Sadly Gearbox have yet to actually release any screenshots or assets yet and we weren't allowed to take photos...so the vids in this article are made up of trailers we've seen over the last decade.
After 12 years of broken promises, disappointment and people just generally moving on with their lives, it's unsurprising that Gearbox hit something of a bump in the road when it came to deciding just how the hell they were going to present this new-but-old (DNF incorporates a massive amount of the original code) rejuvenated Duke, so they figured they'd just take the gam eon the road and turn up to PAX without telling anyone. Thankfully, they also brought it over for a European tour, and I got sit down with it and bust through the 15-20 minute demo to check it out for myself...after pinching myself, of course, just to check.
Set 12 years after the events of Duke Nukem 3D, being self-referential is a key ingredient, Duke is now the most famous and the most wealthy guy in the world. He owns a hotel and a casino in Las Vegas called The Fellatio, he has his own stadium, statues that testify to his greatness line the streets. He leads a typically hedonistic lifestyle in the penthouse suite of his own hotel and life is good.
But not for long. You see, the aliens have returned, although under the guise of peace. Duke's having none of it, of course, and wants make pork chops and bacon sandwiches out of them, but the world powers are attempting to broker a peace and he's told to stay out of it and not mess things up by getting trigger happy. It seems, though, that Duke's right. Secretly, the aliens are beginning to steal away the women of Planet Earth in order to spawn an enormous mixed-species invasion force that can wipe out Mankind.
You don't mess with Duke's women.
Kicking off with the assertion that Duke is once again all out of gum, the demo starts, as you may have seen, with the big man having a piss in one of the changing rooms of an American football stadium. Although it would seem to be the perfect place to have a button mashing minigame just to see how high on the wall you can get it, alas you can only look around. If you think that what I just wrote is immature, puerile and disgusting then...you're right. And this game, or preview, certainly isn't for you!
Incidentally, a little sniff around will also yield up a brown gift left another or the toilet's earlier patrons, which you can then take outside and fling at soldiers. 'What am I doing?!' growled Duke as I gave myself a stitch at the disgusting audacity of the developers. There were eight demo stations for the game, running on PCs rather fittingly, and no-one had a straight face. I was chuckling away like a fourteen year old boy within seconds.
Outside, there was a whiteboard, a picture of an alien and the words 'Operation Cockblock' emblazoned on it, so naturally I took the time to draw an enormous penis on the board as well as a crude tableau of a group activity involving generously proportioned stick men and women. 'Oh man!' exclaimed the soldier standing next to it. 'I don't even understand any of it!!!...But I bet if I did that guy over there [points to injured soldier] would still have his arm!'
Graphically underwhelming so far, the interactivity is incredibly welcome. This won't be a game sold on graphical merit, such considerations are far too boring and serious, but it's not ugly. More interesting are the ways in which Duke can play around with the environments he finds himself in. We're told that later on, there'll be a fully functioning pinball machine called Balls of Steel that Duke can play with, and that losing will make the big man grimace and grunt 'Damn...seems like I have Balls of Fail!' The one liners come thick and fast, Jon St. John doing a great job of reminding us just why we loved Duke in the first place.
I headed out onto the stadium's pitch and was treated to a nice little homage to Duke Nukem 3D as Duke takes on an enormous Cyclops, armed with the Devastator - the glorious double barrelled rocket launcher. The battle itself is relatively uninspiring - strafe, shoot, continue - but the resultant finisher that sees Duke boot over a field goal using one of the monster's eyeballs was satisfying indeed.
It's at this point that the camera zoomed out and I realised that I'd been metagaming! Duke was actually sat in his hotel penthouse being pleasured by two girls whilst simultaneously playing on his own video game and sporting a custom-made gold controller, with the letters replaced by D, U, K and E. If there isn't a limited edition of the game that includes that controller then frankly we should petition like crazy to get one. I don't think I've ever wanted an accessory more.
'Is it any good?' asked one of the girls after wiping her mouth suggestively.
'Yeah...but after 12 fucking years it should be!' replied the Duke.
After the fade to black, we jumped forward to about two thirds of the way through the game with Duke ragging around the desert in his monster truck. 'We had real trouble deciding what Duke would actually drive.' says Randy Pitchford. 'Originally we though a convertible or a muscle car, maybe even a hog or something like that. But someone just came out with "monster truck" and it was like "Of course Duke would drive a monster truck!" We kicked ourselves!'
Eventually, after a bit of boulder-dodging and mowing down aliens with his gigantic tyres, Duke runs out of fuel and has to continue on foot. Cue a bunch of pig monsters and an array of awesome weapons that Gearbox have handily left strewn about the place. There's a little magnum, a scoped railgun and a very satisfying shotgun, the better weapons tucked away a little bit , rewarding exploration. There are plenty of chunky kibbles and bits of things that go flying at close range. The Shrink Ray is back, of course, and miniaturising opponents and then watching them explode when you hit them is a great deal of fun.
Again, barrels explode, shack walls go flying, and cacti combust, although the interactive model seemed rather more limited here, with shacks barely recognising Duke's bullets. There's still a bit of polishing to be done. More concerning is that the modern FPS limitation of only carrying two weapons at a time - realistic though it may be - has no place in this game. It feels a little bit wrong when so much of this demo actively massages your nostalgia glands with its OTT genetics to make a concession to realistic gun play.
Little quibbles aside, when the demo ended soon afterwards - Duke being knocked back by a large blast and giving the finger to the alien spaceship that put him on the floor - I emerged with an enormous grin on my face. There are going to be concerns - whilst it doesn't feel as dated as, say, Serious Sam, the fine line between nostalgic and outmoded is still pretty fine - and there are going to be those worried that a Nineties icon like Duke won't resonate in 2011. But I think the reaction thus far indicates that the fanbase would beg to differ. There's a gap in the market for a shooter that stubbornly refuses to take itself too seriously and, as much as some would love for me to hunger after a hyper-realistic simulation of war, I'm not sure there's ever been a better time for a character like Duke to make a comeback.
Duke will be kicking ass on PC, PS3 and X360 come next year and yes, there will be multiplayer...but they wouldn't tell us anything about it.