by Robert Zak
previewed on PC
It actually took forever...
Undoubtedly one of the first things that came to most gamers minds when Duke Nukem Forever was rumoured, 'About fucking time!' Either that or it was simply dismissed as an urban myth. But, ladies and gentlemen, September's Penny Arcade Expo along with subsequent gameplay footage proves that this is actually happening. After the folding of 3D Realms last year, Gearbox CEO John Pitchford, who started his career working on Duke Nukem 3D, plucked the game from the brink of extinction and has been working hard on the Duke's inglorious return to gaming.
Loyal to its roots
The first thing that stands out about the demo footage of the game is how relentlessly loyal Forever is to the series' roots. The demo starts with you/Duke standing in front of a urinal and being given an on-screen prompt to 'Piss'. After a charmingly realistic pissing scene, you can mess around with the environment, play with taps, draw on a whiteboard and all the other trivial stuff you'd expect from a Duke game. Before long, you fight a giant beast on a football field, kill it, kick it's eye through the goal posts, and utter a cheesy one-liner. It's classic Duke Nukem stuff, and the die-hards will love it.
The second level of the demo sees Duke getting blown off a machine gun turret while fighting another oversized alien baddie. In a truly post-modern moment, the camera zooms out to show that the levels you just played were in fact being played by Duke on an arcade machine – while he's receiving a helping... head from two ladies. Witty, chauvinistic and vulgar, these kinds of scenes are to be expected in abundance, and show that Gearbox have no intention of watering down the old Duke Nukem charm.
All the ridiculous weapons that so defined Duke 3D and more are making a return in Duke Nukem Forever. So expect old favourites such as the Freezethrower, Pipe Bomb and the legendary Shrink Ray as well as mysterious new alien weapons such as the blue-bolt-firing Enforcer Gun. Old-school baddies will also be making a return; Pig Cops, Octabrains and Battlelords are among the old favs making a return, and it'll be exciting to see them glossed up with current-generation graphics.
That 90's feel
The flip-side of Forever's loyalty to its roots is that it certainly won't do anything new for the genre. The gameplay is very old-school, with no use of crosshairs and plenty of running-and-gunning. Where most developers would aim to compromise between pleasing the fans of the series and accommodating the uninitiated gamer, Gearbox have gone all-out in making Duke Nukem Forever feel as 90's as possible. That being said, the simplicity of the gameplay means the game will be easy to pick up and play, and the specific Duke humour should bring out the adolescent in most adult gamers.
The graphics in Duke Nukem Forever will no doubt hold their own among the current crop of first-person shooters. While comparing them to Killzone 3 would be a little harsh, the graphics are glossy, the monsters look slimy and absurd, and the environments have that dark, noir feel about them. Once again, it is evident that the developers are intent on keeping the game feeling fast-paced and retro, and the graphics are well-suited for this arcade-style gameplay.
Who needs a plot?
Little has been revealed of Forever's plot as yet, but maybe that's because it's a foregone conclusion: Aliens attempt to invade Earth and Duke is there to single-handedly and cynically fight them off, all the while indulging in hookers, playing arcade games and, of course, chewing bubble gum. In other words, the plot really doesn't matter. Duke Nukem Forever is going to be a cool/crude homage to the first bad-ass protagonist in videogames. Its old-school quality won't please the progressivists, but to hell with them, this is the back-to-basics Duke game that fans have been crying out for ever since Duke Nukem 3D. Duke Nukem Forever will be out on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 at some point in early 2011... Old-school gamers rejoice!