Duke is dead, long live The Duke. I bet for many of you, you can remember where you were on May 8th 2009 when 3D Realms announced it was officially closing its doors. With nearly all the staff fired, development formally halted, and no hope in sight, it felt very much like the death of a game that had been suffering for over a decade.
They'll be plenty of this to go around, trust me
Then in comes Randy Pitchford, a man with personal connections to the Duke series (his first job in the industry was Duke Nukem 3D), personal connections to the developers, and even a good relationship with Take-Two, the owners of the license. This set of impossible coincidences, plus the 'never-give-up' attitude of some die hard developers like Andy Blum, lead to a swift but silent revival, and the first sparks of hope.
Fast forward to September 1st, 2010, at the Penny Arcade Expo. With no warning, save rumours, no hints, no PR stunts, just a simple black booth with a plain 'Duke Nukem Forever' logo above the doorway announced the revival of the original action (anti)hero. Since then, Pitchford and a few other from Gearbox have been touring the world, hitting home the idea that yes, after all these years the Duke will live once again. In a special venue at the heart of London, Strategy Informer was lucky enough to be amongst the first in the UK to get their hands on Duke Nukem Forever.
After a lengthy but very heart warming talk from Randy Pitchford, who explained the history of the game from his perspective, and who talked us through a little bit about the current state of affairs, we were allowed to play a fairly short demo. In hindsight, that wasn't the smartest thing they could have done, because in all honesty it was hard to get a proper feel for the game, but then they've been so used to keeping its very existence a secret that we can understand their reluctance. Still, despite the shortness, we got a good sense of how the game might look, as well as the themes that will be the driving force of the game.
A lot of the iconic enemy types will return
It starts with you pissing in a urinal. I know, right? Things only get better from there however as you walk out into a main hall and find a white board you can draw on. I'm sure you can imagine some of the things we doodled. After that, you're thrown into what is actually a pretty mundane boss battle, only to find that it's part of a game that Duke is playing whilst being fellated by two women. The second half of the demo is a standard run and gun set piece set in a desert region somewhere. You get to play around with the various weapons, get a feel for combat and how you need to keep moving and use cover, there's even a grappling set piece where you get to snap someone's neck.
In terms of pure gameplay, there's not a lot that's special about Duke Nukem Forever. The FPS style is a bit old-school - no iron sights or anything like that. It's varied though, and there's a wide array of weapons. Not only that, but it seems there's loads of contextual actions and set pieces that are there just for the fun of it. Duke Nukem has never been about gameplay though - it's about the experience, the humour, the sheer ridiculousness of the situation - about Duke himself.
Our biggest feat with Duke Nukem Forever is not that it will play rubbish, or that the graphics will be subpar (it plays like a old school arcade FPS, and the graphics are competitive), but that the Duke himself will be a bit dated. This is the man who gets fellated by two women right at the beginning of the game whilst playing a game about himself. This is the man who head butts danger in the face and then pisses all over their unconscious body. This kind of over the top (and slightly sexist) machoism harks back to another age in gaming. Sure, it's hyperbole and not meant to be taken seriously, but Duke Nukem 3D still managed to cause a scene back in 1997. Imagine the kind of ruckus it will stir up in this very P.C. world. Even then the developers themselves have admitted this game pushes the line between 18+ and AO, which stands for Adult Only and is a rating that can get you barred from certain retailers.
One of the old school screenshots. Things have moved on since then
But then again Duke fans wouldn't have it any other way. They've waited thirteen long years for his return, and any attempt to water it down would have been met with ridicule and contempt. Make no mistake, this is probably going to appeal only to the die-hard fans and those who appreciate the kind of humour that comes with it. Whether that will make it a best seller is something we will only find out on launch day, but we'd be surprised if this didn't do well. It's real folks, and it's coming - rejoice. Duke Nukem Forever is due out in 2011 on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.
Most Anticipated Feature:I think at this point the entire game is anticipated.