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Duke Nukem lives, and that means Forever doesn't matter


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Duke Nukem Forever was an industry joke for a very long time, and even now it's a game that plays like it popped out of a decade-old time capsule. That's not the best thing to say about a game for modern system that will be sold for $60. If you'd like a few extra chunks of plastic with your game, you'll be paying even more.

That's not to say that Duke is dead, or even dying. He's doing fine, and this latest game won't prove or disprove anything to anyone. It's a tribute, something to get out of the way before the franchise can move into the modern age.

This game is everything-proof

Duke Nukem Forever has such a huge fanbase, one that is so excited to see the return of the character in a proper game by a big-name developer, that sheer enthusiasm is going take care of sales. The game received a rapturous reception at PAX when the gameplay was first shown, and our somewhat dour hands-on write-up of the game was met with claims that we were trolling, as well as piles of e-mail from people saying they would buy the game no matter how good or bad it is.

Which is a rather amazing thing to say, if you think about it. The game doesn't have to be good for a large amount of people to hand over their cash; they're in either way.

After playing the game and speaking to those responsible for it, it's clear that the developers held the work of 3D Realms to be sacred. "This is an execution of 3D Realms' design. We didn't redesign the game at all. We took their concept, their design, and their ideas, and we finished them. We polished them and executed on them," Steve Gibson, Gearbox's VP of Marketing, told Ars. Gearbox didn't want to put its stamp on it. It didn't want to upgrade or update any of the concepts or locations. The developers just wanted to finish a game that has been taken through multiple engines, decades, and console generations. It's a warm statement, but not well-advised if you're trying to compete against the latest and greatest of shooters.

So far, there's not much hope that the game will be good. It will be interesting, we will talk about it, and the fans will continue to enjoy it because it is like spending time with an old friend, but it likely won't be good. It will sell 2.5 million copies and look like a big win for everyone involved. There will be major news organizations scandalized at the nudity and sexual humor that felt so edgy when we were fifteen years old. This is the most we can expect.

So what's next?

Soon Gearbox will be done with its tribute to Duke Nukem Forever and 3D Realms, and the game will have made everyone a tidy sum of money. Gearbox owns the name, the character—the whole thing. Duke is Gearbox's plaything at this point, with the ring properly kissed and respects properly given. The proof that modern gamers still love our blond, misogynistic friend will be all over the NPD charts. That's when the real work will begin.

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the next game is being worked on, or at the very least thought about. This is the game that will build on what Duke Nukem Forever did well, and fix what it did poorly. It will be built with more modern design ideas and technology designed from the ground up to work on modern systems. It will be made by a team that cares deeply about making a good game.

I'm looking forward to playing the rest of Duke Nukem Forever, and I hope the game exceeds my expectations, but the real prize is around three years away. And it's going to be amazing.

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