Duke Nukem, the popular, foul-mouthed, gun-toting video game character, was one of the most iconic gaming heroes of the '90s, fueled by the success of 1996's Duke Nukem 3D. But due to financial issues, management turnover, intellectual property squabbles and a series of false starts, a sequel has been a long, long time coming. The game's follow-up, Duke Nukem Forever, which follows Duke as he staves off an alien invasion, spent 15 years "in development purgatory" before finally hitting shelves on Tuesday. The game's fans and creators have been religiously optimistic throughout the many, many stops and starts. But given its long, "tumultuous" history, does Duke Nukem Forever live up to 15 years of expectations? (Watch a trailer for the game.)
No. Forever is terrible: If Duke Nukem Forever wasn't a complete failure, it "would be an interesting test case" for whether a game can live up to any eternity of expectations, says Chris Kohler at Wired. But the thought most likely to run through gamers' heads as they play this is: "This is what they were working on all this time?" The combat is unimpressive and the novelty of the "over-the-top vulgarity" quickly wears off. In the end, Forever is "a bloated relic of a past era" that was "left behind for a good reason."
"Review: Duke Nukem Forever shoulda stayed vaporware"
It's also "rampantly offensive": The appeal of Duke Nukem has always rested in one's willingness to laugh at "rampant misogyny and hateful stereotypes," says Ben Kuchera at Ars Technica. Duke Nukem Forever is "like watching your uncle tell racist jokes at Thanksgiving… but this time it's interactive — and you're the uncle." Worse, the action is "bland" and there is "no sense of joy" in playing the game.
"Duke Nukem Forever: Barely playable, not funny, rampantly offensive"
But longtime fans should enjoy it: Sure, the game's setup is so "cliched" that it "could have been written on the back of a cocktail napkin," says Gleson Cacho at the Contra Costa Times. But a retro vibe has always been the "life blood of the franchise." Duke Nukem Forever successfully taps into fans' nostalgia for their "womanizing, gun-toting hero," with his irreverent one-liners, "outlandish weapons," and old-school "running and gunning." Despite the game's flaws, "I'd still rather play Duke Nukem Forever late, than never at all."
"Review: Duke Nukem Forever not worth wait"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- The 7 best Halloween-themed editorial cartoons
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree
- 10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2014
Subscribe to the Week