Without a doubt the surprise of PAX 2010 in Seattle is the playable demo of Duke Nukem Forever, a game more then a decade in the making. 2K Games and Gearbox Software leaked word of the event Thursday night and had a line wrapped around their sizable booth almost as soon as the PAX show floor opened Friday Morning.
The brief demo starts just before the end of the classic PC title and after relieving himself in a urinal (in first person) Duke exits into a locker room where soldiers are nervously weighing their options in the upcoming battle with the alien leader. Gone is the sprite based art, as fully rendered characters run back and forth (or lay bleeding to death) and shout encouraging remarks to Duke, who responded in his classic super-macho way with the same familiar voice.
After leaving the locker room and dashing through an underground firefight, Duke picks up a Devastator, the rapid fire mini-missile launcher that was the ultimate weapon in the previous game, and is raised up onto a rain soaked gridiron. There, the battle with the one-eyed but two rocket launcher-ed alien leader plays out just as it did twelve years ago, right down to the three-point coup-de-grace. This time, however the gory final cut-scene is an interactive quick-time event.
Any qualms about the new title pulling it’s suggestive punches content-wise is answered when the camera pulls back to reveal you, as Duke, playing that above scene in Duke’s opulent game room as a pair of blond twins finish ‘administering’ to you. Meanwhile Duke airs his complaint that after the long hiatus, his next game better be good. The scene then shifts to a short driving stage through a narrow canyon peppered by foes and river jumps that require use of a short term speed boost. After a short while you run out of gas and the first original FPS action of Duke Nukem Forever begins.
At the exterior to a dilapidated mine you start with a single shot pistol, but an array of classic Duke Nukem weapons quickly become available. The shotgun, the machine gun-like Ripper, an RPG, a rail gun and the shrink ray can be found or dropped by enemies. Each of the weapons, and the familiar bipedal Pig foes have a current-gen graphical update. New to the Duke Nukem franchise is the now near standard two weapon carry limit and regenerating health, though in keeping with this franchise’s style, health is measured by a bar that displays Duke’s ego level which he apparently can’t live without.
The fight continues up the canyon walls, giving time for each weapon to be used before a mounted gun sequence ends with an explosion and a ‘coming soon’ screen. According to the game’s director, Mike Wardwell of Gearbox Software, the full title with be both ‘long’ and ‘intense,’ and along with that accidentally suggestive comment, he guaranteed that all of the Duke attitude, humor (in particular: the purposely absurd and paper-thin plot), the references to pop culture and other popular gaming franchises will make a return. There will also be multiplayer, but not much info there yet. For Duke Nukem Forever, thanks to Gearbox, “when it’s done” will finally be 2011 for the PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.Come get some!