This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Duke Nukem Forever... again. This is the real review. The joke review is here.
Well, this will teach me not to open my big, fat cake socket. "There goes Old Man Yahtzee," cry the children of the village. "He's the chump who decided that just because Duke Nukem Forever hadn't come out in thirteen years and its developers had gone down the plughole that it was safe to make a joke review that hinged entirely on Duke Nukem Forever never actually seeing the light of day, but now it has and he has so much egg on his face that you could slap him with a frying pan and call him an omelette. Har har har."
To which I reply; That's quite a needlessly complicated chant you've got going on there, children of the village. But the point of my joke review, which I'm not surprised has slipped by your Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-addled minds, was not 'Duke Nukem Forever will never be released' but 'Duke Nukem Forever probably should never be released,' because nothing they produce could live up to thirteen years of anticipation. Reality will always disappoint when compared to the things we can imagine, because everything I imagine has a set of massive tits that lactate creamed rice. Still, the actual Duke Nukem Forever of reality is certainly well-served in the tits department.
If you weren't, say, born yet when Duke Nukem 3D came out, let me give you a refresher. Duke Nukem is a mentally-handicapped man who can only communicate in pop culture references on account of having two additional testicles instead of a brain. Fortunately, he lives in a world where no one else has any personality at all, and you know what they say: in the kingdom of the blind, the quadruple-bollocked man is king.
Twelve years after their first invasion, the aliens have finally finished pushing their eyeballs back in and their goolies back out and are ready for round two. At the start, there's a certain ambiguity as to whether they're invading or showing up with an apology fruit basket and whether or not it's Duke who opens the hostilities. "Huh," I thought, "perhaps they're taking the story in a more complex direction as Duke is forced to mature and understand that his actions have consequences." But then Duke slapped some tits on a wall and I said, "Well, never fucking mind!"
The development of Duke Nukem can best be equated to some guys trying to build a house opposite a boat on a river. Unfortunately, legendary superhero Captain Obvious wasn't available to explain that the boat was always going to have moved on by the time the house gets finished, isn't it. And after fourteen years of constantly shifting down river, you're just going to have a few piles of bricks and some pissed-off day laborers.
The interesting thing about Forever is that you could practically cut it in half and see the entire fourteen years of shooter evolution it's tried to keep up with, like the rings in a tree stump. It starts off campy and colorful, in a Sin / Blood II: The Chosen kind of way, then it moves into the dark, sweaty, unpleasant Doom 3 / Prey / Quake 4 period when you go into the alien hive - and incidentally this section contains about as jarring a shift of tone as you can get without splicing five minutes of The Human Centipede into the middle of Mallrats. And by the last mission, Duke has finally embraced the FPSes of today, meaning you run around a gray-brown industrial area for a while, then get a shit ending.
You know, I do try to go into reviews unbiased. I said try, not always successfully I admit. And indeed, having spent my pubescence knocking out several crafty ones to Duke 3D, I found myself really trying to like Duke Nukem Forever. At least it trusts you to be able to put a piece of cover between you and the bullets without also having to cuddle up to it like you're hoping to shag it after the film. At least you can jump up and down from things without having to find the spot where the contextual "jump up and down" icon appears. At least it actually has a sense of humor that's not in the Bulletstorm sense of just playing it all straight and claiming that you're being "ironic." For example, your health bar is your ego bar, which you can increase by winning at pinball or admiring yourself in the mirror, which I thought was a nice way of incorporating into gameplay the old Duke 3D tradition of "messin' with the set dressin'".
I guess I want it to be good because that's how the story's supposed to end. After fourteen years of sneering bullies making the Did Not Finish joke, the plucky, never-say-die Duke Nukem should finally turn around and silence those guffawing shits.
Well, Duke Nukem has certainly put an end to all those jokes, if only because they're now more tragic than funny. Even as I played, that part of me that takes an almost sexual joy in ruining other people's fun turned upon myself and said "Yahtzee, you and I both know that you have pushed games off subway train platforms when they had less problems than this." "Oh, God, you're right. There's just no excuse for loading times this long unless you're a fucking removals van." Perhaps the thinking is that if we're still buying the game after fourteen years, then we've proved that we at least possess the virtue of patience.
You know what, if I didn't know the history of this game, I would have said it seemed a bit rushed. It's not just the gameplay attitudes that have come from ten years ago, they seem to have brought some of the graphics technology along for the ride. The textures are low-quality, the levels are dull, and the frame-rate somehow still manages to chug like your mum at the bacon buffet. On top of that, the console controls are clunky and difficult, which leads to many frustrating deaths, but fortunately the loading screens will give you plenty of time to calm down, make a cup of tea, perhaps read that book you've been meaning to get into.
Perhaps it wouldn't be so obnoxious if it weren't so fucking pleased with itself. When the game takes rather clumsy and pointless jabs at other shooters that have since surpassed it, I can't help but say "people who live in glass houses, Duke Nukem Forever, shouldn't make ugly, frustrating, poorly optimized games." And most of the jokes are pop culture references. Not parodies, references. It's just pointing out a Master Chief helmet on a shelf and saying "recognize this and laugh, you sheep." And while some sheep will perhaps laugh now, when future archeologists discover games like Duke Nukem Forever and films like the Scary Movie franchise, they will assume they were created in an entirely different language, perhaps by an entirely different species of underevolved mole people in slogan t-shirts.
So, this is how the anticipation ends, people. First show of the long-awaited comeback tour and the singer's hanged himself on the microphone cord. But he's trying to sing anyway, forcing on a smile and choking out lyrics in between grotesque spasms, and you're wondering whether it's kinder to cut him down or swing on his legs to help him on his way.
- The fickle finger of hate: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- And you can't even give money to strippers, that's like remaking Jaws and forgetting to put a shark in it
- Of course it was going to disappoint, I just didn't think it would be this much