In Now Playing articles PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Phil tries his best to get along with Duke.
I wish I was more excited by Bulletstorm’s return. It was a ludicrous FPS, cruelly rendered inoperable by Games for Windows Live. The release of the remastered Full Clip Edition should be cause for celebration. Once again, I can steer a bullet into the ballsack of a bandit. You don’t get any more capital-v Videogames than that.
Full Clip Edition is good, because Bulletstorm is good. But sometimes being good isn’t enough, especially when I’m asked to pay £30 for a working version of a game I’d already bought. This likely isn’t Gearbox’s fault—it was EA who published the original, now defective version. That doesn’t lessen the sting of having to buy it again.
The other reason I’m souring on Bulletstorm is my own fault. I, of my own volition, started a playthrough as Duke Nukem. I didn’t have to do this. I knew going in that I’d hate it, but I couldn’t help myself. This is my story.
Duke Nukem is available to owners of Duke Nukem’s Bulletstorm Tour—a DLC ‘bonus’ given out to preorderers of the Full Clip Edition. I’m fascinated by this: pointless preorder bonuses are nothing new, but this is such a bad idea that it seems designed to put people off preordering. It’s an anti-bonus, it makes the game actively worse.
The problem with Duke Nukem being in Bulletstorm is that Duke Nukem isn’t a character. At his best—in Duke Nukem 3D—he’s a soundboard of stolen action movie quotes. And while Bulletstorm may have a reputation for vulgarity, its language has a purpose. Consider the line “cock-fucker-rimjobpiece-of-shit”, delivered by the actual protagonist, Grayson Hunt. It’s a beautiful line, delivered with all the machismo of an aging soldier trying to mask his own sadness. Yes, it’s puerile and childish, but that’s sort of the point—and, outside of the context, the order and rhythm of the words feels poetic.
One of my favourite things about Bulletstorm is that, despite being filled with caustic, hateful characters, it is nonetheless likeable and even somewhat charming. Duke Nukem is neither likeable nor charming, and he has no place being here. Moreover, his presence feels so awkward. His lines are crudely pasted over Grayson’s, meaning everyone else still refers to him as “Gray”. Sometimes he unfunnily comments on this. Other times he unfunnily parrots the original dialogue (even when it makes no sense for him to do so). Most of the time, he unfunnily chimes in with a quip or non sequitur, always worse than the original dialogue.
Humour is subjective, of course. I’m predisposed to not finding Duke funny because I think he’s a witless cretin with all the charisma of decomposing ham. But even I was surprised just how mundane his dialogue was here. I lasted just over hour, up to the point where, apropos of nothing, Duke shouts “hashtag ‘busy killing’”. I quit, embarrassed and a little sad.
What’s frustrating is that Duke Nukem isn’t unsalvageable. He’s a relic of an outdated era, and there’s fun to be had in a game that treated him like the irrelevance that he is. Gearbox could, for the first time in his existence, turn Duke into an actual character—not cool or badass, but endearingly awkward. But if the best they can do is hashtag jokes, maybe it’s time he was sent off to the big polygonal stripclub in the sky.