The Duke Nukem Forever playable demo here at PAX 2010 makes the seemingly impossible a reality. People, including your Kotaku reporter, are playing Duke Nukem Forever, maybe a dozen years after we expected to. Duke, from what I can tell, hasn’t changed.
He’s still cracking jokes, chewing bubblegum and getting oral sex from two ladies at a time when he’s not using his guns – or his buggy – to obliterate his enemies.
Duke Nukem Forever is, of course, a first-person shooter. The controls are standard, mapped as you’d expect on the Xbox 360 controller on which I played the game. Zoom on the left trigger. Shoot on the right. Click the right stick to crouch. But before all that, at the start of the demo, pull the right trigger to piss.
The demo starts with a first-person view of the urinal. You can make Duke urinate as much as you want. The wait is over!
Well, no that’s not what this game is about. You’re in a football locker room. There are a couple of hot tubs and, in the main area, some soldiers gearing up for a fight. On the whiteboard they plan their move against the beast on the field. Their strategy: cockblock. You can draw on the whiteboard. I drew straight lines. But on another TV playing the game here at PAX I saw someone drawing a penis.
The game is 100 per cent in the spirit of classic Duke. By this point in the demo you’ve been hit with “Hail to the King, baby”, and sooner or later, he’s whistling, laughing at the bad guys he kills and lamenting that “those alien bastards are going to pay for shooting up my ride”.
When you leave the locker room, you race down some halls where aliens are fighting soldiers. These scripted sequences show some of the destructibility (mostly of your allies’ limbs) and the smoke and explosion effects in the game. The effects look modern, though not beyond what we see in other games.
Out in the field, things became more impressive. A massive monster – the big aliens seen in leaked Duke artwork – is stomping across the grass. You’ve gone from just having your fists up to being armed with The Devastator, a big gun in each hand. Health is regenerative, and the big bad guy wasn’t that tough in the demo. I unloaded my ammo into him, waited for the next ammo drop, and then fired some more. Duke finished him with a button-prompted melee move.
The finale: press a button to do a “field goal”, which is a punt of the monster’s eye down the field.
Cue the Duke Nukem Forever logo, and a camera pulls back to show that Duke, in first person, was playing a video game. He’s got a gold Xbox 360 controller with the face buttons re-named as D, U, K and E. There’s a busty lady in a schoolgirl outfit near the bottom of your first-person view. And there’s a second one. One stands up and wipes her mouth.
“What about the game, was it any good?” one of them asks.
“Yeah, but after 12 fucking years it should be,” he answers.
After that, the demo jumped forward to level 15, which began as a driving level. Duke was in a dune buggy, racing down a canyon as an alien shuttle streamed forward overhead. The buggy can boost for big jumps, and since aliens do run in its way, run over bad guys with a splat. Quickly, though, I was out of the buggy and running Duke toward an enemy turret, his laser-sighted pistol in hand. I was also able to get a railgun which had a scope and was good for headshots.
One of the most prominent tech elements of the game is a depth-of-field aspect which blurs enemies who aren’t in Duke’s focus. Of the obvious tech demonstrations happening in the demo – the destruction shown as cacti splintered from gunfire, the shattered mirror back in the locker room – this blurring effect was the only one that was distracting.
People wondered how Duke Nukem would make his return. Would a parody video game character steeped in ’80s absurdity play in 2010? Or would he have to be a parody of a parody? It seems from the demo that Duke is strictly himself and that the kind of profane, naughty, steroid-injected humour of the Duke of old is indeed what will play in 2010 – or in 2011, to be more specific. The game is set for a 2011 release on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Gearbox Software is working on the game with other studios and, we believe, creators who used to be on the project at 3D Realms.
To those who don’t know the Duke Nukem Forever story, the game might seem like a standard first-person shooter with a few technological gimmicks and a more absurd, played-for-laughs attitude than today’s more straight-faced but equally gruff shooter games. For those who know the DNF tale, this is the King returned as if through a time machine, a playable time capsule of one of gaming’s wrongest icons.
P.S. The trailer being shown behind closed doors for the game includes strippers and a three-breasted giant monster. Of the latter, Duke says, “Hell, I’d still hit it.”