Some intrepid gamers who are modifying the old Duke Nukem shoot 'em up for high-resolution playback. Cool. So where's Duke Nukem Forever - the long-awaited follow-up?
The aptly-titled shooter goes down as the ultimate shorthand for everything that can go wrong when a game gets too bold. Since the first game debuted in 1991, the franchise (which includes more than 15 titles) has raked in roughly $500 million. The beefy, catchphrase-spewing, Ahnold-inspired Duke was a huge innovation - establishing the sort of political incorrectness, and giddy gore that would become the trademark of the Grand Theft Auto generation. Fittingly, Take-Two Interactive, publishers of GTA, would eventually snap up the rights to Duke Nukem Forever (along with buying 3D Realms' acclaimed shoot 'em up, Max Payne, for $45 million).
Oh, and it seemed so cool at the time. DNF promised a cheeky, cheesy antidote to the grim late 90s shooters. With 3D Realms staying tight-lipped, fans devoured every new bit of into online (lap dances! Vegas!). Then came the lag, the rumors, the engine switches (Quake II! Unreal!). Diehards hoped the delays were some elaborate viral marketing hoax, but couldn't avoid the stench of staleness setting in.
After a tantalizing build-up of tweets, screenshots, and rumors this spring that seemed to indicate the game's release, the brawny first person shooter ended with a whimper. Earlier this year, 3D Realms announced that it was shutting down for good and ending development on the title. Gamers hoping for viral marketing ploy were quickly fragged by a post from the company's webmaster, Joe Siegel. "This is not a marketing thing," he wrote, "It's true." But with other Duke spin-offs, and maybe a film, in the works, the legend lives on.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.