Throwing faeces. Taking a slash. Scribbling on a dry wipe board. I’m not just listing a few of the things I did when I first woke up this morning. Oh no, these are just a few of the things that we did with Duke Nukem Forever when we finally went hands-on with the title at this year’s PAX in Seattle.
With development now firmly in the hands of Gearbox after the unfortunate goings on at 3D Realms and lawsuits galore, Duke is finally coming… after a 12 year wait. It’s clear that there is possibly no better developer in the industry to take on the mantle of the once-industry-inside-joke, you know, what with their uncanny ability to add a level of humour to their titles and all that jazz. What isn’t clear though is which parts of the 2011 title is from the minds of Gearbox and which is the product of the original developers, 3D Realms. Regardless, the Duke is back. Yes, it may be the Duke as we know him, but this time, he’s got a 21st century look.
The basic premise of Duke Nukem Forever is simple. Duke scared off the aliens from earth in the original games. They went home and got their bigger, more powerful brethren and came back down to earth to finish the job off. Duke though, he wasn’t too fussed about their return… well, that was before they went after the hot women and that was enough to drag the Duke out of retirement. The vain bastard.
In typical Duke fashion, we pick up the demo during the opening moments of the game, with Duke relieving himself at a urinal. Pulling the right trigger literally lets Duke open up the valves, with the X button to zip up and move away. We find ourselves in the bathroom of the aptly named Detonators’ stadium, where not only can we relieve ourselves in the many urinals, see our man Duke in all his glory in a cracked mirror, but we can also enter the stalls and pick up the faeces that lies in the bowl. Wait, you want us to throw it? You sick puppy... in case you were wondering though, we did.
Moving through into the locker room we see a downed police officer with one of his limbs snapped clean off lying on the floor, with his bone dripping blood onto the floor of the bright orange and blue branded room. Before we leave the room, we step up to the dry board as one of he officers informs us of the situation out in the winding halls of the stadium. Changing coloured markers and using the eraser to remove the action plan for “Operation Cock Block,” we brand the board with PS3T before we continue on. Graffiti has never been so fun.
Fighting through the tunnels - weaponless in true Duke style - we run from cover to cover, punching the grotesque beasties in the face when necessary. Who needs the Bruce Lee one inch punch when you can use Duke’s pulsating muscles to pulverise the invading alien scum with a punch of epic proportions. After navigating the maze-like tunnels of the stadium, we eventually find ourselves pitch side, facing a huge 75 foot armoured alien on its hind legs firing a bevy of rockets our way.
Circling the monster, we give as good as we get, using our dual-barrelled rocket launcher to overwhelm the beastie’s face with rocket after rocket. After running out of ammo and then circling the yard numerous times, a helpful 2K assistant pointed out there had been an ammo drop on the other side of the field - an in-game marker would have been much appreciated. Picking it up and a sustained barrage of rockets later and the beast was slain. All it took was a simple quick time event sequence and Duke was climbing the beast’s back and ripping out his lifeline. As if that wasn’t humiliating enough, Duke reached into the dead beast, ripped out what seemed like his heart, and then leathered it over the goalposts to net himself a field goal.
It turns out that the opening sequence was nothing but a game inside a game and as the camera pans out, we find out it was Duke himself playing through the short mission. When asked whether it was any good, Duke shot back making a comment that after 12 years, it better be. As the camera continues to pan out, revealing a luxury apartment in the process, as the controller drops from sight two scantily clad women rise from down below, after obviously pleasuring our main man while he had been playing his own game. Such a stud.
Jumping forward ever so slightly to chapter 15, the hands-on concludes with a short, more first person shooter orientated section. But first, a short car sequence which involves Duke in a monster truck boosting away from an alien aircraft somewhere in a dusty, cavernous desert environment. After running out of gas though, it was time for Duke to get out and dish the pain the best way he knows… on foot with guns and shit.
Switching from sniper rifles and shotguns, to nail guns and RPGs, we move through the desert environment picking off the beasties as they come into sight. A headshot here, a shotgun to the face there and our progress was slow, but steady. The gun play, truth be told, is nothing amazing or even awe-inspiring. In fact, it’s competent and that’s about it.
Incidentally, the aiming has a snap-to mechanic tied in with it, so despatching your foes is made relatively easier because of it. The slow push up the hill ends with us taking position on a turreted Gatling gun and pumping thousands of bullets into an alien space ship and the waves of beasts it dropped off. Smokin’.
Considering Duke Nukem Forever has been in development for well over a decade, the gameplay itself is hardly overawing. Duke isn’t about the gameplay though - although that aspect is as solid as you’d expect from an FPS in this day and age - Duke Nukem Forever is about everything else. The humour. The attention to detail. The balls to the wall, over the top combat. Duke is your typical 1980s action hero and while the gameplay might seem a little dated itself, everything else is as fresh and interesting as anything else out on the market. Hopefully Gearbox can instil that same level of humorous one liners, over-the-top action and amusing easter eggs throughout the rest of the game, if so, the Duke is back baby. The. Duke. Is. Back.
Duke Nukem Forever is currently slated for a 2011 release. Looks like Did Not Finish is no longer applicable…
Note: The screens have nothing to do with the gameplay segment we went hands-on with at PAX, which funnily enough, Gearbox didn’t release any screens for.