Hail to the king?

Nearly 14 years from when first conceived, Duke Nukem Forever shambled onto PCs and consoles early this month and was met with sea of negative reviews. Taking a handful of creditable sources, the average score is around 40 per cent which doesn’t say a lot for the quality of the game. However it somehow managed to top the UK all format charts in a mere weekend, beating what is confidently positioned at the other end of the maturity scale, L.A. Noire and sales are predicted to go well above 1.5 million units. The US wasn’t so forgiving as its first day sales have been called mediocre at best but Duke Nukem Forever is still being seen as a success. Only monetarily speaking mind you.

Duke’s saviours, Gearbox Software, took the game from the shady back alley of broken dreams and finished off what 3D Realms started so for them, the high sales figures are a comforting achievement. Even more so when you think that Duke Nukem will almost definitely become a revived franchise. Gearbox wouldn’t have taken on such a turbulent property if they didn’t intend to make at least one or two more games. Randy Pitchford, ceo of Gearbox, tweeted his pleasure over the success of DNF and gave a little dig at reviews at the same time. He said (via VideoGamer): “With sales data, It seems like *customers* love Duke. I guess sometimes we want greasy hamburgers instead of caviar…”

Fair point. Sometimes we do want greasy hamburgers, we want those games that play to our most immature desires and are almost embarrassed to admit liking it. But there’s a massive difference between greasy hamburgers and out-dated mechanics and concepts. I’ve not yet played DNF but intend to soon although when critics who you trust tell you a game is terrible, chances are it will be. And it’s such a shame when Duke Nukem 3D was so good. Back in the nineties, it did things few other games tried and it sounds as if Duke Nukem Forever is still doing things few other games do. But this time, it’s because no-one wants them anymore.

What will be most telling is what happens when the initial nostalgic hype dies down. Will gamers still be buying DNF in droves or will it become a dominant feature of bargain bins and pre-owned aisles?


Introducing Duke Nudem. No, that’s not a typo.

In an effort to appeal to fans of bare flesh the world over, 2K has peeled back a rather dirty curtain on one of the promotional campaigns for Duke Nukem Forever (via Videogamer). Behind said curtain is four young ladies who are clearly difficult to find clothes for and eager to remove them at the drop of a bullet. The promo is called Duke Nudem – see what they did?… – and is virtual strip show disguised as a shooting gallery. The girls, Vicky, Jo, Stacey and Rosie are packing heat and it’s the single-handed viewers job to shoot easily obtainable targets in order to see them topless. It’s a beast out of three competition with unlocks and semi-nude wallpapers as your reward.

The whole thing is quite harmless but, really? 2K are clearly going the whole hog with the image for the Duke Nukem franchise and his uber male boob-loving persona. I doubt that the full game is massively appealing to female gamers because of the overly macho, fairly low-brow humour (but then I might be stereotyping by suggesting that) however this campaign feels a bit uncomfortable and worst still is the desire to distance yourself from the franchise.

But lets look at the backside, I mean, flip side of this. Products like deodorant and psuedo-porn mags use this kind of advertising and marketing all the time to shift their products and it seems to fit the audience quite well. It’s no secret that Duke is geared towards that kind of consumer with the rest of us keen to give it a go but just not willing to admit the fact. Does Duke Nudem help? Nope. Is it perfect for the target audience? Absolutely.

Come get some balls of steel

Over at VG247, they found an image, presumably from a source of off the tinterweb, of what appears to be a special edition of Duke Nukem Forever. The Balls of Steel edition contains art cards, an art book, a comic, two poker chips, a pack of cards, dice, a bust of Duke and certificate of authenticity. Lord only knows how much it’ll cost but making such a extravagant edition of a game that has had so many development struggles and an ever decreasing franchise fan base is mighty silly to me. Previews of Duke Nukem Forever are pretty good with the general consensus being that it’s a decent laugh so no doubt that will have brought back a few stragglers who are writing it off before it’s released but I can’t imagine a Balls of Steel version would be all that popular. I am excited for DNF because Gearbox make great games just not a special edition. Maybe if the art book shows the 13 years of development and the disc included playable segments of older code then yeah, I’m in. Otherwise I think I’ll stick with the standard version.

Duke Nukem isn’t forever after all

Write the date in your diaries but do it with a pencil; Duke Nukem Forever has been given a release date of May 3rd in North America and 6th in Europe (via Gamespot). Gearbox obviously believes this is an achievable timescale as they must be aware of how DNF has become somewhat of a joke amongst gamers. Not because of the content but for 13 years, vague and sometimes solid release dates for the game have come and gone so the developer wouldn’t want to add their date to that list. Duke Nukem Forever has to have a flawless release in order to silence the critics and the promised pre-release demo should help towards that – a demo that was playable at PAX last year receiving a decent amount of favourable previews.

There you go, Duke Nukem Forever has had one hell of a development cycle but the recent changing of hands from 3D Realms to Gearbox appears to have given the game the boost it needs for completion. Well, we hope anyway, like I say, I’ll be pencilling in May 6th rather than committing to ink.

Sega goes platinum with a new game

Sega’s partnership with Platinum Games spawned two wonderful games loved by gamers and critics alike and two decent titles that helped reign in the cash. After the four horsemen galloped into stores (yay, metaphors!) that was mean to be the end of the deal but today, Sega announced an extension to their business pairing with at least one new game in development. If Hideki Kamiya tweets something about Bayonetta 2 again I wouldn’t be surprised. Out of the first game, Vanquish, Mad World for Wii and Infinite Space for DS, Bayonetta was the most successful game from the partnership so a sequel is a strong possibility. With the story being left slightly ajar and the hack ‘n’ slash gameplay refreshingly dissimilar to other mashers thanks to the gun shoes, another game would be pretty cool. The news comes from an interview in Game Informer (via IGN) with Alan Pritchard, executive vice president of sales & marketing at Sega of America, who also confirmed that Gearbox is still very much involved with Aliens: Colonial Marines, a game that was once thought to be canceled. But with the state of recent Aliens games, I’d have to say that I’m more interested to see what Platinum Games produces over a new xenomorph shooter. Then again, Gearbox do have the talent to make something special. I mean, they’re rescuing Duke Nukem Forever and could save the Aliens video game initiative too.

Hail to the king. Eventually.

One of the longest game development cycles ever is meant to come to an end next year when Duke Nukem Forever is eventually released. The game has been tweaked and tinkered with for the better part of 13 years, finally leaving originators 3D Realms to be finished by Gearbox Interactive. Unlike other continuously delayed games, George Broussard, who metaphorically gave birth to Duke, claims such an almighty set back wasn’t down to an unachievable quest for perfection but rather a number of issues.

Speaking with Maximum PC (via Eurogamer), Broussard stated how he wished that something more dramatic was the cause but instead: “It was just never ready. We had lots of development issues along the way. It wasn’t a quest for perfection as some silly article in Wired implied last year. I think what hurt us the most was licensing engines and trying to change them too much. S*** happens and after delays the options are to continue or kill the game. I never wanted to kill the game. We got things turned around dramatically in 2007-2009, with a lot of new hires, and most of the game as it exists today was created in that timeframe.”

So there you have it. Not so much a quest for perfection but the desire to change engines was Duke’s worst enemy. And now Gearbox are committed to a 2011 release which will either be one of gamings greatest achievements or worst failures. Much of the discussion to do with Duke Nukem Forever is whether or not the game, and indeed the character, is still relevant after so many years of the industries evolution. Broussard is adamant that it is: “Duke offers contrast and something very unique and different from the cookie cutter, cardboard, generic game heroes that don’t have an ounce of personality. It’s ok to not like Duke or think him juvenile, but at least he’s not boring and vanilla. Most people play games to escape and enjoy a fantasy for a while.”

True, Duke does have quite a unique personality but one that began as a parody of early 90s pop culture. Would a significant amount of consumers ‘get it’ and if they did, would they care? I was one of those who thought that Duke Nukem Forever would be amazing, back when I was 16, but now have more of a morbid curiosity as to how the game will eventually play like and just how ‘extreme’ Duke as a person has become.

Duke Nukem Forever is back. Again.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

When I first heard the rumour that Gearbox Software were planning on finishing off the financially abandoned Duke Nukem Forever, I figured it was nothing more than a joke. As cool as it would be to play a game that’s been in development for almost half my life I didn’t expect anyone to pick up the franchise after the closure of 3D Realms. But Gearbox have only gone and done just that and Duke Nukem Forever is officially back on again with 2K as the publisher. Announced at PAX a few hours ago, gamers got to try it out for themselves just to prove it is indeed happening and at the same time, Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford’s chat with the Wall Street Journal (via 1up) went live.

Despite the ongoing lack of a firm release date, Pitchford told WSJ that Duke Nukem Forever is only being “polished” and that Gearbox had pieced together what 3D Realms had left behind adding “It’s the game it was meant to be.” Word is that it’s coming this year but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that. The captured live stream above looks interesting but Duke Nukem Forever has a hell of a lot to live up to and may fall victim to its own hype. We may find out later this year. Or next year. Or the year after, who knows.