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Is Gearbox doing a good job handling the Duke Nukem IP?



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The Duke Nukem Experience - Part 1

Yatta, Wed Feb 09 2011, 04:56PM

Where do I begin?  I don’t think I can start this article without giving credit to 2K Games’ Elizabeth Tobey for arranging for me to attend the event.  She is truly a fantastic person and we are lucky to have her as our community manager.  I would also like to thank Gearbox’s Steve Gibson for putting me in touch with her, and Adam Fletcher for working with Elizabeth to get my community interview questions answered.  Finally, I’d like to thank everyone else at 2K and Gearbox for setting up the event and for making it possible for me to be a part of it (I’m bad with remembering names, my apologies!).  A last thank you goes to my friend Talha A. for accompanying me to the event and providing feedback for this preview.

Los Angeles -- It’s 12 AM on February 7, and I’m just about ready to hit the hay so I can be ready for my flight to Las Vegas in the afternoon.  I can’t asleep.  I lie in bed for literally three hours trying to knock out and I can’t do it.  I am both nervous and excited for what will happen the next day, and it’s not until 3 AM that I am finally able to lay my eyes to rest, only to wake up roughly four hours later.  I take care of a few errands, and by late morning, I’m at LAX.  I arrive at the Las Vegas International Airport at about 2:40 PM on February 7, and by 3:30 PM I’m ready to hop on the Duke Nukem shuttles.

Each shuttle carries fifteen people.  My guest and I are surrounded entirely by journalists from the gaming media industry.  I think all the bigheads are here—IGN, Wired, Machinima, G4 TV, you name it.  In fact, X-Play’s Adam Sessler is in the shuttle with me.  At about 4:15 PM, we arrive at a strip club rebranded with Duke Nukem themes.  In fact, it screams Duke—there are large posters of him on the walls, neon signs that read “Titty City,” and babes dressed like the “Wholesome” twins.  Hell, even the urinal mats in the bathroom read “Duke Nukem’s Whizzle Tits.” (Later, I was also informed there were custom-made beer bottles, coasters, and Duke Burger Napkins, but I must have been too sucked into playing Duke Nukem Forever to notice.)  It becomes lucid that 2K and Gearbox have really made an effort to embelish the place in the name of Duke.

It’s somewhere between 4:30 and 5 PM when Randy Pitchford comes out on the stage and gives us a brief introduction to the game.  (We have video recordings of this which we’ll post on February 11th when the final embargo lifts.)  Randy is excited.  He tells us that the game is really coming along well and there’s only about 4000 bug-fixing related tasks left to be complete.  This might seem like a large number at first glance, but take into consideration that this number can be in the hundreds of thousands for a typical game in development.  For a 15-hour game like DNF, this is great progress!  With just under three months left until release, the development team has plenty of time to do away with small glitches and to place its final polishing touches on the game.  My personal guess?  Duke Nukem Forever will “go gold” by mid to late April.

Randy’s 10-minute speech has now come to a conclusion and I’m ready to start playing.  They’ve got the game running on the Xbox 360, which seems like a prudent choice granted the process is more streamlined when it comes to security, the game’s learning curve with regards to the controls, and the compact nature of the console itself which allows for efficient use of space.  I enter a booth which would normally be used for giving lap dances (mind you, the event is at a real strip club after all).  The six-level, 90-minute demo is displayed on a ~30 inch LCD screen and I’m guessing the game is running at a resolution of 1280x720 (720p).  I come in my pants and shit bricks.

While I’m playing the game, I’m pleasantly interrupted several times.  When I say pleasantly, I genuinely mean it.  In fact, I would have been a bit unsettled if these interruptions had not taken place.  Being the amazing people that they are, Elizabeth, Adam, and several other 2K/Gearbox folks bring over Randy and Scott Miller in two different intervals so I can get take photos with them and get my Duke Nukem 3D CD autographed.  They also come bearing gifts—a “Titty City” staff shirt and an awesome metal Duke Nukem belt buckle.  If this is not enough, there are hot women—Duke’s babes—serving me drinks every 15 minutes, and one lady even brings me three slices of chocolate cake in a single plate.  (YES, you read correctly, CHOCOLATE FUCKING CAKE.)  I am feeling so welcome and accommodated at this point that I can finally understand what Randy meant by receiving a “Chilean Miner.”

(For those of you who are curious, the third autograph belongs to my very good friend Charlie Wiederhold, who was a former Duke Nukem Forever developer at 3D Realms.  He was also responsible for compiling the Duke Nukem 3D source code for public release.  Also, I got Scott to sign twice, once on the CD and once on the manual due to pen-related problems )

Let’s Rock

That’s the difficulty level I select.  [SPOILERS AHEAD] The game starts as it did during the PAX event.  “What’re you gonna do, save the world all by yourself?” yells an EDF soldier.  Duke runs down a few exploding corridors and picks up the Devastator weapon.  I’m thrown right into a boss battle with the Cycloid Emperor in the infamous Stadium level from Duke Nukem 3D, and after making a field goal with its eye, the screen zooms out and I see Duke playing what I was just playing, while receiving a blowjob from the “Wholesome” twins.  “After 12 fucking years, it better be good,” says Duke—and by God, it is.

As I explore the depths of Duke’s 69-floor—yes, there are 69 buttons in the elevators—Las Vegas mansion, I perform Duke-esque actions to increase the maximum capacity of his rechargeable ego (health).  This includes admiring myself in the mirror, lifting weights, and pissing in toilets.  Come to think of it, that’s how the game starts out before you even enter the Stadium—Duke is pissing in a toilet and it’s a golden shower worth a thousand words.  Everywhere I go, the atmosphere is rich and interactive.  I write on various surfaces, shoot hoops, use vending machines, and play pinball as I hear Duke utter, “Now I do have time to play with myself!”  The fun just never ends.  Inside Duke’s golden mansion, the walls have been embellished with portraits of Duke and statues of his trophy kills: pig cops, assault captains, etc.  Our hero is living the life until…

The alien bastards are back.  The floors shake.  Explosions are heard.  Outside the tall glass walls of Duke’s skyscraper of a dwelling, alien ships are commanding Earth’s heavens.  Monsters are crawling everywhere and power disruptions are looming.  Back in his trophy room, Duke must commandeer a throne which operates as a secret entrance to his “Batcave.”  To get there, he must sign a few autographs, go by the entrance to his mansion to say hello to the screaming babes, and unseat a fan from his big red chair so he can use it to enter his clandestine command room.

The throne sucks Duke underground, where he conducts a video conference with General Graves, the commander of the Earth Defense Forces.  On a second screen, the President of the United States—who is a random white dude, not Obama—appears.  Both men advise Duke against causing a riot, knowing his alien ass-kicking will unleash chaos requiring much more than just a clean-up on aisle 4.  The power goes out, and alien shrieks are audible.  Duke enters dark vents and punches blinded assault commanders using his superior Duke Vision.  Drinking beer, a blurry-eyed, intoxicated Duke finds himself more resilient to alien attack.  Steroids in pill form enable Duke to speed-run and kill aliens with a single punch, in the vein of the Berserker power-up in Doom.  It becomes clearer by the second that the game itself is on steroids, with Duke packing enough action into the game to allow for three boss battles JUST in the first 10% of the game.

I fight the Cycloid Emperor.  I ravage pig cops, assault captains, assault enforcers, and even an assault commander.  I man turrets, blast aliens away with pipe bombs and trip bombs, and engage Duke’s mighty foot via an “execution” move he performs on weakened enemies.  Finally, I make my way to Duke’s Lady Killer casino, where he can interact with slot machines and drive around in a Duke-themed toy racecar upon being shrunk to action-figure size (with a high-pitched voice to match).  I forget the exact order of events, but at some point I am taking the elevator again when a power disruption leaves Duke to the task of saving a struggling babe who is being taken down with it.  “Pull the emergency lever, Duke!” she screams, and after several tries, I am successful.  Why am I making a point to mention this seemingly trivial event?  Because that’s what Duke is all about—kicking ass and saving babes along the way.

More Boss Battles = More Win

Next, I make my away around the mansion and onto the highest floor, where I encounter the second boss—the alien mothership.  With Duke approaching the seat of a high-power turret, I start to blast bullets into the eye of the ship.  Smaller alien aircraft attempt to disrupt my can of whoopass, but a flick of the turret, graced by the very responsive controls of the game, directs my aim at their dead, sorry asses.  After several tries, Duke is victorious, but debris from aircraft explosions propel him back into the abyss.  As Duke gives the alien ship the finger, he falls down into a dark room and must fight his way back into the light.

It is around this time that I encounter destructible environments.  Trip bombs situated between walls can be exposed via shooting the plaster.  Tables and other moveable objects can also be used to manipulate the environment, whether you’re trying to avoid trip lasers or you’re trying to access an unreachable area (especially if Duke is shrunk to action-figure size).  This function plays well with the numerous puzzles in the game, which often require Duke to manipulate objects in his surroundings.

I continue fighting aliens in various outdoor and indoor environments in Las Vegas.  It is hilarious to see buildings like the Asscrombie and Bitch (sp?) store and the Fellatio Hotel.  Duke’s crude style of humor is back and true to Duke Nukem 3D.  One-liners are prevalent and are spewed from not just Duke’s own mouth, but from NPCs as well.  “I'm gonna paint the town red... with your blood,” says Duke.  A soldier replies back, “What’re you waiting for, Hannukah?” true to an original quote which referenced Christmas.  Progressing deeper into the demo, I start to fear that the trip is almost coming to an end.

Before moving ahead, I take a step back to admire all the atmospheric features of the game.  In one instance, I open a cabinet to find empty beer bottles.  “The fucking aliens drank all my beer,” spits Duke.  It’s hard to recall everything, but the Duke is indeed not a pussy when it comes to dropping the F-bomb.  Speaking of fearlessness, an EDF soldier suddenly beckons an unmoved Duke to grab some armor and weapons amidst an alien invasion.  Glancing at a Master Chief-style armor and helmet set, Duke replies, “Armor is for pussies.”  Grabbing the weapons, Duke moves on to the last scene of the demo.

Enter the Battlelord, which is the third and last boss of the demo.  A quick thing to note here is that I’m about 90 minutes or 10% into the game now (which is about where the demo ends) and I’m already fighting a third boss.  Up to this point, I’ve spilled blood with Duke’s golden Eagle, his trusty shotgun, several new alien weapons, and the aforementioned explosive weapons.  For the last boss battle, I am given the RPG, which appears to be the only weapon in the demo with assisted aiming.  It only takes in 5 ammo/grenades at a time and there’s no reloading involved.  I jump around and hide behind rocks; I dash for more ammo as I dance around the massive, enraged, and powerful Battlelord.

After blowing the motherfucker to pieces with my RPG, I approach its struggling, near-carcass of a body and punch it in the balls repeatedly.  The January 21st trailer actually has a few seconds of footage demonstrating this, so you might want to check it out if you don’t recall what I’m referring to.  This is roughly where the demo ends and my journey comes to a temporary end.  The biggest “con” or negative aspect of my demo experience is the fact that I must now wait almost three months to continue where I left off.  I stand up to exit the lap dance booth, and I’m greeted again with the realest lady at the event.

“So, what’d you think?” asks Elizabeth.  I suddenly realize I am the last person to finish the demo, probably because I spent too much time smelling the roses (and this is one game worth doing that for).  In fact, my booth’s Xbox 360 is the only one still operational.  Every other console and screen has been dismantled in preparation for the night’s party, which I am unfortunately unable to attend as a result of university obligations and my 9:35 PM flight back to LAX.  It’s roughly 7:15 and Elizabeth and the rest of the 2K staff escort me to the last shuttle, which will take us back to a location closer to the airport.

The game has mesmerized me enough to cause a temporary loss in my bearings, and it’s not until we’re inside the shuttle that I’m able to answer Elizabeth.  “It was amazing.  I think it will sell very well,” I tell her.  “And I think I know what I’m going to call my preview, because you guys truly gave me the Duke Nukem Experience tonight.”

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