Duke Nukem Forever Reminds Us Why Games Are Great

“In Case of Alien Invasion Break Glass”. Those were the words etched into the glass of a shotgun display case inside of Duke Nukem’s casino. Yes, you heard right, the man has his own Casino, and football field, and pretty much anything else he wants. Twelve years have passed since Duke’s last romp, and in Duke Nukem Forever everyone’s favorite dirty-mouthed hero also happens to be the richest and most popular person on the planet. The problem is that those pesky aliens are back and they want their revenge. That’s the breakdown for the upcoming shooter from Gearbox and 2K Games, and while that premise probably wouldn’t be taken seriously for any other game, this is Duke Nukem we’re talking about.

We had the chance to check out the title earlier this year at PAX East in Boston, and this week, we had a second go-around in the much more comfortable and much less hectic confines of a New York City hotel room suite; and because of that, we had a better chance to catch up on Duke’s story as well as what makes this title something to look forward to.

Many people don’t know the real back story on how Duke Nukem Forever finally came to be, but here’s the short and abridged version:

It all begins with a well-known development house out of Dallas, Texas known as 3D Realms. They created a game called Wolfenstein 3D (you may have heard of it). In the mid 90’s, Randy Pitchford joins the company as a beta tester straight out of college. Eventually, he becomes part of the design team for Duke Nukem 3D, which would become one of their biggest IPs and created a cult following in the process. In 1999, the company would begin work on what would become Duke Nukem Forever.

For the next decade, 3D Realms would go through a bunch of changes, and up and downs, but the Duke project pressed on. It got to the point where there was so much moving around and bad business decisions that 3D Realms inevitably shut down, yet the project continued on in the hands of eight guys working in their garage. By this time, Randy Pitchford becomes one of four founders of Gearbox Software. Randy’s new company purchases the title and, as they say, the rest is history.

Since its announcement back at last year’s PAX Prime, there has been nothing but positive things said about Nukem’s latest adventure. But with the good comes the bad, and among the negatives being thrown around was concern about the game’s visual fidelity. I need to say that on the surface it may not have the looks of the most recent big budget shooters, but that doesn’t mean that things like lighting and destructible environments are missing from it either. It has received the necessary upgrades to consider it very much a current gen title.

The Duke that we had the chance to check out still felt very much like a Duke Nukem title should — it’s filled with over the top action, sick and twisted humor, all garnished with enough filthy one-liners to make a pick up artist blush. But the real magic here is what Duke brings to gaming and that’s a nice trip back to where it came from. Here’s an explanation of what I mean:

Right off the bat, you can tell that the game is going to be challenging. Now I’m not sure if we (the DualShockers crew) are just that good at games (because we play them so much), but we rarely, if ever, have a hard time playing titles during these press demos. For the most part, it’s because Public Relations people put the demos on easy, but the other part of it is that games over the past decade have just become soft in general. Totally not the case here.

Since DNF’s development started way back in 1999, a time when games were still challenging and felt more rewarding, it brings you back to a golden age of gaming. When games would do things like promote exploration and throw in puzzles for a welcomed change of pace. A time where, at the end of a level, you’d have an actual…you know…boss standing in your way. Something that you just don’t get in a lot of what’s considered “good” these days.

Those are the kind of games that I grew up on and that’s what Duke is all about. Sure, over the years games may have traded off challenge for immersion. Yes, presentation in video games is now rivaling that of most Hollywood feature films, but you know what? Sometimes, as a gamer, I just want play as a bad-ass motherf*cker and blow some sh*t up while taking down an invading alien army, and that’s exactly what Duke Nukem Forever is going to help me do. It couldn’t have come at a better time for an industry and a generation of gamers that so badly needs this blast from the past like a shot in the arm.

Duke Nukem Forever, developed by 3D Realms/Gearbox and published by 2K Games will be released on June 14th for the PS3, 360 and the PC.

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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