Why the 12-year delay has actually been good for Duke Nukem Forever

No. No, I haven't gone mad.Of course you can be forgiven for assumingthat a 12-year delay, becoming the longest-running joke in games, suffering an outright cancellation, and then being resurrected by a completely different developer would be to Duke Nukem Forever's detriment. But not only do I respectfully disagree, I do so with several very good reasons.

Having long been ofthose guys (the only guy?) who never gave up on Duke, now that I've finally been vindicated in my belief with the announcement that the game is coming next year (yes I am very smug today, thank you very much) I've been doing some thinking. And the more I take into account, the more Itend to thinkthat little release date sliphasdone DNF rather a lot of good. In fact I'm now pretty sure that Duke's comeback will be a fair bit better for it than it ever would have been without it. Seriously, Here's why.

The pressure isoff

There was a point, a few years back, when 3D Realms’ notoriously slow working practices made it impossible for most gamersor journos to continue to support the game. The perception of a lazy developer decadently haemorrhaging money into a tired franchise created such a negative image that however good Duke Forever might have turned out to be, it couldn’t possiblyhave beengood enough to justify the ridiculous wait. 3D Realms would have had to revolutionise gaming to the tune of three Half-Life 2’s and half a Mario franchise in order to redeem Duke. But now that’s changed.

Above: We don't care how much of that he drips on the carpet. After this long, we're just glad he's back

The thing is, we’ve now been waiting for it for so damn long that we’ve gone way past the point of impossibly inflated expectations and looped back around to just plain looking forward to a Duke Nukem game again. So many people had completely given up on Duke ever appearing again that by this point it’s great just to know that he’s still around. And don’t for a second under-value the loveable underdog factor that a supposed full-on game cancellation will get you. Particularly when that cancellation sees you taken away from a dev perceived as lazy and a bit crap, and picked up by a fun studio bursting with recent creative kudos. But more on Gearbox a little later.

Above: With Valve taking their own sweet time with Half-Life these days, Gordon won't be a threat

And on top of that, Duke Nukem Forever will now be released into a less pressurised era than originally planned. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of shooters around these days, but the original era of Duke Nukems 3D and Forever was a major transitional period for FPS. Things were moving away from Doom and towards the vastly more advanced likes of Quake and Half-Life, and the pressure to put a technological and design stamp on the brave new, unexplored world of proper 3D shooters was immense.

It was an era of major upheaval, and while Duke Nukem 3D provided its fair share of shooter evolution at the time of its release, a large portion of DNF’s development troubles came from the constant shifting of the goalposts by id and Valve. Things have settled down now, and Duke Nukem Forever can shine on its own merits.

It has already had millions-worth of free advertising

You cannot buy a marketing campaign like the one Duke Nukem Forever already has. Even the best ad in the world can only ever hope to make its game look subjectively cool enough to warrant a purchase. But the Duke Nukem Forever name already has so much more than that going for it.

Duke has a bona fide 12-year drama. It’s an industry legend in its own right. Duke Nukem Forever is an epic real-life narrative that any current gamer now knows off-by-heart, and there’s no way any normal ad campaign could engage its audience’s brains and emotions in the way it has, or for as long. The game’s existence is virtually an urban myth by this point, so selling Duke Nukem Forever is like selling tickets to a public appearance by Bigfoot.

Gearbox has matured into exactly the right developer

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago if the Gearbox Software of Brothers in Arms would be a good fit to complete Duke Nukem Forever, I wouldn’t have been too sure. If you ask me now if the post-Borderlands Gearbox is a good fit, my eyes will glaze over and I’ll gurgle for a little while. Then I’ll start jumping around and punching the air like a five-year-old Mario cosplayer hopped up on cake and Irn-Bru at a birthday party. There might even be a bit of wee in my pants as I do.*

Above: (Borderlands' vibrant fun-times and gun porn)x(Duke Nukem) =A big win for everyone

Things Borderlands does marvellously: Tight shooting mechanics with slick controls. Clever but unobtrusive depth married seamlessly to balls-out comic book action. Sharp, funny, pop-culture-savvy writing. Bold, arresting environment and character design, dripping with colour and secreting personality like a gooey fun-slug.

Things that make Duke Nukem great: All of the above.

Personally, I feel that there’s no-one better than the present-day Gearbox to do Duke Nukem. Not even 3D Realms.

*There is definitely currently a lot of pee. I'm being glared at quite frequently.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.