When I first heard of Duke Nukem (not the Captain Planet character, of course), I was quite young; 12 to be exact. Duke was a pretty arrogant bad-boy hero type even back then, for how simple his first game, made back in 1991, was; bare-bones sci-fi story, simple blow-up-aliens-and-get-to-the-end gameplay, old-school EGA (16 colors at a time, and we liked it!), side-scrolling platforming, relatively low detail, and PC speaker sound, but still an enjoyable game.
Then the second game came around two years later in 1993, utilizing the Sound Blaster and extended VGA graphics (16 simultaneous colors out of a palette of 256!) and a larger viewable field, and many more features, but still a side-scroller at heart. Duke didn’t really have a chance to shine as the manly hero he’s known as today until…
Duke Nukem 3D arrived in 1996 thanks to the geniuses at 3D Realms, and what a game! Utilizing the semi-3D Build engine, Duke reinvented himself as a first-person-shooter character. You now looked through his eyes as you shot down vaguely feline (and very porcine) aliens while spouting meaty one-liners and taking time out to enjoy the ladies. And the world of manly video games would never be the same.
1999. Duke Nukem Forever is announced, but its progress is held up. For twelve years this game had not seen the light of day, in endless development hell. It received the label of ‘vaporware’ (promised software that never shows) many, many times over. It became something of a large joke in the gaming industry. It even suffered the layoff of many staff of the venerable 3D Realms, and it looked like our alien-stomping hero was gone for good.
No longer. Late last year, Gearbox Software (makers of Half-Life expansion packs and Borderlands) announced that they were picking up the long-awaited sequel. Fans rejoiced, but many rolled their eyes, even when a solid date was announced: May 3, 2011. There’d be another delay, we just knew it!
And there was. But this was quickly followed up by an announcement of the real release date: June 14, 2011! After 12 years of hype and disappointment, the King is back! As the ads and memetic mutation (quotes from media which are common usage independent of their original meaning) say, “Always bet on Duke,” even if he is running on yet another modification of the Unreal Engine 2.5, the previous iteration of the engine responsible for powering Gearbox’s own Borderlands.
Already, mere hours before the North American release, the reviews from our friends in other parts of the world are coming in, seemingly confirming our foregone conclusions, that a game that’s been delayed for 12 years couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. They’re saying that Gearbox dropped the ball, that they were rushed into releasing the game after their first delay and quality suffered as a result. For the consoles, perhaps it did. I know I thoroughly enjoyed the demo, but I will be reviewing the full PC version very soon, and we’ll see if it’s as bad as everyone says. I doubt it.