Gearbox: The Bad And The Good

Gearbox make some great games. They also made Duke Nukem Forever, which was not a great game. Sure, some people found it enjoyable. Some people like being tied up and whipped, that doesn’t mean it’s a tempting pastime for most of us.

So the interview with Eurogamer that Gearbox’s co-founder, Brian Martel gave back in August is particularly silly. In the interview, Martel bemoans the low review scores given to the bad game, saying that reviewers were using it to “soapbox”. Yes, they were soapboxing about how poor Duke Nukem Forever was. Because it was not a good game.


Martel went on to say:

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

Which is an interesting question with a fairly simple answer: No, probably not. Half Life 2 is probably my favourite game of all time. It’s got some brilliant design and it was the first FPS that actually made me care about the narrative above just wanting to shoot aliens in the face. But it has been iterated on, its example followed and tweaked and probably even improved. Just exactly the same way Duke Nukem 3D’s example was built on in subsequent games (including Half Life 2).

The problem with Duke Nukem Forever wasn’t that it was an old game reskinned and playing on nostalgia. That’s not what it was. Duke Nukem Forever took all the frustrating elements that were forced restrictions at the time of Duke 3D’s release and put them in a game, adding the very worst of modern FPS level design and a seriously misjudged script that wasn’t faithful to Duke’s legacy (as I, and many others, see it) and ended up just feeling uncomfortable and immature.

If Valve made a new Half Life game (please!), I doubt they’d combine the naiveties of their past with the worst elements of modern FPS to do it. They’d probably build on the franchise and move it forwards. Otherwise, they’d get pretty low review scores too.

So, there’s Gearbox’s bad but, as I said at the start, they make some great games too. They’re also really cool people, as an emailed tip we received this morning shows.

Wishing to commemorate the life of his friend, Michael John Mamaril who was an avid Borderlands fan, Carlo (no last name given) wrote to Gearbox and asked if they would deliver a short eulogy for Michael who passed away after a battle with cancer at the painfully young age of just 22. Not only did Gearbox supply a eulogy, read by the game’s own Claptrap, they promised to feature Michael as a non-playable character in the upcoming Borderlands 2.

How amazing it is that a big company, as busy as they are, would take time and go to the expense of doing this for a fan. Great stuff, Gearbox.

The eulogy was available on Soundcloud but seems to have been removed. Our condolences to those touched by the loss of Michael.

Source: Eurogamer and Dtoid, thanks AdmiringWorm



  1. Why the slating for the bulk of the article? DNF is old news…

    Gearbox made a great gesture there, can’t you just cut them some slack and ackowledge that?

    • I did.
      This was originally going to be two stories but I rolled them into one to show that the silly comments about Duke Nukem are easily outweighed by the wonderful gesture they made for a fan.
      DNF is old news, thankfully, but this interview was only just published by EG so these comments are new, that’s why they’re being featured.

  2. The release of DNF was a bit silly & I think that they took entirely the wrong angle in battling the review scores – Sometimes you just have to recognise that the game you have made has just not quite hit the sweet spot with the gamers it was aimed at & move on. They were always going to have a rough time of things if the game wasn’t quite as expected as the Duke has a large fanbase – If the game was perfect apart from the fact that he didn’t sound or speak quite right, fans & reviewers would still have been up in arms.

    However, the lengths that they have gone to for one (or two – Doesn’t say whether Carlo was a fan or not) of their fans is particularly commendable & way above & beyond anything they needed to do. So they have won back some respect in my eyes there & it just goes to show that you don’t know until you ask (in respect of Carlo asking them to do it of course).

    What a brilliant gesture – I shall be on the lookout for Michael in Borderlands 2.

  3. Gearbox really just got alot of respect from me now, it’s not often I get touched but this did really did it.
    Btw, the euology is still up on soundcloud:

    • Cheers for finding it, rather touching.

      • yeah, i thought so too. and, I just found it on dtoid

  4. i’m not a big fan of some of the people at gearbox, pitchford especially, but they have done some nice things for their fans.

    this isn’t the first time they’ve done something for their fans like this.
    the other time was a happier occasion.
    and the result.

  5. That was really nice of them, they’re officially back in my good books. Bring on Borderlands 2!

  6. I love Gearbox. I know they didn’t really react appropiately concerning the DNF review scores but they are just people and it can be frustrating if someone tells you what you spent a lot of your time on and are somewhat proud of is shit. This just shows that they have hearts and unlike other people in this world actually put them to use.

    • yes, I agree, good on them.
      While I think that publishers and developers should usually keep quiet about review scores rather than fuelling the flames the way several have, I understand the hurt when something you work hard on is knocked, rightly or wrongly.

  7. Ignoring DNF. I think if, for me at least, half life 2 released now, I’d score it highly, and I can say that, as I played it first only last year, (or maybe the year before), and found it totally amazing, and still do.
    That’s such a nice gesture, i like it when ‘soulless’ companies do something nice. The marriage proposal linked above was pretty funny too. :)

    • It would probably clock up a high 80 review average, and the older Half-Life 1 would be lucky to get above 75.
      Yet both fully deserve all the praise they’ve received since release.
      They’re great games, but games evolve all the time.
      What was perfect and unsurpassable becomes surpassed.
      Just look at the muted reaction to the release of two other great shooters: Call of Duty: Classic and Medal of Honour: Frontline.
      They’re the same games, looking prettier with trophies.
      But there’s no doubt that they were better received back then with their original release as opposed to now.

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