While Randy Pitchford takes us through the events of the past twelve years stood in front of a screen displaying the Duke Nukem Forever logo I find myself genuinely at a loss. For more than a decade this game has been the industry’s biggest joke and the 3D Realms closure last year seemed to everyone to be the final nail in its coffin. There is a distinct crack in Pitchford’s voice as he meekly reflects “Duke was dead…” It all feels a little surreal.
And now here we are about to play a game everyone had written off. But before I got some alone time with Duke, I was first treated to a brief interview with Pitchford. I pressed him for details on the multiplayer that had been mentioned as well as the early access code that would be included with the GOTY release of Borderlands. His responses were typically elusive – “I don’t wanna be the guy making promises for Duke Nukem Forever!” – but he would not rule out the possibility that the ‘early access code’ would be for a multiplayer beta.
Appropriately enough, Forever is set twelve years after Duke Nukem 3D and apparently Duke hasn’t had the chance to relieve himself much in this time as the demo begins with an almighty whizz at the urinal. Eventually a prompt appears to zip up and I am able to freely wander the environs. As I leave the bathroom (not before checking myself in a shattered mirror – looking good) I see that I’m in a base camp with soldiers running about or huddled around a whiteboard detailing ‘Operation Cock Block’. Feel free to doodle over the whiteboard if you are so inclined.
Then all hell breaks loose as a giant alien mechanoid cyclops begins blowing everything up from the middle of an American football field. I am promptly presented with the Devastator, a twin cannon quick-fire rocket launcher you may remember from Duke Nukem 3D, and sent out to do what Duke does best. I feel a grin creep across my face.
Once I’ve circle-strafed the beast to its last breath a prompt appears to ‘kick a field goal’, which Duke dutifully proceeds to do in time honoured fashion, booting the cyclops’ protruding eye through the posts at the end of the field. Duke Nukem is most definitely alive and kickin’ ass.
Now the camera pans out to reveal a screen and a 360 controller in Duke’s hands. Apparently I had merely been watching Duke play his own game while he is pleasured by two identically pretty twins. Once the second twin rears her head she asks:
“And the game? Was it good?”
“After 12 fuckin’ years it had better be.”
The next level gives a brief glimpse of the game proper. I begin in a pick up truck of sorts and tear through a stretch of dirt roads running down the occasional pig cop and jumping the occasional gorge. Before long the truck runs out of ‘gas’ and I have to abandon my wheels and proceed on foot. Time to take these aliens to the old school.
It should come as no surprise that Duke Nukem Forever has a distinctly old school feel to it. Auto aim? Nope. Cover? Forget about it. This is a game to put hairs on the chest of modern shooter fans. There were three weapons to play with in the demo: your standard pistol, which feels almost exactly as effective as it did it in Duke 3D; a charged rail gun, effectively a scoped rifle; and the ever popular Shrink Ray, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Conspicuously absent, however, was Duke’s boot. Pressing B for a melee attack prompted a Master Chief style elbow whack, rather than a swift Duke booting. Kicking ass with an elbow just didn’t feel right.
The demo comes to a close while I have employed a mounted turret to shoot anything that moves and blow up red barrels. A spacecraft appears, fires a rocket at my position and throws Duke on his back. His last act of defiance before everything fades to black is a raised middle finger to the offending craft.
I came away from the demo with a huge smile on my face. There is a certain charm to the Duke Nukem franchise that just isn’t found in other games. While Duke Nukem is a parody of every action hero ever, he himself remains utterly inimitable. The game itself feels solid. The weapons feel exactly like they should: like you’re a being made entirely of muscle that has no problem wielding a bazooka in each hand.
The graphics are pretty good with the cyclops looking particularly jaw dropping. There is, however, an issue with perspective. Grunts walking toward you can be barely distinguishable from the environment and when you do get up close you might just wish they stayed where they were. But this is nothing that can’t be fixed with the months of polish ahead for Gearbox.
Randy Pitchford and Gearbox have resurrected Duke from his own ashes and are bringing a game that looks set to at least do justice to the legacy of 3D Realms and Duke Nukem.
Hail to the King, baby.