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nekobun avatar 5:40 PM on 09.10.2012  (server time)
Duke Nukem Forget-it (I wish I could.)

While the closure of Duke Nukem Forever's epically long dev cycle kept it from applicably sharing acronyms with Did Not Finish, there's still something to be said for the fact that its initials can also be applied to be Do Not Fuckingplaythisgame. After buying it for about $3, and then forgetting where I'd left it for about half a year, I finally got around to sinking my teeth into this piece of gaming history, only to find that the reports of it being a piece of something else were all too accurate.

Like any kid who was even vaguely pubescent at the time, I was all about Duke Nukem 3D during its heyday. Mindless violence? Check. Horribly pixelated semi-sexual content? Check. Badass quotes, ripped wholesale from movies I liked? Check-a-roony! I was never terribly adept at the game, but I could blow through a few stages in an afternoon and call it a good time. For all I know, I probably only had the locked, shareware version, so even if I could've beaten the first boss, things wouldn't have proceeded very far beyond that point.

Anyway, I was only vaguely aware of Forever's development cycle as it stopped and started over the years, and not that interested anyway, as I'd graduated from Duke to Rise Of The Triad, then to Quake, and eventually to Halo and more current FPSes as DNF continued to malinger in development limbo. I had a bit of faith that Gearbox might be able to salvage it in the end, given that Randy Pitchford had been involved with the original project. It's amazing how wrong that proved.

The first sign of trouble, I think, came as early as the introductory scenes in Duke's penthouse. Aside from the atrociously long loading time for what was, on the whole, very lackluster visual content, I found you could interact with a billiards table, and quickly set about doing so, figuring finishing the game would yield some reward. What I didn't realize was that a single scratch reset the entire. Goddamn. Game. 26 minutes later, I finally managed to conquer that beast and move on to the main game. In hindsight, I wish that had been enough to dissuade me from continuing.

There has been more than enough time for full-fledged reviews to go into the nitty-gritty of what made Duke Nukem Forever a steaming pile, so I'll try to keep this as quick-hits in nature as possible. So, what bothered me about the game? Terrible loading times. Anachronistic references from across the game's entire development period. Mighty Boot all but eliminated from the game. Clumsy vehicle controls. Aimless, ill-defined indicators of where to go. Gratuitous water temple. More water level nonsense after said water temple. Horrendous weapon imbalance (read: all the alien weapons suck). Frustrating boss fights that get progressively easier as the game proceeds, with the final boss being a goddamn cakewalk. The texture bug I like to call "rainbow sprinkles mode" that kicks in toward game's end, and makes things that much more frustrating to play. Pointlessly wanderable areas in many levels that do nothing but add to load times and in no way reward the player for checking them out.

I think that's the bulk of them. Or at least, the worst of them. What a heap of a game. I can kind of admire Gearbox's intent in wanting to push out a game that'd been teased long enough for kids following it to finish primary school, and I can forgive them a bit given their admission that they just patched together what was already done, but would just a teeny bit more polish have been that hard to eke out? Some writing touch-ups, maybe, to make the quips and the story more palatable? It says a lot when the trailers of yesteryear for your game, which are included in the Extras section on the game disc, look exponentially more fun than the finished product despite being built in horrendously outdated engines.

There is, however, one thing about Duke Nukem Forever I'd like to admit appreciating, if it sees any follow-up in the future. The game ends with the death of the President of the United States (who is a douchehat), and a press conference where Duke announces his intent to run for President himself, as a news ticker underneath mentions the current veep being sworn in as President number 68. Even if it's just for the first few levels, I would be delighted to find the campaign mode for any potential, Gearbox-helmed Duke Nukem reboot to literally be a campaign, of the Presidential variety. A whistle-stop tour, some town hall debates, and maybe even jump it up to the tension of election night, before it turns out the aliens are back and have fixed the vote in favor of some sleeper candidate they've been backing all along, to keep Duke from being our 69th head of state. Then, feel free to initiate kicking of some extraterrestrial butt. It'd be fitting with Gearbox's brand of humor, and a nice change of pace from your typical in media res, everything's-gone-to-shit FPS start sequences. Pitchford, if you're reading this, you're welcome.

Surely, the path from announcement to release for Duke Nukem Forever may be something we look back upon as an iconic and long-running struggle of sorts in video game history, but history isn't necessarily remembered for being great. Take the Viet'nam War, for example. Or 9/11. Or the Holocaust.

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