Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem series
Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem as he appears in Duke Nukem Forever
First appearance Duke Nukem (1991)
Created by George Broussard
Scott Miller
Jim Norwood
Todd Replogle
Voiced by
Joe Siegler (Duke Nukem II)
Jon St. John[1]

Duke Nukem is a fictional character and action hero who has been the protagonist in over a dozen video games, comic books, the fictional universe in which they take place and a proposed upcoming live action science fiction and horror or action feature film. Numerous figurines of the character have been produced, as has a pinball machine.

The character first appeared in the 1991 video game Duke Nukem (also temporarily known as "Duke Nukum") which was developed by Apogee Software, now 3D Realms. The character was created by video game developers Todd Replogle and Scott Miller of Apogee Software. The character was redesigned into the present tough guy incarnation by George Broussard, Allen Blum, Jim Norwood for the 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D. In the dozen or so Duke Nukem games since Duke Nukem 3D, this incarnation of the character has been constant, and voiced by voice actor Jon St. John.[1] A sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, Duke Nukem Forever, has been in development hell since at least 1997.

Personality / appearance

In the original two games Duke Nukem barely spoke and was portrayed as a disgruntled TV viewer who took offense to Dr. Proton interrupting the soap operas. However Duke's personality in all his games since the third game in the series, Duke Nukem 3D, has been that of a wise-cracking, hyper-masculine, egotistical, chauvinist, machismo-filled, womanizing tough guy. It should be noted that in Duke Nukem II he starts to move more into the direction of a traditional action hero. His missions generally involved killing aliens that had invaded Earth to enslave its women. He is apparently sexually adept and irresistible to women, and circumstances generally find him surrounded by many buxom women. He does however frequently mention an estranged love named "Lani" in numerous games, although she is never elaborated on and seems to be the butt of many of his jokes. (Indeed, in Duke Nukem 3D, it is shown that he has a tattoo of her name on one of his buttocks.)

Duke Nukem's character is a pastiche of a number of Hollywood-action heroes, such as those played by Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard, Kurt Russell's character from Big Trouble In Little China, Roddy Piper's character from They Live, and Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams from the Evil Dead series. His appearance resembles characters played by Dolph Lundgren and Jean Claude Van Damme.

Voiced by Jon St. John in all incarnations in which the character speaks (with the exception of Duke Nukem II), Duke's voice is based on that of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry.[2]

Like the characters often played by Schwarzenegger and Stallone, Duke is a confident, aggressive, and frequently politically incorrect muscle-man, who, although not superhuman, nonetheless manages to achieve incredible physical feats of violence and conquest through sheer machismo and expertise with automatic weapons. (However, there is evidence in Duke Nukem 3D that he may have been genetically engineered.) Other than a wide array of automatic firearms, explosives, and energy weapons, Duke is best known for his trademark jet pack, which gives him the ability to fly short distances in quick bursts. He is also known for his golden Desert Eagle pistol and sunglasses, which completely conceal his eyes and which he has not been seen without (even at night) since Duke Nukem 3D, his leathers, his motorbikes and his platinum blonde, military-style haircut, which is existent since the first game. In every game, he traditionally wears a red tank top and blue jeans. In all of the games, Duke has a melee attack known as the "Mighty Boot", which is basically a strong kick to the face.

In Duke Nukem II, it is shown that Duke wrote an autobiography entitled Why I'm So Great.

Like the characters played by Bruce Campbell, Nukem is also a smart-mouth (although Duke's humor is somewhat less sarcastic and more straightforwardly aggressive, a few of Duke Nukem 3D's phrases are taken directly from the Campbell vehicle Army of Darkness; Campbell has expressed anger at not being consulted or paid for the use of these phrases[3][4]), and his sneering visage is often found speaking one-liners while slaughtering his enemies.

Video games

First games

File:Duke Nukem.gif

Duke Nukem was initially created in the late 1980s by chief programmer Todd Replogle of Apogee Software (now 3D Realms) as the protagonist for the video game he was designing entitled Metal Future set in the then near future of 1997. After hearing the character's name, producer and founder of Apogee, Scott Miller, suggested the game should have the same name. Miller helped design the character around his thoughts about the name. Artwork was done by George Broussard, Allen H. Blum III, and Jim Norwood. However, the character was somewhat different in this original incarnation. Although he was still blonde and stocky, in the original game Duke Nukem was not an action hero but a disgruntled TV viewer who took offense to lobotomized madman Dr. Proton attacking Shrapnel City with his robotic servants the Techbots, in the process interrupting Duke Nukem's favourite show, The Oprah Winfrey Show.

The original game was released as Duke Nukem in 1991 as a two dimensional platform game. This game was written for the IBM PC compatible, and featured 320×200, 16-color EGA graphics with vertical and horizontal scrolling. The original game had three episodes, the first distributed as shareware. Duke Nukem does not feature voices, and Duke spoke with mere text display on the screen such as "I'm gonna kick butt".

The sequel, Duke Nukem II, was released two years later and the same mostly-silent incarnation of the character was used, although he is now a hailed American hero. Shrapnel City has been rebuilt as the retrofuturistic "Neo LA" which Duke Nukem must protect from an army of invading Rigelatins. The sequel was over four times larger and took advantage of 256-color VGA graphics, MIDI music, and digitized sound. Only 16 colors were actually used on-screen at once; however, three different 16-color palettes were used. Duke Nukem II features an intro with one line spoken by Joe Siegler ("I'm Back"), and a death scream by character co-creator Todd Replogle.[5]

Title problems

The first Duke Nukem game was titled Duke Nukem, but Apogee learned that this name might have already been trademarked for the Duke Nukem character in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, so they changed it to Duke Nukum for the 2.0 revision[6]. The name was later discovered not to be trademarked, so the spelling Duke Nukem was restored for Duke Nukem II and all successive Duke games.

3D era

The third game in the series was the first-person shooter entitled Duke Nukem 3D and was released in 1996. The game was set in the early 21st century with Duke battling with mutants and aliens. The game has improved graphics. Duke Nukem 3D was released for MS-DOS, Mac OS, Sega Saturn, Mega Drive,Nintendo 64, and later re-released in 2008 for Xbox Live Arcade. Duke Nukem 3D is perhaps the most recognized Duke Nukem game, with over a dozen expansion packs.

For Duke Nukem 3D the character of Duke Nukem was dramatically redrawn by George Broussard and Jim Norwood[7] to become the macho, wise-cracking character better known today. Duke Nukem 3D was one of the most controversial games at the time due to its strong language, sexual/misogynistic content, cultural stereotypes, and gratuitous violence.

Duke Nukem 3D, and in the dozen or so subsequent Duke Nukem games, feature Jon St. John as the voice of Duke Nukem.[1] Duke Nukem 3D was the first game in which the character has a significant speaking role.

Full game list

Cancelled games

Duke Nukem: Endangered Species was announced in January 2001. It was to be a hunting game where the player could hunt everything from dinosaurs to snakes[8], using an improved version of the engine used in the Carnivores series. The game was cancelled in December of that year.[9] The company that had been developing the game, Ukraine-based developer Action Forms, went on to develop its own game, Vivisector: Beast Inside (originally titled Vivisector: Creatures of Doctor Moreau) instead.


Main article: Duke Nukem Forever

The next installment in the video game series, Duke Nukem Forever, has been in development hell for over a decade after being announced in early 1997.[10] Subsequently the game has often been declared either "the longest game ever in production or an elaborate in-joke at the expense of the industry".[11] DNF was announced in April 1997, and promotional information for the game was released in one form or another in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Due to this, the game had been subject to intense speculation and has won several vaporware awards.

The development team was terminated in May 2009, but according to 3d Realms, the project has not officially been cancelled and the game is still in development. Although Take-Two Interactive still owns the publishing rights to the game, they do not have an agreement with 3D Realms to provide funding for the game's continued development.[12] A lawsuit has been filed by Take-Two Interactive against 3D Realms over their failure to finish development of the game. The lawsuit has reached a "settlement" as of May 2010.[13]

Toy line / action figurines

Duke Nukem was a short-lived toy line from defunct toy company ReSaurus[14]. Primarily centered around Duke Nukem 3D, the line featured three versions of Duke (with a fourth "internet only" Duke that came with a CD-ROM and freezethrower accessory), the Pigcop, Octabrain, and Battlelord. The toys were prone to breakage (Duke's legs were held on by a thin plastic rod which was easy to snap and the Octabrain had numerous fragile points). More toys were planned to coincide with the release of Duke Nukem Forever, but the game's delay halted these toys, and ReSaurus eventually went out of business.

Proposed feature film

In the late 1990s, it was announced that Hollywood film producer Lawrence Kasanoff (Mortal Kombat, Class of 1999) was working on a Duke Nukem film.[15] The plot was to feature aliens invading Duke's favorite strip club. However the Kasanoff's Nukem film never got past the pre-production phase for numerous reasons, mainly funding issues.

Plans for a live action Duke Nukem movie to be produced by Kasanoff's company Threshold Entertainment were announced in 2001[16][17], but the film never made it to production.

In 2008, Max Payne producer Scott Faye has revealed to that he is planning to bring Duke Nukem to the big screen. Faye, who runs production company Depth Entertainment, said he hopes to compliment these with "a Duke film scenario that will compel a studio to finance a feature version... Certainly, there's a large audience that knows and loves this character." He went on: "We're expanding Duke's 'storyverse' in a very significant major way without abandoning or negating any element that's being used to introduce Duke to the next-gen platforms." This can be found here

During mid 2009 an interview on Gamasutra revealed that a Duke Nukem movie is currently in pre-production.

Promotion and reception

Duke Nukem has been listed on many "Best Characters" and "Best Heroes" lists over the years,[7][8][9] including being listed as number one in ScrewAttack's "Top 10 Coolest Video Game Characters" list in 2007.[10] Featuring him in the section "top ten forces of good" in their 2004 list of top 50 retro game heroes, Retro Gamer called Duke "the ultimate cheese hero, and a true remnant of 80’s action flicks."[11] He was listed at number 27 in the "Top 50 Video Game Characters" list by Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2011.[12] GameDaily also ranked him sixth on their list of best anti-heroes in video game.[13] In 2011, Empire ranked him as the 20th greatest video game character, calling him "one of the best action characters ever devised" and adding that "Film might have Schwarzenegger, but Gaming's got Mr Nukem".[14]

Reception of the character by the time of Duke Nukem Forever's release was mostly mixed. Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer elaborated on Duke Nukem's decreased relevance since 1996, and added that the character's "half-hearted digs" at rival franchises were ill-advised due to the game's datedness.[15] Charles Onyett of IGN likened Duke Nukem's maturity to a "12-year-old boy with Internet access" and expressed disappointment in the character's datedness and the missed opportunity on the developers' part to "[play] with the idea of Duke as an anachronism".[16] Ryan Winterhalter of noted that Duke Nukem had become "a caricature of his former self. He's crossed the line from charmingly foul-mouthed to obnoxious and embarrassing."[17] Cian Hassett of PALGN was more positive about the character, finding him to be "genuinely hilarious" due to his tongue-in-cheek rejection of video game traditions (such as finding a key to open a door or wearing a special suit of armor).[18] Complex ranked him as the first "douchiest" video game character, stating, "[t]he trench coat, sunglasses, cheap one-liners, and bevy of women make Duke Nukem the ultimate douche."[19]


External links

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