Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel has claimed Duke Nukem Forever was not reviewed fairly by some publications, arguing it was used "as a soapbox" while claiming: "Everybody should really be thankful that it existed to some degree at all."
Speaking to Eurogamer in a previously unpublished interview conducted at Gamescom in August, Martel reflected on the controversial shooter's critical reception, stating: "We wish the reviews were a little less caustic. We're not quite sure where some of the anger came from."
Discussing the spread of scores across all reviews, he said: "There were things towards the high and things towards the low, but the middle just didn't get any traction. It's pretty obvious that people were using it in some ways to kind of use it as a soapbox or whatever."
Asked if that meant he didn't think, broadly speaking, that the game was reviewed fairly, he replied: "I think that if we were going to review the reviews fairly, no." He suggested that part of the problem was that "a certain amount of gamers today are not used to" a game in the style of Duke Nuke Forever. "It was what it was meant to be, which is a more old-school style game in what is today's technology".
To emphasise the point, Martel compared the game to classic Valve FPS Half-Life. "We've had this internal debate," he revealed. "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."
In the run up to the game's release, after well over a decade in the development wilderness, Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford told Eurogamer: "We know the game's great. Any journalist that decides to try to go... to lowball it is gonna be held accountable by the readers." He went on to claim: "The last time I had a really solid experience like this was Half-Life 2."
The game subsequently scored a 3 in its Eurogamer review, described as a "gruesomely mangled resurrection".
Asked if the studio could have better managed expectations, Martel said: "I think there was no way that anybody could manage expectations. Name another game that's in a similar situation. This is a game that was around for 15 years and it went through a number of engine cycles. It could never be everything for everybody, right?
"It is a caustic game in some ways, so maybe in some of that respect it could've been softened," he added. "But it's [3D Realms'] vision and people should understand that in a world where we embrace the creator's vision for something, we let that go. We let that be what it was supposed to be. And that is the team's vision.
"Gearbox made sure the world got to see what they made and I think everybody should really be thankful that it existed to some degree at all. Because it really would've just gone away.
"Is it a Gearbox game? No. When and if another Duke comes out it's going to be more consistent with what I think people would expect out of a Gearbox product. But this is the vision that 3D Realms had and that's awesome. It's just great that the world gets to see it."
Martel acknowledged that the criticism the game received would be "taken into account" when consider the future direction of the series, and quipped: "I can guarantee it won't take 15 years to see another.
"We love the IP and I think there are a lot of people that really love it. You just have to make sure the character is something that people can love as well."