When the 2001 Duke Nukem Forever E3 version leaked online the other day, coming out of his beer-scented ’90s strip club masked by half a pack of Hubba Bubba, piqued our curiosity. Sure, the build was obviously incomplete and buggy, but maybe at least it could have helped us visualize a timeline where Duke Nukem Forever came out in the early 2000s and was actually fine, rather than the head-on-hand embarrassment. that we had with the 2011 game.
The leaker for the 2001 version initially said they planned to release it in June, but it turns out they couldn’t wait that long and we found out – via kotaku — which is available for download right now from the Internet Archive (complete with the Unreal Editor used to create the original maps, source code, and for some reason the entire 4Chan thread where it was initially revealed).
To be clear, this is nowhere near what you would consider a game: it’s a construction in progress that was never intended for the public. Apparently it’s a bit complicated to work, but on the Reddit thread for the build there are some people talking on getting it to render at the correct resolution, removing the d3d8 wrapper, and other tips to make it playable.
While almost everyone agrees that the build is extremely rough and little more than a vertical slice, players are reporting some interesting ideas out there. TM2P Redditor mentions things like interactive in-game touchscreens, parasite-infected civilians and zombies, a Bioshock-style ‘Pipe Dream’ hack, and a thriller sequence where you have to escort a civilian through the darkness. Oh, and a dedicated ‘piss’ button, of course (which I shake my head at now, but no doubt a 14-year-old me in 2001 would have found the most hilarious thing in the world).
So Duke Nukem Forever (2001) is back, albeit in a piecemeal form. It’s worth noting that with the source code also available, there’s nothing stopping modders from building it into something resembling a full game. While fans are delighted with this unexpected revival, the leak brought up some hard memories for the game’s developers, leading to a pretty wild fight on twitter yesterday between Apogee co-founders George Broussard and Scott Miller on what went wrong during the infamously ill-fated development.
With all these bad feelings unresolved, maybe it’s best this one is now in the custody of the community and not its creators…