"Can you fucking beleive this shit? You're going to play Duke Nukem Forever." Thus begins the one demonstration absolutely no one could have predicted - the full-blown reveal of a game that's spent the past 12 years in varying states of development. Now in the hands of Gearbox (Borderlands, Brothers in Arms), gaming's buffest badass is most assuredly real and on his way to PS3, 360 and PC in 2011, with all his corny one-liners, rampant womanizing and I-don't-give-a-shit attitude intact.
Above: Get ready for more of this
But Gearbox knew it had an uphill battle, as DNF has been promised for more than a decade, each time with nothing more than a new screen or brief trailer to back it up. Now, in front of 60,000 PAX gamers, Duke was undeniably present with a 15-minute hands-on session. In fact, the game's so far along that it's in the "polishing phase," and could have been shown at almost any point in the last year. But instead of premiering at E3 or Gamescom, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford (whose career began with Duke Nukem 3D) specifically chose this venue because it's filled with gamers, not press. It's such a community-driven reveal that we journalists don't even have screens or trailers of the game yet. So enjoy some shitty cell phone pics!
Above: RIP Duke Nukem Jokes, 1998-2010
But is it fun? Can a game that started development when Quake II and the first Half-Life were cutting edge offer anything new? In a way, the one thing it already does better than a lot of modern shooters is convey a sense of pure fun. The first level opens with Duke pissing in a urinal (hold X to flush) and ends with him kicking a monster's eyeball down a football field, without a heavy-handed plot to get across or any faux-philosophical nonsense. It's just running, shooting and nonstop gags that poke fun at cliche videogame meatheads. Looks like, if you just want to play a damn game without pretense, this will be it.
Above: And "Beer" is mapped to the ENTIRE D-PAD
The first actual bit of playing picks up right after the urinal, where Duke bumps into some of those aforementioned gung-ho types, who're busy planning an attack against alien invaders. Their plan is written on a white board, which you can erase and replace with anything those analog sticks will allow. Naturally I tried to put the ol' cock and balls on there, but one of the PR handlers said "the demo is only 15 minutes, you can draw dicks later." Well, fine then. On to the boss battle in a rainy, stormy football field against a towering, rocket launching beast. There was plenty of ammo, loud-ass explosions and dead-simple combat. No finesse, no elaborate combat system, just trigger-trigger-trigger.
Above: A room full of PAXers, getting a world-first hands-on with DNF
After that came a monster truck section that had Duke tearing ass through a canyon, splattering enemies and launching over cliffs until he runs out of gas. Exiting the vehicle, we found a rail gun, then a shotgun, then a Duke-specific shrink ray that zaps the pig-faced aliens into pint-sized versions of themselves. It also appeared that Duke will have finishing moves of some type, as when we approached a staggered enemy, pushing X (or Square) triggered a final blow.
Speaking of blowing, the demo ends with the camera pulling out, revealing Duke in his living room playing the game himself. Then a girl pops her head up from below the camera. Then another. They ask him if it was good, to which he replies, "After 12 fucking years, it better be." Lulz he was talking about his game, not blowjobs.
Duke Nukem Forever isn't about re-inventing the genre. Its no-nonsense, knowing-nod approach to blasting feels like a bit of fresh air when most franchises today are tripping over themselves to start an ironclad canon. Forever will finally appear next year (they PROMISED), and judging by Pitchford's neverending stream of profane praise, it'll be every bit as fun as the demo suggests. Plus we already can't wait to hear all of Duke's ridiculous lines. In the trailer, he sees a 400-foot-tall, triple-titted femonster and still manages to crack one out - "Eh, I'd still hit it."