Nothing is less edgy than someone trying really, really hard to be edgy. I can imagine the Duke Nukem Forever team working late into the night in Red Bull–fuelled sessions trying to come up with lists: lists of offensive things, lists of gross things, lists of old action movie quotes, lists of ways to objectify and degrade women, lists of boob and penis jokes.
At some point, someone says, “Let’s make a mini-game called Alien Abortion that’s played on a picture of a naked, terrified rape victim!" and everyone thinks that sounds just grand.
All of it is in there, and all of it is so very tiring. Duke is over the hill, out of date, and completely skeevy. If this game was a person, he would be a paunchy middle-aged man with a bad comb-over and a silk shirt open to the waist to reveal the cornicello tangled in his matted, graying chest hair. It is so desperate to be Super-Alpha-Male-Plus-with-Extra-Testosterone-on-Top that it winds up merely sad and sickening. Duke has become the thing he once parodied.
Neither the gameplay (which is uniformly awful) nor nostalgia (which is a cheap coin quickly spent) kept me playing: only grim duty.
There is nothing edgy or even shocking about how far the game travels into the realm of bad taste. Bad taste is easy if you have no sense of shame. It doesn’t take skill or courage: just a broken moral compass and a sexual development that was flash-frozen at the age of 14. It’s nothing an adult should be proud of, but in our increasingly juvenile society, actual adults are getting hard to come by, and none of them worked on Duke Nukem Forever.
Thomas L. McDonald can be found online at stateofplayblog.com.