Duke Nukem Forever Hands-on Preview

By Brian Leahy, Sep 03, 2010 6:00pm PDT

I can't believe I just wrote that headline. I have played Duke Nukem Forever. Announced (again) here at PAX 2010, development will be finished by Gearbox. The game will be released on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 sometime in 2011. Let's just right into things.

First off, the good news. This game is Duke. The action is fast-paced, the one-liners are great, and Jon St. John sounds great. In true Duke fashion, the humor is very self-aware, with Duke even joking about the game's legendary development time in game. The weapons all feel great--especially the shotgun--and a sprint button helps bring the gameplay into this decade.

Okay, here's the bad news. The engine looks dated. The color palette felt dull and the game appeared blurry at times. Since the game is scheduled for next year, it's likely that the engine will be even more outdated when it (finally) releases. I don't need it to look like Crysis, but I'd just a bit more clarity than what I saw. Hopefully, this is something that will be addressed by Gearbox.

The demo opened up with Duke relieving himself at a urinal and you find Duke in a football stadium. After some cool scripted events following soldiers, Duke finds himself up against the Cycloid Emperor from Duke Nukem 3D. Devastator in hand, Duke defeats the boss and kicks his eye through the uprights. Credits roll and the camera pulls back to find that Duke was playing the game on a wall-mounted TV, while two women--ahem--take care of him.

The demo jumps to a later level in a canyon, with Duke driving a truck as enemy ships fire at him. The driving is okay, but definitely not the high-point of the demo. Once out of gas, Duke is off to find gas, but is ambushed by uniform-less Pig Cops (do I just call them Pigs?). This is where the demo was definitely at its best. The gun-based combat is excellent. I got to use the pistol, a railgun, the shotgun, and the Ripper Chaingun.

Unfortunately, I was only able to carry two weapons at a time. I was hoping to carry Duke's full arsenal, but it looks like we're going to be dealing with weapon juggling. I'm not sure how this will play out. It could encourage using a variety of weapons, but it could fall flat, angering fans of classic PC FPS games. The other warning sign is that I was only fighting two to four enemies at a time, maximum. I hope this is based upon that level that I played and not a larger issue.

Again, my time with DNF was limited to about 15 minutes and the hype was almost unbearable. For better or worse, Duke is back. I'm picking it apart in this preview, but make no mistake, I had a lot of fun and laughed out loud several times. It was a great throwback to classic gaming and it's great to have Duke back once again.

I'm not sure how younger gamers will react to Duke, but I'm sure 2K and Gearbox are hoping to usher in a new generation of Duke fans. Regardless, this game isn't for them, is it? It's for you and me and let's hope it lives up to even a fraction of our expectations. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have them.

[Well played, Gibson. Well played.]

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