Monday, 7 November 2011

Gearbox Co-Founder: Reviews of Duke Nukem Forever were too Harsh

It's been a couple of months now since the second coming and subsequent lambasting of the Duke. Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel thinks that the game got treated unfairly, and should have gotten cut a little slack. Does he have a point, or is he just trying to take Duke's balls of steel for a test drive himself?

You know for a game I've never played myself and don't really care about I've certainly ended up talking about Duke Nukem Forever quite a bit. That being said I see no real reason to stop as long as both the game itself and the surrounding, shall-we-say, colourfulness of it continues to produce what I view as noteworthy things to comment upon.

In this case, a recently released interview with Eurogamer has shown that Brian Martel is a little sore over the way that the game was treated by most reviewers. To put it bluntly, he thinks that the majority of them were far too harsh. As he put it, "We wish the reviews were a little less caustic. We're not quite sure where some of the anger came from."

Certainly, most reviewers whether they were independent or part of well known and highly respectable review outlets or magazines were mostly negative, with the middle reaching towards an attitude of "it's not great, but now at least it's out and we can finally stop talking about it" with the low points of course being those reviews reflecting sentiments that "it should have just stayed vapourware".

Martel is -- somewhat justly -- angered at the latter argument, saying that:

"Gearbox made sure the world got to see what they made and I think everybody should really be thankful that it existed to some degree at all. Because it really would've just gone away.

"Is it a Gearbox game? No. When and if another Duke comes out it's going to be more consistent with what I think people would expect out of a Gearbox product. But this is the vision that 3D Realms had and that's awesome. It's just great that the world gets to see it."

Earlier in the interview he also states that in his eyes it's somewhat unjust for gamers to have had some of the expectations of the game they did (remember, his words, not mine, and it is something I'm going to come back to):

"He suggested that part of the problem was that "a certain amount of gamers today are not used to" a game in the style of Duke Nuke Forever. "It was what it was meant to be, which is a more old-school style game in what is today's technology".

"To emphasise the point, Martel compared the game to classic Valve FPS Half-Life. "We've had this internal debate," he revealed. "Would Half-Life today be reviewed as highly as it is, you know, even today? As a new IP coming out with the same sort of mechanics Half-Life had."

Now, I talked about this a little when I commented on reviews themselves. Are some reviews going to be unfair potshots taken by people at games they don't like and wouldn't have willingly played otherwise, which just spew bile and don't even try to justify why something is scored the way it is? Yes. It is unavoidable that in some cases this will happen. However, I think that a majority of the reviews that I read for DNF at least made fair points that were used to justify the scores it was given which ranged from mediocre to low.

I can understand the points that Martel is trying to bring it, but it seems to me that he's choosing vastly wrong outlets with which to do so. Take his comparison to Half Life for example: Half Life is credited with pushing the FPS genre in a new direction, which emphasis on story and puzzle elements. If Half Life were made to today's standards, I have every reason to believe that it would be just as good of a game because it was a good game to begin with. Compare that to Duke Nukem; even when the first Duke game came out it really didn't introduce anything new to the genre other than a smattering of adult themes and crude humour.

I also find issue with the idea that the audience should just be happy that Duke Nukem Forever got made. Overall, I think it would have been smarter if Gearbox had, upon acquiring the IP, simply said that Duke Nukem Forever was dead, and then made their own game from the ground up. This would have served a two fold purpose: firstly it would have finally settled the matter about DNF and let people move on and stop talking about it, and secondly, it would have meant that Gearbox could have released a game free from the mantle of Duke Nukem Forever, something that they designed rather than felt obligated to put out for the sake of making sure that development cycle wasn't a complete waste of time. Certainly it wouldn't have stopped the comparisons to DNF, however I think it would have allowed them to make a better game that wouldn't have had to live up to the expectations of the now legendary development cycle.

Although it might be a little crass to say this, Gearbox kind of brought it on themselves when they took strides to release a game that was far more myth than reality, and when you do that, you've got to be prepared for people to not like what they see.

1 comment:

  1. I never understood Gearbox's criticism of Duke's criticism. Just watching the game, it looks and feels dated and trite.

    Not sure if you knew, Grahf, but Yahtzee was once approached to write Duke Forever's story, and his version sounds like it would have fixed, at the very least, the narrative failings of the game:

    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/9002-Extra-Punctuation-Yahtzee-Could-Have-Written-Duke-Nukem-Forever

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