Hail to the King?
Duke Nukem Forever release day has come and gone, and it has managed to already go down in history as one of the bigger disappointments in gaming. With over 10 years of anticipation, you can bet that this title had a lot riding on it. First-person shooter aficionados and Duke Nukem fans were all expecting big things out of this game. Sadly, the shooter managed to leave everyone completely dissatisfied in every way imagineable. How did such an anticipated release managed to go so horribly wrong? And what can we expect from the Duke Nukem franchise moving forward as a result of this blunder?
The Legacy of Duke Nukem
Looking back at Duke Nukem, disappointing games weren’t a big part of the franchise. Sure, 2000’s Land of the Babes could have been a bit more entertaining, but overall, the series hasn’t been known for lacking in quality. For years, gamers have taken a liking to Duke Nukem’s crude humor, poop jokes, and scantily clad women. For all intents and purposes, these aspects of the game have driven the series forward with a sort of cheesy, nonsensical charm that’s not seen very often anymore.
All of that charm acted as a coat of paint on what was a largely rewarding series of first-person shooters. The gritty, adult themes and comic mischief of Duke Nukem were stellar attributes that differentiated the series from other shooters, all the while providing a ton of action and enjoyable gameplay. The crazy themes coupled with solid gameplay made most of the entries in the Duke Nukem series real games for people who just wanted to let loose. It was rewarding, refreshing, and awesome.
Duke Nukem Forever in 2011
Back in 1997, gamers couldn’t wait to get their hands on a new Duke Nukem game. Had these gamers been able to look into the future, all the way to the recent Duke Nukem Forever release day, they probably wouldn’t have been so stoked to play the game. This is due to the fact that, even by 1997 standards, the game just isn’t that good. Since the early years of Duke Nukem, shooters have evolved drastically. Franchises such as Halo and Call of Duty dominate the genre by providing some of the freshest mechanics, reinvigorating the FPS with almost every entry.
FPS games have come a long way, making it even more difficult for a game like Duke Nukem Forever to succeed. The title’s inability to reach the standards of 10-year old shooters not only makes it feel old, but just plain archaic. Gamers have come to expect a certain level of quality from the video games they play. Modern titles need to be appealing from a presentation standpoint, and they also need to offer a lot in terms of depth in gameplay. Duke Nukem Forever lacks all of these qualities, and this was apparent on day one. The game was ugly, played badly, and didn’t offer much, if anything, in the way of truly engrossing gameplay.
Destined for Failure
When you think about 2K Games and Duke Nukem disappointing the masses, and you factor in the storied legacy of the game we all thought would never see the light of day, were we really fooling ourselves into believing that this would be a stellar hit? In the back of my mind, I always imagined this game would fail. The hype that had accumulated for over 10 years, the ideals that people had in their head regarding the game, and the standards to which the game had to live up to all combined to ultimately take down Duke Nukem Forever and make it an absolute failure in gaming–an absolute failure that had its destiny set in stone, but we all failed to believe that fact all the way to the game’s launch. I’m sure we all knew, in the deepest recesses of our minds, that this game wouldn’t succeed as a critically acclaimed shooter. We just had that glimmer of hope that we would get a legendary title after so many years of anticipation.
There’s Always Next Time
Ultimately, two major factors made Duke Nukem Forever a hideous game. The first would be gamers' general expectations. We all held the development of this game on a pedestal because we believed it would be an awesome shooter with great humor. We were obviously wrong, and we set ourselves up for disappointment. Of course, we set ourselves up for disappointment with the help of the publishers. The other reason why Duke Nukem Forever ended up falling flat on its face and making a complete ass of itself is because for the past several years, we were led to believe that this would be an FPS of epic proportions, and it’s obvious the developers didn’t feel the need to deliver on that promise. Instead of rebuilding the game from the ground up, they seemingly picked up scraps of horrid game design, put them together, and marketed them. Duke Nukem Forever didn’t stand a chance.
Luckily, there’s still hope for the famed franchise. Until we get a new game from 2K, though, expect the last headline of this fabled shooter to read: “Duke Nukem: Disappointing fans since 1997.”