Gearbox cofounder Brian Martel thinks Duke Nukem Forever and Half-Life have a lot in common … other than the bad reviews, that is.
“Everybody should really be thankful that it existed to some degree at all.” Those were the words spoken by Brian Martel, one of Gearbox’s five founders, in response to the negative reaction gamers and critics shared regarding Gearbox’s latest FPS, Duke Nukem Forever. DNF had difficulty across the board, earning a bevy of poor reviews generally sharing words like “incomplete,” “deeply flawed,” and “forgettable.” According to Martel, that’s only because reviewers weren’t giving it the credit it deserved.
When asked if DNF’s critical reception was fair, Martel responded, “I think that if we were going to review the reviews fairly, no.”
“We wish [they] were a little less caustic,” he later continued. “We’re not quite sure where some of the anger came from.” Later, Martel even added that he believed reviewers were using the game as “a soapbox,” implying that writing a review for DNF simply gave game journalists a reason to blather and rant.
The evidence Martel offered for his claims was that DNF shared much in common with Valve’s famous Half-Life series. “We’ve had this internal debate,” he said. “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.
“I think we all have a nostalgia and love for that particular brand. Obviously Gearbox got its start working on Opposing Force so we love Half-Life. But is the current gamer, would they have the same love for that? It’d be interesting. I think the same kind of thing happened with Duke.”
Another Gearbox founder, Randy Pitchford, had previously mentioned a similar comparison, claiming, “The last time I had a really solid experience like [playing Duke Nukem Forever] was Half-Life 2.“
After a pretty bad PR scandal involving the gaming press over the summer, it’s a bit surprising that Gearbox is still going on about how unfair reviewers were. Yes, it’s no secret that Duke Nukem Forever had a mountain (range) of unfair expectations to overcome, but the anticipation helped sales just as much, if not more, than it supposedly hurt reviews. And regardless of expectations, bad is still bad. Something tells me that had the company spat out something of legitimate quality, reviewers (and gamers) would have noticed.