The version of Duke Nukem Forever presented at E3 in 2001 is tied to one of the most infamous development stories in the industry’s history – which culminated, after 15 years of development, in a 2011 game with a lamentable design and tone. out of reach. But interest around the game’s incredibly long-term development persists, and it looks like Duke’s die-hard community will finally get their hands on the lost E3 version of the game.
By Duke4.net, a leaker named ‘x0r’ uploaded photos and gameplay footage to 4Chan, claiming they were from the E3 2001 version of Duke Nukem Forever. Since the leak, George Broussard, creator of Duke Nukem and lead project manager for most of Forever’s development, has confirmed on Twitter that the footage is indeed real, although he also says he’s not particularly interested in reminiscing about the game’s messy development. :
Yes, the leak looks real. No, I’m not really interested in talking about it or retreading a painful past. You should strongly moderate expectations. There is no real game to play. Just a handful of poorly filled test levels. I don’t know who leaked this.May 9, 2022
Looking at the footage, the game looks solid, albeit a little uninspired. The most comprehensive clip shows Duke making his way through a strip club, shooting what appear to be SWAT officers and gun turrets. My question is, where are all the pig cops and other fun aliens? It looks like some kind of gnarled tentacle burst from the dead SWATsters – suggesting they’re likely possessed by aliens in some way – but it doesn’t look as vibrant or fun as the legendary Duke Nukem 3D.
Another notable feature is that Duke has an ‘Ego’ meter that replenishes when killing enemies, which seems to work a little differently than the shield replacement Ego meter in the 2011 version. A few more gameplay clips have surfaced on YouTube, showing Duke driving a motorcycle through a tunnel as well as a weapons showcase in the game.
The leaker reaffirms Broussard’s claim that the build they got their hands on is very unfinished, but adds that “almost every chapter is present in some form. A big chunk is playable, a big chunk is locked with no enemies.” X0r says it plans to release the source code and editor for the build in June.
So it looks like Duke is coming back (in a way), and as a fan of his early work, I’m intrigued. The whole Duke character – with his outdated styles and nostalgic appeal – seems more suited to the mod scene than the mainstream, and it will be interesting if the release of this compilation can give him an underground renaissance. This build might end up being “just a handful of under-populated test levels,” as Broussard puts it, but it’s also nothing short of the Holy Grail for Nukem fans – who’ve really been waiting a long time.