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March 23, 2011

Filed under: gaming»software»duke_nukem

What a Mess

I always kind of hoped that they'd never release Duke Nukem Forever. It was like the game industry's version of The Aristocrats: this protracted, ostensibly-unfunny period of anticipation that became more and more amusing the longer they insisted that there would be an actual game produced at some point. After 3D Realms went kaput, publishers could have traded the title amongst themselves every few years without any intention of actually, you know, publishing it. Just to keep the joke alive, they'd change formats every few years--now it's a flight sim! A platformer! A hybrid of RTS and five-card stud poker! For people like me who played Duke3D in high school, it would be a kind of warm, nostalgic touchstone.

Unfortunately, Forever is getting a not-a-joke release this year by Gearbox, and that means we have to be reminded of how unbelievably stupid its predecessor really was--a legacy Forever seems intent on continuing (my favorite part of the linked article, in which it's explained that there will be a "capture the hysterical stripper" mode in the game: "Expect outrage from the mainstream media." Well, yeah. As there should be.) Enter the Suck Fairy, stage left.

Hey, I thought Duke3D was hilarious: the one-liners ripped out of cult action movies, the pig cops (see, they're cops--who are pigs!), the seedy locales filled with pixelated women. I was also fifteen years old. These days it's just cringe-worthy. And kind of sad, when you think about a team of forty people all working hard to build a seedy, low-fi red light district. It's true that the game was a work of shaggy creativity in multiplayer, but we forget how much of that was true of the unpolished genre of the time: Heretic let you turn your enemies into chickens with a "peck" attack, after all. Gameplay doesn't excuse content.

Duke Nukem Forever probably won't be the dumbest thing released this year, or even the most offensive. Frankly, I have difficulty getting up the energy to even be annoyed at a franchise that's so obviously lazy. But I wish they'd just be honest about it. You don't see the writers on Epic Movie insisting that their tedious, offensive film actually draws attention to the problems of sexism and plagiarism, but that's exactly what Gearbox has done with Forever: they've claimed that it's a net positive for society if women's groups get some publicity out of Duke's misogyny. On an unrelated note, the Arsonists' League of America apologizes if they set your home on fire, but you have to admit: it really drew attention to the problem of arson-related crime in this country.

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