This may sound strange at first, but Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2 and Duke Nukem from his latest Forever game have much more in common, than it first seems. However, Jack has something, that Duke lacks — charisma. And i find it very strange, since Duke is supposed to be the hero.
Both Handsome Jack and Duke Nukem (in Forever) are «I’m rich, I’m famous, I’m vain, I’m glitz, I’m the story» Mister Hollywood kind of characters. Both are arrogant, quite antisocial, do very brutal and murderous things, make very inappropriate jokes, have very grim sense of humor, think of themselves very highly and consider themselves to be the main heroes in their stories. However, while it is actually true in Duke’s case, Jack manages to steal the show, at least for the first half of the game, while Duke constantly struggles to be interesting to the player.
Throught the entire first half of Borderlands 2, Handsome Jack comes off as a mysterious Heath Ledger’s Joker-type character — the one you can’t help but want to see and hear more of, while being scared and disgusted of him at the same time and wanting to murder him when the chance presents itself. And even in the second half of the game, when Jack is given much more backstory and he becomes more of a disgustingly pathetic and cowardly person, you can’t help but want to hear more of him. You love to hate him — the perfect formula for a treacherous and shifty villain.
Duke Nukem, however, is supposed to be the character you actually like in Forever. He is the hero, he is the person you control in the game. You have to laugh with him and, at times, at him. Yet, it’s hard to do so. Now, part of that may come from the fact, that Duke Nukem Forever is just not a good game itself, and that may be a pretty important part. But even so, the character himself feels forced, not fun or funny. Even without going into «that infamous rape joke» discussion.
It’s interesting to see this huge difference in seemingly similar characters. And while some people might rightfully argue, that Duke Nukem Forever was made by 3D Realms, and Gearbox just «finished» it, i can’t help but feel, that a lot of Duke’s characterization came from the people in Gearbox. I mean, it’s not like it’s the first time we see them doing some pretty creepy main characters — I still remember E3 2011 trailer of Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 where I actually felt sorry for the nazis being mercilessly and brutally slaughtered by a band of crazies, who were supposed to be main heroes. So, while i really wish to see more Duke in the future (and get those XBLA version features of Duke Nukem 3D on PC), I’d like to see more «Handsome Jacks» in videogames. Because he was cool, you know? Kay, bye.