Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hail to the geriatric king, baby!

I played Duke Nukem Forever yesterday.

I don't think I can even begin to wrap my mind around that fact. Even as I was going through the demo it was like watching another trailer or teaser... like this was just another one of those old trailer or images we'd see, getting our hopes up before we'd hear nothing else about it for a year.

We've become the ever-waiting wife for Duke; checking the mail every day for some word from him, and fearing the day the message will come that he won't be coming back. Of course, we did get that message but by some miraculous and generous act Duke is finally on his way home. But do we want him back? Or have we moved on by now?

I've known for a while that DNF would never be able to live up to the hype of its 12-year development cycle. That's not really fair when I actually think about it. It's not as if this is the first game the original developers began to work on all those years ago. That's kind of why it's taken so long to begin with. The game kept getting scrapped and restarted; getting a new engine every time, new gameplay, new approach to design. I don't know how long this specific incarnation of DNF has been in development. The problem with this release for me isn't living up to any hype - I'm not expecting it to - the problem is that ultimately this is a game that isn't finished.

I remember Gearbox saying they were surprised by how much of the game was ready when they got it, but we don't really know what was going to be there. That's not to say that the game would have been better at all -it likely would still be in development and not even close to release - but the state the game is in now is a kind of half-existence. It's not really ready, it's a ghost of that it wanted to be.

That's fine by me. I just want to play it, get it out of my system, and hopefully a brand new Duke title can be made now. I just can't help but think that the game should have been released for a nominal fee. Something that everyone who's been waiting for this game could pay and not worry about it actually being worth it. I could be worrying for nothing. Maybe the full game is actually incredibly good. If the demo is any indication, however, then the game somehow doesn't feel right. It's like a new building before people move in. It looks nice but it's like there's nothing there.

I will put my judgements on hold until I've played the entire game, but I'm keeping my expectations low. What Gearbox did was admirably and inspirational - taking this game from its grave and reviving it, polishing, and releasing it, but asking full price for a game that is not really a game - a game that's just out to be out - is off-putting. I still hope I'm wrong about it and, to be honest, despite a lot of faults, I enjoyed the demo quite a bit. I was both surprised by some gameplay elements and amused by design choices and dialogue. So there is hope. At least as far as I'm concerned. I've pre-ordered the game because for me this really is the culmination of a a wait that's almost half of my life, but I will have to wait and see if the game was actually worth the money.

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