As many of my correspondents have been quick to remind me with insufferable glee, the big story of this year's PAX was the announcement that Duke Nukem Forever is alive and kicking, penciled in for release in 2011 and being completed, courtesy of none other than Gearbox Software. Most will know them as the developers of Borderlands, although they started out as the developers of official expansion packs for Half-Life, such as Opposing Force and Blue Shift, and to me will always be "those guys who lived off Valve's run-offs."
This is a little embarrassing for me, because when 3D Realms fell I prematurely acted on the assumption that the game would never see the light of day, and created a mock review of Duke Nukem Forever from the perspective of a parallel universe where the game was released and actually was the kind of thing you'd reasonably expect from a game that took twelve years to make. The review coincidentally (almost suspiciously) was recently voted the best ZP of all time (and, personally, I'm disappointed Wolfenstein didn't make it out the starting gates). So now that it seems DNF might actually be released in some form I'm going to end up having to do another review, called "Duke Nukem Forever (The Real One)," which will completely fuck up everyone's filing systems.
But I stand by the point of my joke review, and the point I made more overtly way back in my GDC '08 videos: There is absolutely nothing the developers can put out that will be in the slightest bit worth the wait. The advantage of vaporware, after all, is that you can never be disappointed by it. Hype and anticipation is like Schroedinger's Cat; everything's fine until the subject actually gets released and then the waveform collapses. Nothing can possibly improve upon what your imagination furnishes, with the obvious exception of Silent Hill 2.
Having said that, I've got to admit that my feelings for Duke Nukem Forever have changed. They've changed almost constantly throughout the last decade - through anticipation, indifference, hatred, mockery, pity, mockery again, pity again, and recently to hatred again just in time for that video I made. For the longest time, my main point against it was that Duke Nukem is a dinosaur - a representative of an age long past, when people liked overly-macho self-assured 90s misogynistic action men in lead roles, decidedly out of place in the modern climate of grim, gritty, morally questionable protagonists.
But now I feel differently. Things have come full circle. Making my most recent video has made this all very clear to me: silly 90s style action shooters are something we desperately need back. Quickly, please. Because the alternative is more hideous, grimy, ditchwater dull piles of putrid elephant guts like Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days.
I am so fucking sick of realistic cover-based combat. Not that I think there's anything wrong with it as a gameplay mechanic. It does the job. It creates an adequate system of offense, defense and evasion. But it's also boring and routine, always coming down to the same thing: waiting for a guy fifty yards away to stand up, then aiming squarely at his position until he does it again enough times for one of your shots to hit the mark. Half the time you're just trading shots, hoping your mutant healing factor will outlast his unsecured cardboard helmet. And so many games have it now it's like having to hear the same lecture delivered by a new professor every bloody week.