Duke Nukem - Making Him Relevant Again
Duke Nukem Forever is a travesty. It’s a game stuck in 1999, with outdated humour, terrible platforming elements and a distinctive lack of memorable gun battles.
It’s not a surprisingly disappointing title – who of us didn’t expect it to be bad? – but it is sad to see such an anticipated and hyped game go down the drain so easily.
It’s especially sad because Duke Nukem has insane potential, as both a character and as a franchise. I am not very critical of Gearbox, because the developer took the project on -- despite its obvious issues -- and brought Duke back to the fans.
I applaud the developer for doing that more than anything, because I needed a Duke fix.
I got that fix, but it’s a fix that will stick with me for the wrong reasons.
Duke Nukem Forever feels like a cheap game from 1999. I know some of you will argue, “but that’s why we love Duke”, but I’ll digress: every single franchise has evolved over the years, from Grand Theft Auto, to Doom, and through to the forthcoming Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
All of these games were initially defined by their 90s experiences, but have since evolved and changed to offer experiences that are more intone with what we expect from games these days.
They have all maintained any mythology, ideas and tone from the original games, while offering new mechanics and visuals that compliment the technology that is available.
The problem with Duke Nukem Forever is that it is a 1999 game released in 2011. It’s not a 2011 game based on 1999 gameplay, but rather a game that implements absolutely no contemporary video game aesthetics.
That said, at least Forever got the release it so desperately deserved. It deserved a release because Duke Nukem is far too awesome to be left to die, and there is no way he could have been resurrected without Forever having been released first.
Yes, I am arguing that the critical failure of Duke Nukem Forever will assist in the reinventing of Duke Nukem.
Great sales figures of Duke Nukem Forever all but confirm that future Duke titles are on the way.
We now know that the Duke experience we loved during the 90s needs to be changed and altered to better appeal to the gamers of today.
First and foremost, the humour needs to be toned down. Video games are critiqued and experienced on a much bigger scale than they were eleven years ago, and “jokes” about females being raped by aliens aren't that funny anymore.
Humour plays a very important part in Duke Nukem games, and I personally think it was a big miss in Duke Nukem Forever. Aside from a quirky little stab at Halo, I’d rather forget every other little attempt at humour. I can appreciate vulgarity and toilet humour, but Duke Nukem Forever simply just wasn’t very funny.
There also needs to be more of a focus on gunplay. If platforming is going to be implemented, it needs to be able to reach a standard set by the likes of Mirror’s Edge. First-person platforming can be terribly cumbersome, and Duke Nukem Forever fails at offering an enjoyable platforming experience.
There’s nothing wrong with Duke Nukem as a character, and the universe most certainly has a place these days. It just needs to evolve and make the transition into this century.
Duke Nukem Forever is not a game that feeds my nostalgic cravings, because it’s supposed to be a new game that maintains the series’ classic charm, evolved to better suit our needs as gamers today.
It’s a game that relies on its old-fashioned aesthetics and humour to provide an entertaining experience, without ever relying on elements that have been set as a standard. It doesn’t even try to be original or unique in any way.
I can understand a Duke fan’s argument that Forever is exactly the kind of game we should expect from Duke Nukem, but that’s an argument based on the fact that the game’s essentially stayed the same since 1999.
What we should expect from a Duke Nukem game is vulgar humour that has relevance and is in some way intone with the humour of today, as well as accessible gameplay that will at least attempt to remind us of the Duke Nukem 3D experience.
That does not mean it should have mechanics that are stuck in 1999.
Duke is the badass, likable character that dictates an original experience, one that relies on pop culture references and a gameplay experience that is memorable yet decisively original.
We all want to ‘go get some’, but not when what we’re getting is as outdated and used as the cigarette-sucking exotic dancer that Duke so openly adores.
By Gaetano Prestia
What do you think about Duke Nukem Forever? In what ways can future Duke Nukem games be improved?