I remember the first time I saw Duke Nukem Forever, which was about a year ago. Surprise was the only word I could use to sum up my feelings. This legendary piece of vaporware existed? It was playable and funny and self-aware too? Man, if it could come back from the edge of oblivion, then it might actually be good …
(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Hollywood’s video-game movies.)
That thought process right there is reality warping, as it’s occurred to me that there’s a black hole surrounding DNF. And as anyone who studies the astrological phenomena knows, anomalies can be seductive. Focus too much on the black hole and you’ll forget the universe it exists in. It voids context by the sheer force of its gravitational pull.
And context is everything with DNF. It’s more famous for being a game that would seemingly never come out than it is for any legacy. Once you get drawn into the myth of a game that was announced well over a decade ago, it seems like a victory that it even made it to store shelves.
But that’s not the case.
Here’s what DNF needed to do to have its very existence classified as a triumph:
• Not be buggy as all hell
• Not be so ugly as to render even its strippers repulsive
• Incorporate at least one good idea from games of the past decade into its design
• Come out on time
I’ll admit that last dig is dirty pool, but it’s relevant. If DNF came out as scheduled lo those many years ago, then the game that is appearing in stores this week would’ve been deemed passable. Worthy, even.