Synonymous with the term vaporware, Duke Nukem Forever was first announced in 1997. At 2010 PAX Prime, it was revealed that the game was still being made and its rights had been purchased by Borderlands developer Gearbox Software at some point in 2009. Originally appearing in 1991 as a PC side-scroller, the franchise has since grown into a series of first-person shooters. As the player you take control of Duke Nukem, loud mouthed action hero akin to those from 80’s action movies.
As the newest installment to the series, Duke Nukem Forever brings much of the same, and that is a good thing. The only major difference would be the addition of vehicles to the franchise. During the second half of the demo that I got hands on with, you start in a vehicle. The driving mechanic was usable, but by no means perfect. The turning was not very tight, and it seemed as though the truck weighed as much as an oil tanker.
The rest of the demo is mostly what would be expected from the historically vulgar and violent series. It starts in a large boss battle as you defeat the Cyloid on a football field, just as in Duke Nukem 3D. Using the devastator, you eliminate the Cyloid Emperor and punt a field goal with his eye as the screen then fades out to black. Duke is sitting in a chair, in a gold covered room, having just completed the same demo as you. Two blonde twins appear from between his legs and ask how it was. He answers and they clarify that they were speaking of the game. In true Duke style, he replies with a sarcastic “After 12 years, it better be.” The rest of the demo is spent killing space pigs in the Vegas desert and Gearbox used this chance to show off a number of weapons. They included a shotgun, shrink gun, RPG, rail gun, and Duke’s signature gold desert eagle. There may have been more, but my 20 minute time limit had run out.
Graphically, the game has fallen behind the pack. After seeing games like Battlefield 3 this weekend with the Frostbite 2 engine, this game is not going to compete visually. The lack of detail and polish will hold the game back, but looks better than I expected a 12 year old game to look. As the May 3rd release draws near, what was shown in the demo probably is near (if not at) a completed state. The game looks more like a late cycle orignial Xbox game than a late cycle Xbox 360 game.
Despite some minor faults, I had a blast playing Duke Nukem Forever. Outside of driving, the controls were very tight. The teenage humor and vulgar nature of the protagonist are exactly how I remember Duke on the Nintendo 64. It is reassuring to see how well Gearbox made the game feel like the rest of the series. With most shooters being military simulations, it is refreshing to see a game not try to be Call of Duty. Duke is not out to save anyone or take orders. The Duke just wants to drink, attend strip clubs, and womanize. However, things don’t always go as planned, and as Duke famously said “It’s time to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and I’m all out of gum.”