Near the beginning of Duke Nukem Forever, you make your way through a bona fide Duke Nukem museum. Statues, paintings, fourth-wall-shattering tributes to Duke’s greatest hits—the place nearly has it all. And we say “nearly” because one thing is missing from that perfume-scented love letter to Duke’s past: Duke Nukem Forever itself. Play for a bit longer, though, and it’s not hard to see why.
Thrills, drama, a long grind, and a twist ending—these are the sorts of things you normally expect from a videogame. They are not what you expect from the story behind a game. But then, Duke Nukem isn’t any ordinary game, and the saga of its development has been anything but normal. For more than 13 years, the gaming world’s been waiting for Duke, and now the end is in sight. But first, let's review what's happened until now.
It all started back in 1996, with Duke Nukem riding high. The game for which he was known, Duke Nukem 3D, was a megaton hit, and gamers clung to the cocksure hero’s every machismo-laden word. He was, quite literally, the king. He was on top of the world. Then in 1997, the follow-up, Duke Nukem Forever, was announced and, shockingly enough, it was all downhill from there. Duke disappeared. Year after year passed, and short of a few quick glimpses of the game, Duke was a disappointing no-show. His once-loyal fan base declared him dead. Anticipation rotted and festered, boiling over into angry cynicism.
The nail in Duke’s supposed coffin, however, came in the form of developer 3D Realms closing up shop in 2009 and a subsequent lawsuit from publisher Take-Two Interactive. And then everything went silent. Game Over. Continue? 5... 4… 3… 2… 1…
But wait! At the last second, Borderlands developer Gearbox Software stepped in and saved the day. Now, Duke Nukem Forever’s back on track and—get this—it’s actually going to come out this time. So, how’s the game? Who’s in charge now? After more than a decade of waiting, will it all be worth it?
We traveled deep into the heart of Texas—to Gearbox’s only-slightly evil lair—for three interviews with the men responsible for the past, present, and future of Duke Nukem. We’ll tell you what they have to say about the legendary franchise and we’ll share the details of our hands-on experience with the upcoming game. Yes, Duke fans, it’s safe to dream again.
Did you order a copy of Duke Nukem Forever back when you thought “Forever” was simply a marketing buzz word? If so the game’s new developer Gearbox Software is looking to make things right by finding a way to honor DNF pre-orders. Company spokesman Randy Pitchford claims they are involved in high level discussions with various retail groups during his London press event last Thursday, and claims “he didn’t want to let those gamers down”.
There are a lot of people who pre-ordered the game," Pitchford told the press. "We’ve been starting to talk with retailers because we didn’t take them directly, and 3D Realms didn’t take them, it was all retailers going 'I'm going to take this guy’s money.' We’ve started to engage them, saying 'Hey, you’ve got customers who you made a promise to, and any bad feelings they have will reflect on us, so can we work together to do something for those people?'"
The retail scene for PC gaming has changed quite a bit since pre-orders started being accepted back in 2001 so it will be interesting to see what if anything can be done. DNF is still slated to hit the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in 2011, and yes we honestly are truly believe them this time.
Worried that Duke Nukem Forever will come out, and then Duke Nukem Foreverer will launch just as the sun collapses and devours the earth and all that you hold dear? Well, no worries there, since 3D Realms has relinquished its Duke Nukem privileges. (Also, happily, you’ll be long dead before the sun ever goes Pac-Man on our humble little power planet, so hooray for that too!) From this point forward, Borderlands developer Gearbox will be handling all things Nukem – not just Forever.
“Fifteen years ago, Duke Nukem 3D helped launch my professional video game development career,” said Gearbox boss Randy Pitchford. “The Gearbox Software team and I are ecstatic that we have grown to a position to be able to pick up and carry the torch and help Duke rise back to glory in his time of need. Fans of the legendary hero and all the incredible talent that have ever helped him all deserve the very best support that we can bring.”
So, everyone wins, right? Well, mostly everyone. Surely 3D Realms co-founder George Broussard – the man who pumped mountains of his own money into Forever – can’t be entirely thrilled that someone else is signing their name on his handiwork. Well, shows what we know, because he also thinks the franchise is in good hands.
“Gearbox was the only home appropriate for the Duke Nukem brand. Their vision for its future direction is exciting and unbelievable. I personally cannot wait for fans to see their unique take on the franchise. This will be a win-win situation for everyone involved, especially the fans,” Broussard said in a press release.
What’s this odd sensation? Is it… optimism? For Duke Nukem? The thick layer of ice that once coated our cold hearts has finally melted, it would seem. The reason? Hope, perhaps. Or maybe global warming. We really hope it’s that first thing, though.