A Short History of Duke Nukem

Something that a lot of people don't know about gaming's favorite macho-man, Duke Nukem, is that he did not, in fact, debut in the eponymous first person shooter, Duke Nukem 3D. In fact, Duke Nukem 3D was the third in the series.

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Duke made his debut in an obscure PC platformer in 1991, and back then he was known as Duke "Nukum". Why the change in spelling? Nukem just seems to flow better.

The game, titled alternately Duke Nukem and Duke Nukum, took place in the "future" of 1997 with Duke blasting his way through robots and mutants and aliens galore. While the game was little more than a cult oddity at this time, Duke's trademark humor and violence were already present.

Two sequels later, Duke Nukem 3D exploded onto the scene. An unabashed DOOM clone, players forgave the game's "borrowing" of id's DOOM engine because Duke Nukem 3D was one of the first and one of the best of the DOOM clones. In fact, one could argue that the first person shooter wasn't even a genre until Duke made a trilogy with Wolfenstein and DOOM.

Duke Nukem 3D took the humor of Duke Nukem 1 and 2, the gore and 3D levels of DOOM, and added to this gratuitous sexual innuendo. The game featured a "kick" attack that allowed Duke to plant his boot up the rear end of alien enemies and easter eggs such as a real, usable urinal for Duke to relieve himself in.

The character himself may be what really grabbed the player's imagination, though. In an era of political correctness and societal pressure on men to be more sensitive and giving, Duke allowed male players to live out the fantasy of being a beer drinking, cigar chomping, gun firing chauvinist who gladly ogles any woman with a decent rack and makes the kind of corny jokes Bruce Campbell made classic in the Evil Dead films. A mix of John Wayne, Elvis Presley, General Patton and Hulk Hogan, Duke was all man.

A number of console games following didn't exactly set the world on fire, but everyone knew that Duke Nukem Forever was going to revolutionize gaming when it was finally released. Considered the "true" sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, the game was announced for release in 1998.

If you haven't been keeping score, that was about thirteen years ago, and the game still hasn't been released.

Duke Nukem Forever has long been plagued by delays and setbacks to the point of being a punchline in the games industry. However, with a new team at the helm, it looks like the legendary game is finally gearing up for a real release date in May of 2011. A lot has changed since the game first went into development. The World Trade Center attacks, three different American presidents and a political atmosphere that has gone from aggressively liberal to aggressively conservative and finally aggressively apathetic, we can only wait and see how people of the 21st Century will react to the Duke.

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