Obviously Duke Nukem Forever is the Chinese Democracy of gaming. Not only because like the legendarily delayed Guns N’ Roses record the game took so long to get into shops but in that it revives a pop culture icon whose moves are long past their prime.
Duke Nukem is as cringeworthy as Axl Rose’s corn rows, a 1990s character still trying to kick ass and chew bubble gum in a world that has long since moved on. I loved Duke Nukem 3D as much as the next 12-year-old in 1996 but 15 years later, there’s not a lot of laughs left…
Duke Nukem was always a jerk. His humour was crass and he took some of his best lines wholesale from a grab bag of films including Dirty Harry and The Evil Dead. The character was a composite of the most basic, violent elements of every hard-boiled Hollywood action hero. That worked back in 1996 but it looks less than one-dimensional now.
And while Duke was always a reprehensible misogynist, Duke Nukem Forever takes that a step further with a level set in an alien lair where Earth’s women are being raped. The moans and sobbing are a lot more disturbing than any shocks Modern Warfare ever served up. And, of course, like a combat-ready Jimmy Carr, Duke finds the whole scene chucklesome.
Duke Nukem Forever has ascended the charts by exploiting nostalgia for a series that petered out long ago. Scan the reviews and you’ll find an almost unanimous sense of dismay about boring gameplay and shoddy attempts to rip off far better first person shooters. But it’s the crassness that makes it truly embarrassing.
From Duke scooping up a poo from the toilet and running around with it to the recasting of Capture The Flag as Capture The Babe, it’s as if the game was designed by a group of teenage boys with just a pile of sweets and some badly recorded VHS copies of Beavis & Butthead to work with.
Toilet humour and edgy jokes are fine if you can make them funny but Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t come near to achieving that. Watching Duke listlessly combat aliens and leer at babes after all these years is the video game equivalent of a plastic-looking Sly Stallone struggling on as Rambo.
As much as fans try to persuade themselves that a kernel of the old Duke Nukem magic resides in the new game, the cheap jokes, bad gameplay and dated references makes the whole experience seem like visiting a beloved grandparent and realising that they were a hateful old husk all along.