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Duke Nukem Forever

What are you waiting for, Christmas?

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

According to Jewish law, Duke Nukem Forever would be a man by now. First announced to the public in April 1997, this game has weathered the longest cycle of delays, cancellations, resurrections and cryosleeps, effectively mocking everything we know about game development and the space-time continuum in the process.

Well, the wait is nearly over. While it's by no means complete DNF has been seen, heard and played by visitors to this year's Penny Arcade Expo.

The story of how this happened is a long and twisted tale. It's the story of 3D Realms' determination to provide the successor to their 1996 hit, Duke Nukem 3D. After numerous delays, 3D Realms went bankrupt in 2009 - and Duke went with it. "The dream had died," lamented Gearbox president Randy Pitchford.

But not all was lost. Pitchford, as it turns out, got his start at 3D Realms back in the day. After leaving to start his own company, Gearbox, he began work on the wildly successful Borderlands. It was released last year, just after it looked like Duke had bitten the dust for good.

"But you can't kill the Duke," Pitchford exclaimed. He returned to the now defunct 3D Realms and helped out by absorbing some of the studio's staff into Gearbox. There, the idea was, they could finish the game. (Fun fact: Duke Nukem co-creator Allen Blum is still working on the game. Now that's determination.)

These shots are all taken off-screen, as official images still aren't available.

With all this in mind, I sit down at PAX to go hands-on with the demo. It begins promisingly, with the fan favourite quote "'It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum" splayed across a black background, Pulp Fiction-style.

The screen fades to Duke's point of view. We're looking at a urinal. The very first button you press in the game makes you pee for what feels like, well, forever - perhaps a nod to the audience's impatience, then relief at getting to play the oft-delayed title.

And perhaps reassurance that DNF will stay true to the series' trademark potty humour. You can go up to any toilet and pee, never running out of urine, which suggests Duke is the most hydrated hero in history.

After spending a minute messing around with the novelty pissing mechanic, I meet up with a squad of soldiers in a pep rally room. On the wall is a whiteboard bearing crude doodle of an alien which is labelled "cock block." You can draw on the whiteboard with dry erase pens in a multitude of colours if you so desire.

Duke was never much of an artist though, so leaving that behind I try joining the soldiers. However, collapsing roofs and piles of rubble get in my way. I head out into the middle of what turns out to be an American football stadium, where it looks like I'm going to have to face a giant alien cyclops alone.

He's all out of bubblegum.

The only gun available in this section is called a Devastator. It's a hybrid between a machine gun and rocket launcher, so it shoots lots of rockets very fast. The cyclops can shoot projectiles and dodge towards you, but he's not hard to dodge. In fact I deal with him just by circling him while strafing until I run out of ammo - at which point a helicopter appears and drops a fresh supply.

There's a spectacular finish, however. Duke yanks out the cyclops' eye and kicks a field goal with it.

Then the camera pulls back to reveal we've actually just been watching a videogame Duke is playing. A blond woman in a schoolgirl outfit emerges from under Duke's lap and asks, "Was it good?"

Her twin then reveals herself and asks, "And the game? Was it good?"

"After 12 f***in' years it had better be," replies Duke.