"What I wanted wasn't to just take the title and use it. I wanted what we all want: I don't want this stupid, fizzle-out ending - where they just lay everybody off and that's it. I want to play Duke Nukem Forever. I want to play the f***ing game I was supposed to play, the game I've been promised that I never got. I want to play that game. And we all do."
Randy Pitchford is on particularly good form today. The Gearbox CEO is explaining how he came to be the owner of Duke Nukem Forever - and indeed of the whole Nukem franchise. It's a tale that begins in 1996 with Pitchford's contribution to Duke Nukem 3D, the first game he ever worked on; from here the story builds and twists and swirls, encompassing all manner of asides and miniature anecdotes. There's the whole rise-and-fall of the original project - an epic chronicle of towering ambition, financial woes and bitter legal disputes. There are moments of heroism: in the weeks after they were fired by publisher Take-Two, some members of the development team refused to let Duke die, working on their code in their own time, with their own (non-existent) cash, whilst living off instant noodles. There are plenty of laughs, too - particularly when the game is described as "the biggest case of video gaming blue balls" in the history of the industry.
As the presentation continues, Duke Nukem Forever is compared to mythical creatures ("It's such a weird thing, right? He's like Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster"). Pitchford, meanwhile, likens himself to a driver in the middle of the desert, stumbling across the aftermath of a brutal car crash. This metaphor is tweaked and revised a number of times, but the underlying message is clear: he desperately wanted - and still wants - to see this game released. It's a cracking yarn, and for 45 minutes (25 minutes longer than planned), Pitchford completely owns the room. Then, and only then, do we sit down to play Duke Nukem Forever.
And how does our 12-year wait end? Why, with a stream of piss hitting the back of a urinal, of course. Forever begins with Duke relieving himself in a run-down toilet - the first of many knowing nods to the game we played in '96. You can turn on the hand-dryers and admire your reflection in a spectacularly cracked mirror, but Duke refuses to take a second piss - explaining that he'll need something to drink first. Upon leaving the bathroom, we arrive at a circular chamber, littered with the mutilated bodies of fallen soldiers. A trio of surviving troopers are gathered around a white board; it turns out that you can interact with the latter, and before long the assembled (male) press are busy drawing cocks in slightly awkward, Etch-a-Sketch fashion. As we finish one of the soldiers enthusiastically appraises our work. "Wow, that's just... wow! Well, actually, I don't get it - but if I did, I bet that guy over there would still have his arm. And at least one of his nuts."
It soon becomes clear that Duke is in the bowels of some kind of sports stadium. Moments later we find ourselves in the main arena, battling the game's first enemy: a gigantic insectoid alien who charges around using enormous jets, raining down missiles from above. Luckily Duke is armed with the Devastator, a two-headed rocket launcher that sprays out its payload at impressive speed. The fight itself is piece of cake (this is the start of the game, after all), and before long the alien behemoth has doubled over in pain. A brief Quick Time Event finds Duke climbing the fallen beast and ripping out a handful of pipes from its back; in response the creature ends up vomiting up some kind of gooey-looking internal organ, which Duke promptly kicks over the field goal at the end of the pitch. "It's goooood!" he cries. And so it is.