So, a few weeks ago, Duke Nukem Forever became Duke Nukem Never after it’s developers – 3D Realms – went bankrupt. It was obvious. Working on a game for 15 years with no more than a few screenshots and a movie is something that just will not work financially, and it’s investors finally pulled out, after a last minute deal to get something out there.
Yes, 3D Realms to raise capital began selling some of it’s licences, one such game was the predecessor to Duke Nukem Forever, Duke Nukem 3D, and the sole reason why Duke Nukem became popular in the first place.
Yes, the early Duke Nukem’s were okay, but not exactly great side scrolling platformer, and when 3D Realms announced a sequel (Duke Nukem 3D), then interest was piqued a little bit. It was due to be a Doom clone, but it alone stood alone for one reason and one reason only.
Yes, the only thing that was great about the early Duke Nukem games was the humour. Duke was portrayed as the most alpha of alpha males. He had guns, muscles and women hanging off each arm, he also had no consience, no concept of love, and generally just a hard nut. A stereotype of most action heroes, Duke swore like a trooper and had some classic one liners that Arnie could only dream of. The storyline was as simple as Duke – Aliens shot down his hoverbike, and now those “Alien bastards are going to pay for shooting down his ride”, so Duke progresses through a number of levels, eventually defeating bosses and saving the world.
The world however isn’t a nice place, it’s a dystopic society, with women are sex objects and popular film franchises are now X-Rated. The LAPD are now genetically mutated pigs, and it’s upto Duke to save this wasteland using a manner of weapons. Some remarkably familiar ones (shotguns, pistols, rocket launcher), as well as some unique ones (laser trip mines, shrink rays, freeze guns). Furthermore, Duke has access to some items such as steroids (go faster), medipack, and a jetpack that allowed Duke to explore higher up territories.
Yes, this was the first real game to use it’s 3D moniker. Although still 2.5D (enemies are still sprites), the game allowed a lot more free roaming than games such as Doom, and enemies can be on top of you as well as behind, in front or to the side of you. This allowed for puzzles & enemies to be a lot tougher, making it a better game. Play this game similar to Doom, and you’ll struggle.
However, the main reason that this game is respected even today, and what caused all the “Duke Nukem Forever” furore over the past few years was the humour. It was satirical smut, with classic one liners from Duke Nukem that are rembered even today. There are so many fun things to do, and interacting with the enviornment is encouraged (low on health, find a toilet and urinate, for example), and some arcade machines get a response out of Duke (such as the Duke Nukem arcade game, which Duke responds with “Hmmmm…don’t have time to play with myself”). It was full of pop culture references, and the brilliance of the BUILD engine make it so playable today.
Just a shame that there will never be a sequel.