Monday, July 18, 2011

...Duke Nukem should have stayed dead...

Lets start off with a few ground rules here. If you're reading this, you've likely already formed your opinions on Duke Nukem Forever. Most gamers will fall into one of two categories. The first of these groups will be the gamers that played Duke Nukem back in the day and have been looking to this day much the same way as crazily-religious folks were looking forward to the rapture. The remainder of you will likely fall into the "I never really played it, so there isn't any real nostalgia factor here for me" group. And since my gaming CV didn't really start until the N64, (and it was heavily regulated until halfway through my PS2 ownership cycle), naturally I never really played much Duke Nukem, which places me firmly in that latter group. I will state again for the record, that you have already likely formulated your opinions about this game and nothing I say will change how you feel, but feel free to read on and maybe you’ll be able to see the game through the dark smoky tint of my cynical, hateful eyes.

I agree with Yahtzee that Duke Nukem Forever was a game that could (and probably should) have been shat out by any halfway decent studio in an incredibly short period of time. And I don’t remember what production cycles were like back then. But looking at a game like Half Life, they came out with Half-Life, Opposing Forces AND Blue Shift within 3 years. That’s one super hit game and two full length add-ons in a matter of 3 years. Compared to the 15 fucking years it took to make Duke Nukem Forever (DNF HAHAHAHA GET IT? IT’S LIKE THE ACRONYM FOR DID NOT FINISHLTROLOLOLOLOLOL), the legendary “valve time” seems like fucking nothing at this point. But, intrigued and perturbed by the prospect of getting a playable demo of Duke Nukem, I decided to give it a shot and see what it was all about.

Yes I already knew the critics were lambasting the game, crucifying it for not being the second coming of Christ in video game form. But I, being the impartial, unbiased, objective paragon of critical quality that I am, decided to give the game a shot just to be fair to it. Well needless to say, even having not held my breath for 15 years for this game, I was still somehow sorely disappointed. Rife with piss a shit jokes, the demo certainly kept the immature tone of the original works. The very beginning of the demo started with Duke peeing into a urinal (as a quicktime event). Naturally, Duke is not known for his silent stoicism, and as such, takes every opportunity to speak. This gave me the strange and somewhat uneasy feeling that I was actually controlling another person against their will (as opposed to most other games where the protagonists do us all the favor of keeping their fucking mouths shut). This was most prescient when I, as allowed by the game, forced Duke to pick a large turd out of the toilet and fling it around the locker room. Quite frankly, his protests of "why am I doing this?" only made me want to continue, cackling with glee the way one would imagine an evil puppeteer would. Finally growing weary of that nonsense (and with the vast majority of flat surfaces now stained with digital feces) I exited the locker room to find some NPCs dressed in military wear, discussing a fight with a large alien that had taken up residence on the football field outside. After a brief mechanic where Duke (again through quicktime type events) draws up a battle plan (with markers that actually leave no visible mark on the white board), I could only conclude that not only did Duke suffer from some kind of massive psychosis that not only causes him to believe that someone else is controlling him, but similarly, he hallucinates drawings marks on a whiteboard.

Well after a good deal of faffing about, Dicktits McGee wanders out into the hallway only to watch a few unnamed soldiers get destroyed by....something. After guiding the addlebrained ape through a series of corridors and picking up something called a "devastator", I rise up onto the field via an unexplained (and entirely impractical) elevator to confront my foe. The thing is hard to describe. But suffice it to say, it is ugly and shoots missiles. Well I will give it one thing, it doesn't suffer from the "glowing-weak-point-shoot-me-here" syndrome that some other games fall into. That said, it also means that would-be boss battle was BEYOND easy. It charges, I move and shoot at it. I run out of ammo, go pick some up, dodge missiles, shoot at it. Rinse. Repeat. After probably 15 minutes of this drool inducing bullshit, the monster goes down and Duke kicks its eye through the field goal posts. Cue American flag, title and fireworks. So far, so cliche.

Zoom out of the TV and Duke is playing the game about himself while two likely illegal school girls finish up their...homework.... They crack a joke about how the game "had better be good after fifteen fucking years of waiting" as the girls wipe their mouths. Suddenly, I find myself in a monster truck, nuclear logo plastered on every surface dodging helicopters dropping bombs on me. And that is as far as I got. I'm sure there was a joke somewhere in there about a shitty vehicle section or what have you, but I just was not in the mood. I'm sorry Duke, but you put a fucking vehicle section in your goddamn demo?! You must either be seriously stupid or just not give a flying fuck to do something like that. A shitty vehicle section is not something you show off when you are trying to wow customers into buying your game. A shitty vehicle section is something you surprise and dismay your customers with AFTER they've bought the game, much like herpes or a cajun demon baby.

I am all for a game that is over the top. I loved the hell out of Bulletstorm and its unending torrent of dick jokes. And a game that is aware of how bad it is generally manages to endear itself to me much like Nick Cage's entire repertoir. However something about this game feels dated and out of place...even after a game like Bulletstorm. It feels childish and old, immature and crude, but somehow misses the nostalgia mark completely. Duke is ultimately an aging relic of games past, and ultimately, was only kept fond in memory. And that's where he deserved to stay. Bringing back the Duke was the one thing they could have done to destroy the franchise completely, and they did it. In the end, I feel bad for everyone who bought the game for nostalgia's sake, because the utter disappointment of this game could only be comparable to hiring a hooker to come to your house, only to find out that not only is she packing a rod of her own, but hers is bigger than yours.

Duke should have stayed dead.

...And that's what I learned today.

Monday, July 11, 2011

...Technology is changing our lives...

And in this case...not really for the better. These days, everything is about integration. You don't just want a phone anymore. You want a phone that is also a camera that is also a computer that is also a video camera that is also a prophylactic which can surf the web, check email, make phone calls, send texts, stalk people on facebook, test the mineral content of your tap water AND transform into a smart car. (For an extra $30 a month, AT&T will upgrade you to a Prius, but you can only drive it 20 miles each month...)

Now all of this is well and good from a consumer standpoint, but to be quite honest, there have been some serious downsides to this trend in technology as well. If you have been to a concert in recent history, you'll know what I'm talking about. Yes I'm talking about "that person" that everyone hates. You know which one I'm talking about. The one who pushes their way to the front and, rather than enjoying the music and the crowd, or even basking in the glory that is the band's lead singer. Nope, that person insists on trying to capture every moment of it on their phone. Yes this is that person. That person that insists on experiencing the concert through the 3 inch screen of their phone, attempting to capture every single moment, despite the fact that their phone's camera has the resolution of a brick and the sound capture capabilities of a jar of old mayonnaise. Inevitably, this video makes its way onto youtube, and you, like I, eventually stumble on it. You, like I, think "hey, someone took a video of that concert I went to! Maybe it will be a professional quality video of the great time I had!" and you, like I, click on that link, hoping to recall all those good times you had that night. But calamity strikes the moment the video loads. The camera can't see a goddamn thing and the bass keeps blowing the levels on that puny microphone that was only designed to capture the sound of a human voice from 2-3 inches away. But SOMEHOW, despite the cacophony of the concert, one sound ALWAYS finds its way through the noise. At first you don't want to believe what you are hearing...but as it continues and continues, you can no longer deny your ears. The camera operator is singing...and INCREDIBLY poorly at that. It is pretty clear that they are singing vicariously through the lead singer of the band, and you wish that they could hear themselves...because if they could, they would never EVER sing at a concert again...because what they interpret as singing is not singing, it's rhythmic screaming...and we all know how I feel about that...

Nowhere is there a more prescient example of this than what I encountered over the 4th of July celebrations down in Altamonte Springs, Florida. Every year we gather as a country to celebrate the birth of our nation by getting drunk and blowing shit up. More to that point, fireworks, in my opinion, are the manifest definition of transient beauty (that's right I'm getting all philosophical up in this bitch). Fireworks, by nature, are meant to burst and burn bright before fading away quickly, beautiful in its brevity. Well I was quite dismayed to see that, out of every 5 or so people around me, one of them had their phone pointed towards the sky, attempting to capture the fireworks display. Now it's not as though I've never seen fireworks before in my life, but there is definitely something lacking when you watch even a professional display like the Pops goes the Fourth on television. You miss the percussive wave of the explosion, the feeling of your eardrums discontent with being subjected to such noise, the smell of sulfur afterwards. All these things are, in my opinion, crucial for the proper fireworks experience. To say that these same people, the ones who would attempt to capture a concert on their phones, were filming fireworks struck me as an incredibly backwards way of thinking. Not only would their phones have an INCREDIBLY difficult time focusing with the changing light levels, the noise would do quite a number on the mic AND when there were no loud bangs, only the chatter of the crowd would come through. All technical issues aside, to film fireworks is, in my opinion, entirely contrary to the POINT of fireworks. More than that, these people were staring at their screens trying to make sure that the shot was framed well. This is a perfect manifestation of everything that is wrong with this mentality. You, a spectator at a fireworks show, are opting to STARE AT YOUR PHONE'S SCREEN because you want to make sure that your shot of the fireworks going on RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU is good so that you can GO BACK AND WATCH IT LATER.

I hope I'm not the only one here who things that this kind of behavior warrants some kind of phone-suspension or at least a severe talking to. Sure I have no real moral ground here because there is nothing illegal about recording a fireworks show, but if you're just going to record it and watch it on youtube later, why don't you just skip a step and watch it on TV while recording it on TiVO and don't bother showing up for the real thing? Just saying.

...And that's what I learned today.

PS saying "that person" to be PC was incredibly difficult for me, I hope you appreciate the effort :)