The Facts: DNF is actually done. Gearbox is in the tweaking and debugging stage with the title. They also did pickups as recently as January to ensure that the pop culture references and Dukeisms will be as current as possible upon shipment. There will be online multiplayer, but 2K/Gearbox refused to comment any further on what it would entail, saying only that it would heavily involve the great number of weapons featured in the game. So you know we're hoping for the BFG.
The Setup: Duke is the man; 12 years after saving the world from an alien attack our hero is living in Vegas, he’s the most famous and wealthy guy in the world. He owns the most popular casino in town (as well as several other properties), the Lady Killer, in which he happens to live. In the penthouse, like a boss Duke. Unfortunately, the same aliens are back to get revenge—and despite the President’s desire for peace, Duke must once again save America from impending doom.
First impressions: The action kicks off where last year's playable demo ends: with Duke battling a boss on a football field. After a brief battle, he kicks the alien’s brain through a goal post, Mason Crosby style. It's only then that you realize that the first sequence is a game within a game. Duke is actually chilling in said penthouse, getting brain from the [W]Holsom Twins while playing a game based on his past life.
From there you work your way through a maze of hallways until you get to the action. The game is actually a bit slow during these parts, as you have to figure out where to go and what buttons to push—which makes it feel almost more puzzle than FPS. A lot of the maze factors and people interaction have to do with giving the user opportunities to perform Dukeisms, which boost the character's Ego (or energy).
The action does eventually pick up as Duke gets closer to the alien invasion. There are a number of weapons that he uses to blast aliens, including gun turrets, laser guns, and handguns—though sometimes it's more fun to just kick ass barehanded, especially when you're juiced on steroids. Just about everything in the environment can be used to fight...or simply to entertain yourself. Some, like the pool table and pinball machine, actually boost Ego as well.
The Bottom Line (So Far): DNF is fun and anti-PC in an era of all-bland-everything. Duke's as over the top as ever, just with a 2011 twist. However, the pace is at times too slow—and the same goes for Duke himself. Sometimes the run function works, and other times it just makes Duke speed up to a slightly faster walk.
The game could also use a little more direction. There are several times where users will most likely meander around until finding a crawlspace, window, chair, or whatever lets them move on the next challenge. That’s not what we expect from DNF. We want non-stop, ass-kicking, cap-busting action. Of course, with only 90 minutes of gameplay available to run through, it would be premature to say definitively whether the game lives up to 12 years of anticipation or not, but we can at least vouch that Gearbox stayed true to the “don’t give a fuck” Nukem pedigree.