adjust. He just stands in the corner, wondering why no one is laughing at his jokes. Looking down at his clothes, he questions why no one is complimenting him on his fashion taste and new haircut. “Why do none of the guys invite me to have a drink with them? What’s wrong with me?”
Over in the opposite corner, all of your other friends gather around, discussing Duke’s repulsive behavior. “Man, that’s his old buddy? Glad he’s found better taste in friends since then.”
If it had been decided that Duke Nukem should remain forgotten in the depths of video game history, my question wouldn’t matter. I could ask people if Duke deserves to exist and they would just stare at me in absolute indifference (not that they don’t already), but that may not be the case. It’s a bit dusty by now, but there’s a rumor that Gearbox will begin work on a new title, “Duke Begins”, after they complete Aliens: Colonial Marines.
If that happens, there’s a good chance that the developers will rethink the character, at least a little. Which makes me wonder if Duke can actually be made like-able again. So many customers were completely repulsed by the awful gameplay, humor, and graphics of his last game that I’m not sure if the public is willing to accept him again.
Now, I could be wrong (and only God knows how many times I have been), but I think Gearbox has the potential to make Duke good again. Whether or not they can bring back the gloriously foul-mouthed bastard that we remember remains to be seen, but if there’s even the slightest chance that a new generation could be properly introduced to Duke, I’d be more than happy to donate my life savings to help fund the project….all $8.64 of it.
Of course, there are also those of the opinion that Duke Nukem should stay dead and defeated. Though their reasons vary, I can’t blame most of them for wanting him to remain out of the public eye…but I suppose they don’t have much say in the matter. Gearbox will reboot the franchise if they think a profit can be made. The only remaining question is for you to answer: Does Duke Nukem deserve to exist?