The few days since Duke Nukem Forever has been released have been interesting ones, from the perspective of looking at reactions to it, if nothing else. As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been playing the PC version and enjoying it a great deal. It’s a thoroughly silly game full of ridiculous diversions, some old-school shooting coupled with some new-school sensibilities.
The combination doesn’t always quite work, but to call it a “broken mess” and a “terrible game” as some people are doing seems a bit harsh, particularly when you bear the game’s troubled history into account.
But I’m not going to go off on one defending Duke Nukem. Instead, what I will ponder is how many people will avoid playing it altogether based on the negative buzz surrounding it? And more to the point, how many people will pass up the PC version, which is significantly more technically competent than the apparently-dodgy console ports, based solely on reviews — pretty much all of which I’ve seen have been based on the console versions?
I picked up Duke Nukem because it’s a piece of gaming history — the world’s most notorious piece of vapourware. I enjoyed Duke Nukem 3D but wasn’t obsessed with it or anything — it was simply an enjoyable game. For its sequel to come so many years later after it looking like it was never going to arrive at all? That’s kind of cool — like, as one person on Rock Paper Shotgun pointed out earlier, witnessing an unfinished novel, symphony, play, whatever that was completed posthumously. I’m by no means sayingDuke Nukem Forever is a work of art — it really isn’t — but I’m also saying that it’s an interesting curiosity that I fear people will pass by completely purely because the opinion-formers of the world say they should.
Perhaps they won’t, though. Perhaps the game will drop to a bargain price at some point in the near future and people will be inclined to pick it up out of sheer curiosity. I’ll be pleased if that happens, for even if you end up hating the game, I believe that the sheer amount of history that this title has is worth the price of admission alone. As many have pointed out, you can practically see where George Broussard insisted the team take the game back to the drawing board time after time after time — it’s manifested itself in a game that’s trying to be the biggest, the best, the greatest at everything it does and not really achieving it — but what it does achieve is provide one of the most varied experiences you’ll ever have in a first-person shooter. One minute you’ll be driving a remote-control car through a burning casino. The next you might be scaling the outside of a tower that has alien tentacles wrapped around it. The next you may be deep underground, exploring a genuinely unpleasant and disturbing level where you witness first-hand exactly what the aliens are doing to the “babes”. And the next, you might be wandering around a strip club, looking for popcorn, a vibrator and a condom.
So if you’ve been put off by the early reviews of Duke Nukem Forever but have always been intrigued by the idea, I’d encourage you to check it out. Maybe not while it’s full price if you’re not happy with that idea, but certainly once it drops in price. It’s an interesting and genuinely fun game despite its flaws, and it also has a simplistic but excellently entertaining multiplayer mode which is being rather unfairly dismissed by much of the media.
Shake it, baby. Never thought Duke Nukem Forever would have serious potential to become Squadron of Shame material.