The great vaporware saga of Duke Nukem looks to be coming to a close. At PAX this morning, 2K and Gearbox turned gamers loose on the first stage of Duke Nukem Forever. Let me repeat that for the non-believers: Duke Nukem Forever is real and it is an actual playable game. I half-expect to now to see Sasquatch walking down Pike Street in downtown Seattle.
Before getting hands-on time with Duke Nukem Forever, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford talked to us about how the developer became a part of the Duke saga. After some persuasion, Gearbox was offered the keys to the beleaguered game (it has existed in one form or another for over a decade) and Pitchford jumped at the chance. "To us, it felt like Duke can't die," said Pitchford. The Gearbox boss also related his wife's insistence that he take up Duke's cause and that if he succeeded in making it happen, she'd give him – and this a direct quote – a "Chilean Miner." She would "go down the shaft and stay 'til Christmas."
The trailer shows off Duke in fine form, kicking alien ass with a variety of his best weapons, like the shrink ray, freeze ray, and Devastator. It looks like the aliens Duke punished in his earlier games are back – and they are here for our women. This personal affront to Duke leads him on a mission to kill everything in his way, including a giant alien queen with three breasts. And in typical Duke fashion, after seeing the entirety of this tri-boobed monster, the hero quips, "Hell, I'd still hit it."
At the conclusion of the trailer, a woman remarks to Duke that his new adventure looks great. "Yeah, but after twelve f---ing years, it should be," he responds as the logo – and icons for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC – slam into place below it.
After the trailer, I was ushered into a gameplay area full of Duke kiosks for a fifteen-minute hands-on session. No guided tour. Just get in there and see for myself that this Great White Whale is finally being harpooned. Though Duke Nukem Forever was running on a PC, I played with an Xbox 360 controller.
The game opens with Duke standing at a urinal, doing his business. After zipping up, I walked through a football team's locker room as professional soldiers discussed the parameters of Operation: C--k Block. The mission would go awry within seconds, though, as a giant alien called a Cycloid wasted half of the squad. Well, that's because they were mere mortals. I'm Duke, so I grab a Devastator launcher and ride an elevator up to the football field above. The Cycloid is a two-story tall monster with Psychlo boots bought during a Battlefield: Earth prop fire sale. It wasn't difficult to circle the beast and unload the launcher, eventually bringing it to its knees. The killing blow, of course, is kicking its eyeball through the goal posts. Again, classic Duke humor.
After finishing off the football sequence, Duke heads to the desert in his truck to battle more aliens. (I struggled to get all of the story elements here as many of the kiosks did not have working sound until the end of the session.) The driving stuff was pretty typical. Avoid rocks. Run over aliens. Perform sweet jumps. Finally, my truck ran out of gas and I had to head out on foot, shooting up aliens with found weapons like the shrink ray. (Aiming the shrink ray at some of the aliens actually makes them turn tail.)
The demo ended with a set piece of Duke at a turret shooting at a horde of pigcops. After slaying the swine, an alien ship swooped down and blasted Duke out of the turret. As the ship lowered itself to the surface, Duke's hand slowly rose into the air... and extended the middle finger. And that was that.
So, does Duke Nukem share any DNA with Gearbox's breakout hit Borderlands? Not really. This demo indicates that Duke Nukem Forever is a traditional first-person shooter that leans heavily on the mythos surrounding the character and his exploits. However, Duke Nukem Forever is not stuck in time. It incorporates many genre updates from the last 12 years, such as regenerative health and Call of Duty-style zoom (aim down sights) with the left trigger.
Gearbox employs a lot of depth of field effects. Elements slam into focus when you concentrate on them, leaving the rest of the screen blurry. This is especially noticeable when you go toe-to-toe with aliens in direct firefights or when raising a scope. Duke Nukem is also bloody as hell, with the red sauce flying everywhere – even from the already dead.
Naturally, neither 2K nor Gearbox gave a hard date for Duke Nukem Forever. Sometime in 2011, that's it. That's not was this re-unveiling was about. This was about blowing minds, because show-goers were genuinely surprised to see that Duke Nukem Forever was not just at PAX, but was also something they could get their very own hands on for the first time.
Review from IGN
Images from Google
Videos from YouTube