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The Duke Nukem I wanted to play

What kind of game would really suit Duke Nukem in this day and age?

Even though we all knew that Duke Nukem couldn't possibly live up to the expectations of 14 years worth of game development, I still can't help but feel disappointed by the final product.  It's immature, unpolished, of varying levels of quality, and nothing like the idea of the game I had in mind when I saw the trailer for it earlier this year.  This trailer sold me on the idea of Duke Nukem - that he was cool, he was ridiculous and over-the-top, and that the self-awareness and humor of the game would be a great contrast to the samey realistic shooters that we've been getting for so long.  The final game was nothing like it.

I haven't played the full product, but seeing the reception the game has been getting, I'm not sure I have to.  I was at the Gearbox event in Dallas, TX last Saturday, where I got to play the game for the first time.  Due to the demand to play, I only got to play a small section, devoid of any shooting.  I did laugh at how using a urinal increased my maxiumum health, and signed a boy's autograph with a phallic symbol (ordinarily this would be immature, even to me, but given the subject matter it seemed appropriate).  However, even then there were several glaring problems that got in the way of my enjoyment of the game.  A man spouting off exposition about what was happening was standing in the middle of the hallway, blocking my exit.  Wasn't I supposed to be the mighty Duke Nukem?  Why should I let some scrawny guy tell me where I could and couldn't go?  This problem only intensified later when a kid was asking for a picture on Duke's throne, and wouldn't budge until I finally pushed a button to take his picture.  Wouldn't the real Duke have just told him to get lost?

I feel like the game I really wanted to play could actually be compared to a game released in 2009, 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand.  For those who don't know, this was a third person shooter starring the titular rapper, shooting bad guys in the middle east in the name of getting back a piece of treasure.  The gameplay was competent at best and the storytime was dumb as hell, but my friends and I loved it because of a certain ironic tone the game had that made it unique to play.  50 Cent has plenty of money and riches, so why he would travel through a war-torn country in order to get a diamond-encrusted skull back is anyone's guess.  He treats the people around him with contempt, then acts surprised when he's backstabbed.  A sidequest involves stealing paintings.  A driving sequence lets you drive off a ramp in slow motion, for no reason other than "because you can".  It made for a fun experience, and I had hoped Duke Nukem Forever would be a similarly-toned game on a much grander scale.

In one mission in DNF, a soldier suggests that Duke put his green power armor on, and we can see that it's the armor Master Chief wears.  Duke responds "Power armor is for pussies".  The soldier in question is confused and awkwardly accepts Duke's proposition, which is one of those few glimpses into the game I wanted to play.  The hyper-masculine stereotype was overdone a decade ago, and seeing that kind of character attempting to play by today's rules would have been hilarious, especially if Duke was the only one unaware.  I also feel like a character like Duke wouldn't bother with puzzle-solving or jumping puzzles - that his goal was only to shoot things that were ugly, or driving vehicles across the wastelands wrecking everything in his path.  So many game characters these days are unknowing psychopaths, but seeing a delusional character like Duke actively play out his fantasies would have made for a much more interesting game.

Ultimately, these were unrealistic hopes.  To make the game I wanted to make, the guys at Gearbox would have had to scrap everything and start over on the game - a process that was the reason the game took so long in the first place.  At it stands, Duke feels like a has-been.  If the Duke Nukem brand isn't dead in the water after this game, perhaps Duke Nukem 5 could reexamine the character, and make the game I had thought when I saw that trailer.

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