“Hail to the king, baby!” Butterflies fluttered in my tummy as I, for the first time in twelve years, heard these words spoken again from the mouth of one gaming’s most badass and recognized characters, Duke Nukem, in the Duke Nukem Forever trailer. Pleasant remembrances of sitting in front of my Packard Bell PC as an underage gamer and playing Duke Nukem 3D (when Duke decided to go FPS) in 1997 flooded its way from suppressed memories and back into my thoughts as I heard Duke, once again, repeat that infamous line. Whatever it is tweens feel when they see the Jonas Brothers or Justin Bieber performing is what I think I was feeling at that point – uncontrollable clapping, tears of joy, and mass hysteria.
After being in development hell since its announcement in 1997, the series, which Gearbox Software bought the rights and intellectual property to, was kicked back into gear. For the first time since the trailer was unveiled, DualShockers got a taste of what’s to come on Duke Nukem Forever’s slated May 3 June 14 release at 2K Games’ PAX East booth in Boston.
We squeezed our way through the crowd of attendees to make our way to the Duke Nukem Forever booth, which was already swamped with fans and booth babes. As humidity and the smell of mayonnaise swept through the vast crowd, we [Chad, Al, Joel and I] made our way in to speak, and interview, with the marketing man behind Gearbox Software and Duke Nukem Forever, Adam Fletcher. I looked around ogling the skanky dressed women, who fit the Duke Nukem atmosphere pretty well, and the concoction of fans and media folk who took their place at the playable counters before someone approached me and asked if I wanted to give it a shot. It was like asking a starving man if he wanted a steak dinner.
I quickly left my colleagues and took my place in one of the available spots. I put on the Astro headsets that dangled from my monitor, picked up the Xbox 360, spooged my pants, and hit the “Start” button.
First, some story. The aliens got their butts kicked in the last couple of Duke Nukem games, and decided that they had enough. It was pretty ridiculous to them how one man could have thwarted their plans for world domination, so they left Earth. In Duke Nukem Forever, the alien beasts return with new intentions which involve kidnapping and banging Earth women. Duke, being the hero that he is, doesn’t agree with sharing his women with space things, and goes on another alien killing frenzy.
The demo began as dirty and as raunchy as you’d remember Duke: Taking a whiz in a urinal. I tried hard hiding the smirk that formed on my face, but that wasn’t possible. You can’t help but welcome the nostalgic moment that embraces your senses as you re-familiarize yourself with everything that made this game so great a decade ago.
You start the first level running through halls – after you leave the locker room where Duke was draining the main vein – where soldiers and aliens are duking it out. Limbs start flying, smoke and explosions fill the screen, as you make your way out into a football field where you encounter a gargantuan one-eyed monster. Suddenly, your bare hands, by some divine intervention, are equipped with big rocket launchers called Devastators.
The monster wasn’t as challenging as I was hoping for, although it was a demo. I eventually downed him, after shooting him to a pulp, and then finished him off with a button-prompted melee move. The best part? You’re prompted to press a button to “field goal” the monster’s eye down the football field.
The Duke Nukem Forever logo gets slapped on the screen, and the camera pulls back showing that Duke was playing a video game of himself. Suddenly, a lady pops up from the bottom of the screen. She was obviously doing something, and it wasn’t cleaning carpet as there were none in that room. At least not the vacuuming kind. Then another sits up, with one of them wiping their mouth. If you haven’t caught up yet, Duke was receiving fellatio. Yes, they went there.
One of the first things that we do as a gamers, and as people critiquing something, is study the visual appearance of a presentation. For many of us, it sets the standard of the production quality. Of course, considering that Duke Nukem Forever was in development for over a decade, one would think that it would clearly posses the visual prowess of today’s most visually prominent titles. That’s not case, however.
It’s not to say that Duke Nukem Forever doesn’t look good, because it does. It has many elements of a next gen title; but if you’ve played Doom III, you’ve pretty much nailed the visuals of this game – just shinier, as if most of the surroundings, including Duke himself, were coated with Astroglide. The textures and character models look a bit dated when put up against some of today’s more “developed” titles, but it looks good enough to perceive and appreciate the visual evolution that Duke has undergone.
Now, if you’re looking for “realism” in this game, you definitely won’t get that here. This isn’t aimed to be anything remotely like the more “hardcore” shooters such as Call of Duty or Battlefield. “What? Yaris, that makes no sense…” Duke Nukem Forever goes back directly to its roots: A non-cover based shooter where the main character can aim incredibly well without looking down a weapon’s sight/scope while wearing his tinted 1980’s Black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses, has an infinite amount of stamina giving him the ability to run, not walk, everywhere, and can straight up circle-strafe bosses to kill them. Impossible, you say? No, it’s Duke Nukem. He does the impossible. His arsenal of ridiculous over-the-top weapons will, no doubt, have you shaking your head as you encounter many “WTF” moments. Although you are given traditional Earthly weapons like a shotgun, a pistol, and rocket launcher, you will encounter many extraterrestrial armaments that will tingle your bony macaroni continuously. And if you don’t feel like wasting ammunition, you can knuckle up and punch alien pigs in the face until they, eventually, collapse from hemorrhaging.
The controls are pretty straightforward. If you’ve played a shooter before on a console, it definitely isn’t any different here. The movements, although a tad faster than most might be used to, are fluid, and the responsiveness is on point. It might take getting acquainted with, but the constant running isn’t really as overbearing as I thought it would be when jumping back to this style of “run and gun” gameplay.
After playing the demo, I swore to myself that I would ridicule this game for what it wasn’t rather for what it was. Duke Nukem Forever isn’t aimed to be your standard first-person shooter. The game is supposed to instill laughter and a much more incongruous gimmicky play-for-laugh philosophy. Thankfully, the developers knew that changing the character and who he was wouldn’t fit with the more inscrutable shooter games of today. The game’s history is based on an over-the-top spoof that conserves the notion that gaming should be an entertaining experience. And Duke Nukem Forever, although adult-themed, has managed to recollect the attitude that made the game so amazing twelve years ago. The fundamentals of the core game that is Duke Nukem hasn’t changed much in the last decade. Instead, you’re presented with a much nicer looking installment that preserves the celebrated feats that makes the game what it is. If you’re a fan of the previous games in the series, you will, no doubt, appreciate what Duke Nukem Forever for what it truly is.