Luke Plunkett Forever

Remember when Duke Nukem was wholesome, family entertainment?Luke Plunkett is a sensitive, complex man. And a contradiction. Though typically relegated to passing off fan art as newsworthy articles on Kotaku, the higher-ups at Gawker sometimes throw him a game to review to keep his status as a gamer in check. Enter Duke Nukem Forever.

Around the time of Duke Nukem Forever’s release Kotaku began spamming their blog with articles and first-impressions regarding the nearly legendary lost game, all of which featured a rather obvious negative slant. When a commenter calls them out on this, editor-in-chief Brian Crecente simply replies with “We haven’t reviewed the game yet” followed by ellipses and one of those invisible Not-Me ghosts from Family Circus.

He’s right, though. They haven’t published a review. Articles such as Luke Plunkett’s The Problem With Releasing Duke Nukem Forever After All These Years… aren’t reviews in the technical sense because they don’t talk about “good graphics” or “has multiplayer” or any of the other classic video game review standards. Still, how is a reader supposed to react when they read the following:

“I’ve finished Duke Nukem Forever. There are a lot of things wrong with it, which I’ll get to next week in my review. One thing I want to talk about today, though, has as much to do with the game as it has the game’s publishers.”

At some point the editors at Kotaku decided that they would no longer review games on release, instead waiting to publish their reviews a week later. The obvious drawback to this questionable policy is that they can’t provide hard, direct opinions about highly anticipated (and Googled) games and for what? Journalistic integrity?

You can’t go an entire week without commenting on a popular game if you want to remain competitive. Thus the editors skirt around reviewing the game itself through heavily opinionated articles related to said popular game. Why? We’re journalists. You wouldn’t understand.

“I’m a big fan of “extreme” humour, and can find even the darkest subject matter hilarious if it’s spun the right way. And yet here I was, not just failing to laugh at Duke’s supposed jokes, but wondering aloud how grown men had seen fit to put them in an expensive piece of consumer media, somehow thinking it was a good idea.

Mr. Plunkett, like most bloggers and freelance writers reviewing Duke Nukem Forever, seemed to be utterly baffled by the fact that they are no longer 13 years old. Duke Nukem 3D came out during a very special time of PC gaming and the impressive technology combined with our youthful, seriously messed up outlook of the world around us, allowed us to shoot strippers into dollars and gibs without wincing. The game wasn’t funny, per se, but amusing in it’s ridiculousness. This same phenomena also let us enjoy Shadow Warrior and Blood despite both of them being, and let’s be fair, shit.

“The game jokes about things like rape. And abortion. It thinks tampons are funny. And it does so without any hint of parody, or satire, or political or social statement, the only things that can, if not excuse such distasteful subject matter, then at least provide reasonable grounds for a gag.”

Let it be known that Luke Plunkett is a careful, perhaps even clever writer. The first few lines seem to contradict his previous statement of finding “even the darkest subject matter” crap-your-pants funny. Still, he’s taken offense that there’s no justification for the dark humor. This seems like a ridiculous thing to be offended by given the source material. It’s basically Duke Nukem Extreme. Or Xtreme.

“What’s maybe worse still is that, despite the protestations of blinkered fans and teary-eyed nostalgics, the bigot on display in this game is not the Duke Nukem people claim (or wish) him to be. Not the Duke we remember, and not the one he has ever been.”

The only teary-eyed fan blinkered here is quite obviously Luke Plunkett. Gearbox has done a huge disservice to what is, apparently, a beloved character by turning Duke into Duke.

Mr. Plunkett goes on to call the new Duke a misogynistic bigot which is exactly what he was before. The only difference is Gearbox spelled it out for us.

“If you need to check this, the original Duke Nukem 3D is now available for $6 from the Apogee store; play it and you’ll see the action hero pastiche on display in the 1996 game bears little resemblance to the monotone pervert on show for half the 2011 release.”

This is particularly funny because it’s almost the exact same criticism Duke Nukem 3D received when it was released. The original Duke Nukem games were harmless shareware platformers and the character himself had zero personality. Duke Nukem 3D featured strip clubs, wank rooms, and character so classy that he defecates into an alien corpse.

It was also 1996 and no one really cared.

Mr. Plunkett never addresses the problem with releasing Duke Nukem Forever after all these years. He spends the rest of the article wagging his finger in disapproval at 2K Games and Gearbox which, to be fair, he never tried to hide. “One thing I want to talk about today,” he states at the end of the opening paragraph, “has as much to do with the game as it has the game’s publishers.”

That’s fine, but the headline implies that maybe we’ve just grown too old for a game like Duke Nukem. That it’s not the game’s fault, but our own for just having higher standards. That’s not good enough for Mr. Plunkett. No, no, it’s easier to blame 2K Games and Gearbox for making a game that’s too juvenile.

3D Realms asked the women in the office to stay home the day of the photo shoot.Duke Nukem 3D worked because it came out at the right time. It was more advanced than Doom and 6 months ahead of Quake. It’s personality, one giant cliché, really, was unique among corridor shooters and established a legacy that continues to live on.

The expectations for Duke Nukem Forever were enormous. It would have to change the way we thought of shooters just like it’s predecessor. Of course, that wasn’t terribly hard to do in 1996 because there were only a handful of similar games. Duke Nukem 3D and its ilk created a genre now dominates gaming. A company like Gearbox simply doesn’t have the resources to create the next level of first-person shooters.

But you know, the tech in Duke Nukem 3D wasn’t that impressive. We certainly thought it was, of course, but only because we were blinded a bit by the game’s humor (we were young, shooting aliens on toilets was hilarious). I doubt this went unnoticed at Gearbox. Add enough outrageous humor to the game and everyone will forgive Duke Nukem Forever’s lack of innovation.

So there you have it. Duke Nukem 3D with the funny cranked to 11. If you’re able to remove yourself from 1996 and find Duke Nukem 3D amusing without the slightest hint of irony, you’ll love Duke Nukem Forever. If you can’t get halfway through the original demo without feeling embarrassed for yourself and the developers, congratulations, you’re old.

That’s the problem with releasing Duke Nukem Forever after all these years.


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