13 years. We've waited 13 years to see Duke unzip his flies and relieve himself in a urinal and groan with delight. The opening area of Duke Nukem Forever is a great homage to the bathroom hijinks of old while showing that you'll be seeing improved interactivity for that long, long wait. After emptying his bladder by hammering on the right trigger, Duke can turn on taps, hand dryers and ooze soap over the counter from a wall dispenser. Cracked mirrors show an impressive warped view of the environment in real-time and, delightfully, a turd found in one of the cubicles can be picked up and bounced off a wall. Outside, a locker room whiteboard can be drawn on with markers and subsequently erased, much to the approval of a nearby soldier. Initial thoughts? Duke Nukem Forever may have some contemporary tricks up its sleeve but is still as wonderfully jovial and crude as ever.
Eventually the corridors open up to the main event, a vast open-air American football stadium housing a towering mechanical beast armed to the teeth. Despite its imposing appearance, it's a simple boss battle of circle strafing to avoid attack and responding by launching projectiles from a double-barrelled rocket launcher, and occasionally pausing to grab more ammo from supply caches at the edge of the field. Once downed, a QTE sees Duke rip the lone eyeball from the Cyclops, kick it over a goal post and bellow a colourful remark. Then, seconds later, the screen pulls out to reveal that the game so far has been played by Duke himself with an Xbox 360 controller while being pleasured by two women at the same time. Asked whether the game he's playing - which so happens to be titled Duke Nukem Forever - is any good, Duke responds: "After 13 years it better f**king be."
It's a welcome acknowledgement to the game's turbulent past, one of which Gearbox president Randy Pitchford is more than eager to explain. Despite a lack of previews, the game has been in full development since its announcement in 1997, and has been given various rewrites and engine updates over the years. 3D Realms had decided to factor the game's lengthy development into the story with the latest revision, as evidenced by the introduction to the title, which sees Duke effectively crowned king of the world after saving the planet 13 years ago. Owning fast food franchises, hotel chains and casinos all in his name, his fortunes are shattered when aliens once again return to Earth seeking peace, something he reluctantly tolerates until they pillage the planet of its women. Duke single-handedly sets off to put things right.
As expected, it can come across as being fairly dated in parts. While the opening segment of the game felt fairly modern when it came to gameplay and visuals, the second hands-on portion wasn't as smooth. It saw Duke climb into a monster truck and head through dusty canyons, using boosters to jump over chasms or flatten wondering Pig Cops. The visuals showed a grainy, bland look that PC games had five to ten years ago, with low resolution textures and sparse environments, along with a truck that looked remarkably box-like and handled as such. But it's entirely playable and when taken into perspective there is a real old-school charm to it all. The following segment of run-and-gun gameplay was just as enjoyable, as Pig Cops strolls from behind rocks ready to be taken down by a shotgun or the classic Shrink Gun that allows you to stamp on your foes.
Duke Nukem Forever will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC early next year.