This past weekend I traveled to Boston with several other GeekDads to attend PAX East. Not only did we get the privilege of having our own panel – which if there were tickets being sold for it would have been sold out – but we of course got to wander the floor and check out all the latest gaming offerings from game developers large and small. From major players such as THQ, Rockstar and Epic Games, to the independent publishers trying to bring attention to their games, there was plenty on display. I got a very close look at one of the most anticipated displays, that of Duke Nukem Forever, the former 3D Realms creation now in the capable hands of Gearbox & 2k Games.
If you were at PAX East this year you saw the opulent display for the game. They had a fenced off area, with velvet ropes and a throne under a chandelier. The “Nukem Girls” were there (which seemed to violate the no-booth-babe rule at PAX, but no one really seemed to mind) and available for photo ops. The gamers lined up around the display, queuing for hours to get a few minutes hands on with the game on the many consoles set up around the gaming area. I however got the V.I.P. treatment as I was led around the back of the display area to a locked door by PR Rep Jim. A room about the size of a nice closet, it was set up with a 42 inch LCD HD TV, as well as a PS3 and Xbox. There was a glass table in the room, and several chairs. Jim left the room while the fanboys outside whined and offered bribes.
There will be a point in the future for a full review, which I will happily provide (assuming I get a review copy.) I can say this about the game, as I got to play about 30 minutes worth – it’s kick-ass. It has all the humor we love about Duke, it has the dirty jokes and the Easter eggs hidden within the game. It certainly hearkens back to the fast paced, action packed first person shooters that we grew up with. Games such as Quake, Doom and so on. Games that kept our hearts pounding and moved with a frantic clip that never left you bored. The classic Duke puzzles were there as well, something I liken to the puzzles within a game such as Half Life. Jump here, push that and so on. Puzzles that keep the game and you moving in between the frenzied action.
After playing the game for a while, I talked with Adam Fletcher, marketing coordinator for Gearbox. Just as enthusiastic about the game as I am, Adam is a true fan of the franchise and not just another empty skulled marketing tool with a script to read. He admitted to me that being where he was, the position he was in with presenting the game, was still very surreal to him. His excitement was that of a toddler getting his first tricycle. Or a D&D kid getting an original Dungeon Master guide. The first thing I asked Adam was the obvious question that is on everyone’s minds, how does Gearbox plan on living up to the expectations that exist for the highly anticipated Duke Nukem Forever.
“A lot of people have set expectations for the game, and it’s been in development for so long – it’s impossible to hit every expectation. This is the game that 3D realms wanted to bring out and people are going to love it. It’s got all the Duke stuff, humor, weapons and doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
Hearing that last point was almost a breath of fresh air in this day and age of serious military shooters. To have a FPS that highlights the fun of an FPS rather than the duck and cover, shoot, then duck and cover games that are out now is refreshing. Again, as Adam put it (verbatim as my notes are so-so,) “Duke hearkens back to the older style of shooters with the faster game-play with an extra sense of speed and action. Duke offers that classic fast paced shooter you remember from the past.” He was also quick to point out that both types of shooters have a place in today’s gaming environment, both the strategy shooters like Call of Duty or the Gears of War series, and the run and gun shooters such as Duke Nukem Forever. If you notice, that’s the only crazy-ass run and gun shooter coming on the market right now. While Bulletstorm seems to be up that alley, the game-play is actually similar to Gears in the find cover and shoot, repeat style of play.
Because the anticipation was high, and the important thing was just to get a Duke Nukem game on the market, there is no multiplayer co-op. There will be online multiplayer, including classic death match modes and a Duke twist on capture the flag, which is capture the babe. It’s not as easy as just capturing the babe, as while she is on your shoulder, she complains, covers your eyes and demands to be put down. Also back for multiplayer – the classic Duke jump pads. Multiplayer should be killer fun, and I hope it is as much fun as the Halo: Reach mulitplayer, which was probably the best online multiplayer of the year.
The classic Duke weapons are back. The shrink ray, the freeze gun and pipe bombs. Find a beer, it makes Duke stronger but makes your vision blurry. Duke will need all these weapons to stop the invading aliens from kidnapping and spawning with all the hot babes. Yes, that is the premise of the game. And at 10+ hours of campaign game-play (with plenty of time wasters stuck in the game, from air hockey to taking a leak in the bathroom) you’ll have plenty of fun trying to save the Earth. So even though the game hasn’t hit shelves yet, I asked Adam if there are already plans in the works for more Duke. I got a very ambiguous answer, but I’ll take it as a yes.
“We have a strong passion for Duke and would love to focus on more Duke in the future.”