There are modern concessions that have been made: Duke can sprint and only hold two weapons, among others, though the most interesting bit about Duke (which I personally think may ultimately make it more worthwhile then simply releasing a more standard sequel over a decade later) is its meta presence. Taking place in the same universe as Duke 3D, the King's status of mankind's savior has made him rich, envied, wanted, and a bonafide celebrity.
The game-within-a-game structure used to introduce the game—after defeating the first boss on a football field the camera pans out to reveal Duke himself playing the game based on his exploits as (of course) blonde twins pleasure him. Even the opening of the game—also the opening of the game that Duke is playing—starts off with our hero pissing into a urinal. After the real game proper begins (but before the violence starts) Duke's main objective is signing autographs, lifting weights, and basically enjoying the fruits of the labor he's evidently been reaping for the past fourteen years. Self-awareness isn't all that common in video games, and but it's usually a lot of fun when it happens. If Duke can use it for both self-referential humor and to make fun of the industry, so much the better. Even ideas like shrinking Duke down to the size of an action figure and having him race around his own branded casino in a toy car (apparently just for the hell of it) sound promising in terms of offering more than just the standard shooter fare we would have expected ten years ago.
Forever also doesn't appear to be taking its throwback-ness lightly. Shooting looks to be very run and gun, going back to something that's less Call of Duty and more Serious Sam, Unreal or, yes, even Duke 3D. Duke is a series that has always revolved around its machismo and inherent immaturity, and from everything that Gearbox has shown about the game to this point, it looks like things haven't changed all the much in the design department, either. (I find it particularly hilarious that Duke doesn't even have iron sights.) That's fine. Duke is what people want, and it feels like Forever is going to give them exactly that. Duke himself hasn't changed, either—his character is enough of a throwback on his own, and Gearbox still has him spouting one-liners, indulging with strippers, playing with violently vibrating dildos—you get the idea.
What seems like the most fun about the game, though, is that in acknowledging that a lot about Duke is hopelessly outdated, Gearbox is basically freeing him (and the game around him) to go forth with that knowledge and basically let those balls of steel run wild. Given the game's long development style and its famously juvenile and tongue-in-cheek tone, making the game a self-actualized throwback—in some ways almost a parody of itself—is probably the only way Gearbox could have possibly made Duke stay relevant. If they had gone the route of the reboot, it's doubtful that many people would care. On a personal level, this is actually as much as I've ever been interested in the series—you have to be smart to make dumb humor that works, and Forever certainly looks to retain Duke's delightfully one-dimensional mode beautifully.
It feels like Forever will be Duke's swan song, since I'm not sure there will be any joke left to get after the credits roll on this one. But for someone who hasn't felt particularly close to the series over the years, Duke Nukem Forever may actually in the end be worth the wait—if perhaps for more unexpected reasons.
CCC Freelance Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*