The fact that Duke Nukem Forever has made this list at all is borderline insanity. Not because the game doesn’t qualify or meet our criteria of (hopefully) being good. After all, and as mentioned before, this isn’t a list of the best or the most relevant 100 games of 2011, but a century of titles we, collectively, are anticipating the most.
One requirement each entry must possess, however, is a real possibility of releasing next year, and for the longest time on record, the chance of Duke Nukem Forever ever seeing the light of day was completely unimaginable.
This article will not go into the sordid history of Duke’s eventual ejection from Development Hell. Well, not much. If you’re not familiar with the incessant engine changes (more rebuilds than a season of Grand Designs) or the vaults of cash burned through during a protracted decade-long development vicious cycle, go forth and seek out what is literally gaming’s greatest cautionary tale. We’ll still be here when you come back.
There’s a realisation that, especially for some of the younger TSA readers, Duke Nukem is very much little more than a myth; a make-believe character from a dead franchise old people used to play on technology so antiquated you had it wind up. That Gearbox would swoop in and resurrect what is recognised as gaming’s greatest joke (unless you were a GT Interactive – the original publisher – shareholder, of course) actually makes economic sense. Millions upon millions had already been poured into the troubled project, and with its name now synonymous with “vaporware”, all 2K Games had to do was invest what must have been a paltry amount compared to the total budget and get the game out, its infamous status likely enough to generate enough sales to at least recoup 2K’s investment.
Whether or not Duke Nukem Forever will ever be profitable looks unlikely, however. For context, the game was already in development back when Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States of America. This was 1997, an unrecognisable time when Apple were on its knees, Steve Jobs down to his last polo-neck and his company requiring a $150 million investment from Microsoft or face the stark reality of going under completely. Can you remember a time when Apple was broke? Me neither.
Reborn into a new age of futuristic wonder, an FPS entering a crowded marketplace it once proudly pitched a large tent within, Duke Nukem Forever is an atavistic remnant from a bygone age striving to be relevant in an industry that has intrinsically changed both demographically and economically. All this said, there is a nostalgic allure to Duke Nukem Forever that will almost guarantee a surge in sales. At least from some quarters. Like that first furtive, illicit pint down the local when you were sixteen, you didn’t care that the beer tasted like foetid dishwater that had passed through the rancid stomach of a dead dog. No; you were drinking in a pub. Next year you will play Duke Nukem Forever. You are actually going to play Duke Nukem Forever.
But how does one review what is almost unreviewable? Will people be able to differentiate Duke Nukem Forever the game from Duke Nukem Forever the event, Duke Nukem the legend? Probably not. But that hardly matters at this rate. They said it would never come out. They were wrong, and as gamers who are passionate about this medium of entertainment we want to be part of what is surely gaming’s strangest legacy.