So here is "Duke Nukem Forever" at last — the most disappointing blockbuster of at least 2011 and possibly hereafter, forevermore, indefinitely, until death do us part.
In the 1990s, Duke was a popular superhero who helped define first-person shooting games. Before the turn of the century, Duke's makers said they were working on this sequel. They reportedly were delayed by perfectionism, small staffs and partner companies.
All these years later, the game is nigh and for naught.
We play as Duke battling Aliens who are destroying the Vegas Strip and Hoover Dam. (No worries, aliens: the art department of "Duke Nukem Forever" beat you to it.)
We see serviceable illustrations of the Bellagio Fountains, Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef and so on — though Vegas hotspots have different names to prevent Vegas companies from getting their knickers in a twist.
The first hour feels more decrepit than any game in memory. I walk around Duke's skyscraper headquarters, looking for something to do. And I mean, anything. I've played snorkeling games with more compelling starts.
At around the hour mark, I come across a hovering alien spacecraft. I stand in place and fire a weapon at it interminably. This boring scene is where I would have returned the game if I had rented "Forever."
Next: I'm on top of a falling elevator and I must pull a brake repeatedly to stop it. Could the game play be more amateurish and unfulfilling?
Finally comes the meat — killing aliens while meandering through casino-hotels. Problems:
A) I race around for long stretches with nothing to do. Good shooting games place bad guys along pathways as if they were breadcrumbs. That way, we follow bad guys to find checkpoints. "Forever" doesn't have enough bad-guy breadcrumbs, thus we often don't know where checkpoints are.
B) Aliens are often easy to kill with uninspiring guns (a mere two bullets cause death) or meaninglessly annoying (I shoot an alien, but he uses magic to disappear then reappear behind me).
C) I carry only two weapons at a time, so if I'm fond of my alien blaster and shotgun, I hope I don't want to drop one to make room for that rocket launcher lying near a roulette table.
D) Load times are horrendous. When I die or start a new level, I wait 25 to 45 seconds for that level to begin. What is this — 1998?
Much has been made of Duke's naughtiness, saying dirty things and receiving lady pleasures, for the sake of humor. A traditional feminist could complain there's too much of that. Yet a desensitized gamer may gripe there isn't enough dialogue.
"Duke's" online multiplayer is sort of creative. But body movement and gun-firing was too laggy and jarring for me to stay interested.
"Duke " is so lame, it could go down in history alongside the film "Heaven's Gate" and the Guns N' Roses' album "Chinese Democracy." Each consumed years and fortunes en route to being crud landing with a thud.
("Duke Nukem Forever" by Take Two retails for $60 for PS 3 and Xbox 360; $50 for PC — Plays un-fun. Looks average. Moderately challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, mature humor, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and alcohol. One-half star out of four stars.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.