Duke Nukem Forever [X360, PS3, PC]
Duke Nukem Forever Meet Duke Nukem, the brash, blond, broad-chested, and decidedly belligerent star of a long-running (and much-loved) 1990s series of shooters. You may not recognize him. It's been a while.
Some 14 years, in fact. Although it was first announced in 1997, Duke Nukem Forever is only now ready for the public after a staggering, unprecedented development cycle that would earn it a reputation as the ultimate in "vaporware." Bringing with it the franchise's trademark frenetic action, eye-popping violence, and a torrent of adolescent, misogynistic, potty-mouthed jokes that'll shock even the most hardened of gamers, it's really, truly in stores this week.
If you've been following the game's on-again, off-again soap opera, that could well prove hard to believe. Even after swallowing untold millions of dollars in development funds and a mind-blowing number of man-hours, most observers had concluded the Duke Nukem Forever project was dead, and would never produce anything worth playing.
Turns out they were half right.
Duke Nukem Forever's reviews make depressing reading. Currently running around 50%, the game's average score is bogged down by a string of absolutely disastrous reviews from major outlets like Joystiq, Destructoid, and Eurogamer, which don't pull any punches in their evisceration of its tired gameplay, crude attempts at humor, technical flaws, and outdated visuals.
"It's absolute garbage," fumes Destructoid's Jim Sterling, "that should have stayed confined to the bowels of Development Hell." Slamming its graphics, its reliance on tired puzzles, and (most of all) its bad-taste attempts at shock humor, Sterling sums up Duke's return as "a festering irrelevance...that could only endear itself to the sociopathic and mentally maladjusted."
Enough to put you off? No? The Guardian's Neil Davey gives it two stars (one for "the nostalgia...and one for the game.")
"If this was 15 years in the making, it makes you wonder what they did for the other 14 years and 10 months," he writes.
Wired marks it about the same, noting "Duke deserves better than this." And there are plenty more where those came from.
The hate isn't quite unanimous. Games Radar has a more positive take, although at a 6/10 it's still not all that encouraging. It's "an ugly, buggy shooter that veers back and forth between enjoyably average and outright boring," writes Mikel Reparaz, "with occasional surges of greatness along the way."
Despite the deluge of criticism, we somehow doubt this'll be the Duke's swansong. It topped the UK sales charts at its across-the-pond launch last week, dethroning the stellar L.A. Noire, and it may very well pull a similar trick over here, too. Love him or (like the majority of the critics) hate him, he's a popular guy; perhaps his next outing will recapture the glory days of his youth. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another 14 years to find out.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
Wii Play: Motion [Wii]
How do you turn a handful of simple Wii minigames into a 27-million-selling smash? Throw in a Wii Remote, that's how. Whether or not you look at Wii Play as a game with a bundled remote, or a remote with a free game, it's still one of the biggest hits on the Wii -- and its sequel releases this week. Motion follows the original's recipe, but swaps its standard remote for the MotionPlus-enabled Wii Remote Plus and adds a dozen new games.
The Curse of the Ring [PC]
No, it has nothing to do with Bilbo Baggins. Nor does it have anything to do with scary little girls and killer videotapes. It's better than that: it's about pirates. And treasure. Hidden pirate treasure. Because it's a hidden-object game, you see. So strap your scuba gear on, put down that hobbit, and get ready to explore some of the most sumptuously detailed wrecks around.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon [X360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, DS]
Another summer, another Michael Bay-directed Transformers movie, another spin-off game. But while the most recent Transformers movie was indeed dreadful, the most recent game -- last year's War for Cybertron -- was surprisingly good. This week's Dark of the Moon comes to us from the same studio, so Transformers fans have some cause for optimism. Fingers crossed it turns out to be justified.
Club Paradise [PC]
Dreaming of a vacation at a sunny island resort? Us too. Luckily, this time-management game is nearly as good -- and by "nearly," we mean "not really." Still, Club Paradise's guest-shuffling gameplay will give you a mental vacation, and if you are fortunate enough to be planning a real beach excursion, it'll be the perfect game to play as you lounge in the sun. You lucky dog, you.
Alice: Madness Returns [X360, PS3, PC]
Let's be honest: the imagery in the Alice in Wonderland books is not the work of a well mind. And nor is this game. Taking place years after the events depicted in the books, it sees a rather older Alice, half-crazy, taking on twisted versions of many of the novel's characters as she tries to free Wonderland from the effects of her troublesome insanity. Longtime gamers might recognize it as the sequel to a 2000 PC release, American McGee's Alice -- and as soon as some reviews appear, we'll see just how deep this rabbit-hole goes.
Child of Eden [X360, PS3]
A favorite with rhythm gamers, Japanese designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi returns this week with an abstract rhythm-shooter much in the mold of his earlier smash, the delightfully hypnotic Rez. It hits the Xbox 360 this week and supports both standard controls and Kinect; a Playstation 3 version, supporting Move, is coming later this year.