Duke Nukem (character)

Duke Nukem (character)
Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem.png
Duke Nukem as he appears in Duke Nukem Forever
Series Duke Nukem
First game Duke Nukem (1991)
Created by George Broussard
Scott Miller
Jim Norwood
Todd Replogle
Voiced by Jon St. John[1]

Duke Nukem is a fictional character and action hero who has been the protagonist in over a dozen video games.

The character first appeared in the 1991 video game Duke Nukem (also temporarily known as "Duke Nukum") developed by Apogee Software. He has since starred in multiple sequels developed by 3D Realms, and presently by Gearbox Software who have since bought the rights to Duke Nukem and own the intellectual property.[2] The character was created by video game developers Todd Replogle, Jim Norwood, George Broussard, and Scott Miller of Apogee Software. The character was redesigned into the present tough guy incarnation by George Broussard and Allen Blum 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, had been in development hell since at least 1997. The game was released in the US on June 14, 2011 and was released worldwide on June 10, 2011.[3][4]


Personality / appearance

In the original two games Duke Nukem barely spoke and was portrayed as a self-proclaimed hero, initially hired by the CIA to save Earth from Dr. Proton. According to the information from the backside of the Duke Nukem Character Memory Card he is 6'4" (1,93 m)[5] and weighs 240 lbs. (109 kg).[5] 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 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. 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.) This is widely believed to be a reference to Lani Minella, a voice actress that has done several voices for Duke Nukem 3D.

Duke Nukem's character is a pastiche of a number of Hollywood action heroes, such as those played by John Wayne, Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard, Kurt Russell as Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China, Roddy Piper's character Nada from They Live, and Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams from The Evil Dead series. Even his most famous line "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum" came from the movie "They Live" with Roddy Piper saying "I have come to chew bubble gum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubble gum". His appearance resembles characters played by Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme.[citation needed]

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.[6]

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 firearms. (However, a poster in the "barracks" in Episode 4, Level 1, suggests Duke Nukem 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 Colt 1911 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 blond, military-style haircut, which is existent since the first game. In every game, he traditionally wears a red tank top and blue jeans. In some of the games, Duke has a melee attack known as the "Mighty Foot", 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. This will later become autographed by Duke in Duke Nukem Forever.

Like the character 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[7][8]), and his sneering visage is often found speaking one-liners while slaughtering his enemies.

Video games

First games

Duke Nukem in the original 1991 game

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 Heavy Metal 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 a self-proclaimed hero hired by the CIA, to stop madman Dr. Proton, who has sieged Earth's largest city with his robotic servants, the Techbots.

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 wasn't voiced, but spoke through on-screen text.

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. Duke Nukem must protect Earth from an army of Rigelatins who plan to imprint his brain patterns on their war computer. 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.[9]

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.[10] 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. Like most FPS games of the day, the game featured three-dimensional environments with two-dimensional sprites standing in for weapons, enemies, and breakable background objects. Duke Nukem 3D was released for MS-DOS, Mac OS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, game.com, Mega Drive, Nintendo 64, and later re-released in 2008 for Xbox Live Arcade and for the iPhone/iPod Touch and Nokia N900 in 2009. 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 redesigned by George Broussard and Allen Blum[11] 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 content, cultural stereotypes, and strong violence.

Duke Nukem 3D, and 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.

Games with Duke Nukem as a protagonist

Other appearances

Cancelled games

One of the first projects to be announced after the smashing success of Duke Nukem 3D was a return to Duke’s 2D side-scrolling, platforming roots in a game called Duke Nukem 4Ever. The project was led by Keith Schuler, the lead designer and programmer on Paganitzu and Realms of Chaos, and a level designer on the Plutonium Pak. Schuler wanted to create a Duke Nukem title that used the same graphical techniques as Donkey Kong Country. He also wanted to bring back Dr. Proton, Duke’s original nemesis. Proton returned to unhatch a plan involving setting off explosives along the San Andreas Fault to separate California from the US mainland, and renaming it Proton Island. The US president is apathetic, happy to be rid of California, but Duke Nukem steps in, having recently purchased a condo in Malibu. The 2D Forever was planned to mesh many of new concepts of Duke Nukem 3D with the old style play of the first two games in the series. Duke’s look, personality and armory from the recent shooter would be matched up with run and gun platforming, with a few new objects like a cloaking device and five piece weapon called the Heavy Barrel added in. Players would face off against Dr. Proton’s minions, the Protonite cyborgs, along with other level-specific grunt enemies. Each episode would end with a boss fight, with the last one being against Proton himself. Development on Duke Nukem 4Ever stalled in the middle of 1996 when Keith Schuler was reassigned to work on maps for the Duke Nukem 3D expansion pack. The game’s cancellation wasn’t publicly announced until 1997, at such a time where 3D Realms had decided to reuse the name for their sequel to Duke Nukem 3D. After cancellation the game went on to become a new game called Ravager, that project was then sold to a developer called Inner Circle Creations who renamed and released the title as Alien Rampage in 1996.

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,[12] using an improved version of the engine used in the Carnivores series. The game was cancelled in December of that year.[13] The company that had been developing the game, Ukraine-based developer Action Forms, went on to develop its own game, Vivisector: Beast Within (originally titled Vivisector: Creatures of Doctor Moreau) instead.

A PlayStation 2 game called Duke Nukem D-Day (also known as Duke Nukem: Man Of Valor), was announced in 1999, renowned for having one of the longest development cycles of any title in the PlayStation 2's considerable history. Long rumored to implement the same technology that powered the PC version of Unreal, the game sometimes erroneously referred to as Duke Nukem Forever PS2 (this console title was not to be a part of the PC game, and instead was a new creation by developer n-Space) consistently battled crippling delays; often putting in question its status as an active or cancelled game. The project was finally abandoned in 2003.

Legal wrangling between 3D Realms and Take 2 Interactive over the non-delivery of Duke Nukem Forever after 3D Realms laid off all development staff in 2009 revealed that the two companies had agreed on the production of a console targeted Duke game in October 2007. 3D Realms accepted the deal in exchange for a $US2.5 million dollar advance on royalties in order to continue to fund development of Duke Nukem Forever. Gearbox was later revealed to be the developer of the game.

Very few details exist on what Duke Begins actually is. From what one can deduce from the name of the game and the court filings, the title was intended to be an origin story, showing how Duke came to be the ridiculous ego-driven ass kicker that he is. The status of Duke Begins is not clear. Development on the title began within two months of the October 2007 agreement with the intention of a mid 2010 release. 3D Realms alleged in court filings that the title was put on hold in April 2009 in order to deny them royalties to pay back the $2.5 million advance. Whether Duke Begins was put on hold after 3D Realms approached Take 2 to request $US6 million to finish Duke Nukem Forever is yet to be confirmed.

Gearbox Software has since shifted to working on Duke Nukem Forever after finalising a deal with 3D Realms to acquire the unfinished game and the rights to the Duke Nukem franchise.

When Duke Nukem Trilogy was announced in 2008, it was intended for release on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. Each game in the series was to have two versions that shared the same story – the Nintendo DS game was a side scrolling affair, while the PSP version was to be a third person shooter not unlike Duke Nukem: Time to Kill. The PSP version was said to be the more adult-oriented of the two games. It is not determined exactly when the PSP versions of the Duke Nukem Trilogy games were cancelled, but one can safely say that the drawn out development of the title, low quality of the game and the poor sales of PSP software since 2008 were certainly factors.

An HD remake of Duke Nukem II was also planned at one point.

Duke Nukem Forever

The most recent installment in the video game series, Duke Nukem Forever, was in development hell for over a decade after being announced in early 1997. 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 title was subject to intense speculation and won several vaporware awards.

The development team was terminated in May 2009, but according to 3D Realms, the project was not officially cancelled and the game was still in development. Although Take-Two Interactive owned the publishing rights to the game, they did not have an agreement with 3D Realms to provide funding for its continuation.[14] A lawsuit was filed by Take-Two Interactive against 3D Realms over their failure to finish development of the game. The lawsuit reached a "settlement" in May 2010.[15]

Gearbox Software bought the rights and intellectual property of the franchise [2] and started work on the project in 2009. A playable demo was shown at PAX where the release timeframe was announced as May 3, 2011 in the US, and May 6 internationally on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.[16]

On January 21, an official release trailer was unveiled by 2K Games with a confirmed release date of May 3, 2011 for North America.[17]

On March 24, 2K Games sent out a statement that "Duke Never Comes Early" to announce a delay until June 10 in North America.[18]

On May 5, 2011, the Steam network started selling the game with June 14 as the advertised availability date.

Duke Begins

The October 2011 edition of the Official Xbox Magazine reports that Gearbox Software plans to reboot the Duke Nukem franchise once Aliens: Colonial Marines is complete and out the door. The series, which began back in 1991 with the original Duke Nukem PC game developed by Apogee Software, will relaunch with the long-discussed Duke Begins (possibly) on an unspecified date.


Several Duke Nukem games contained popular tracks from well known bands, a greatest hits album, entitled Duke Nukem: Music to Score By, was released in 1999, with the following track listing:[19]

  1. Duke Nukem Theme - Megadeth
  2. Cinnamon Girl - Type O Negative (previously unreleased in U.S.)
  3. What U See Is What U Get - Xzibit
  4. Blisters - Coal Chamber (previously unreleased in U.S.)
  5. Song 10 - Zebrahead
  6. The Thing I Hate - Stabbing Westward
  7. Push it - Static X
  8. It's Yourz - Wu-Tang Clan
  9. Screaming from the Sky - Slayer
  10. New World Order - Megadeth (previously unreleased)
  11. Stone Crazy - The Beatnuts
  12. Land of the Free Disease - Corrosion of Conformity (previously unreleased)

The pre-release game trailer of Duke Nukem Forever uses "The Stroke" by Mickey Avalon.

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.[20] 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,[21][22] but the film never made it to production.

In 2008, Max Payne producer Scott Faye has revealed to IGN.com 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 [1]

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

Cultural impact


Duke Nukem was a short-lived toy line from defunct toy company ReSaurus.[23] 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. As of Toyfair 2011 however, NECA revealed a new series of Duke Nukem Forever action figures with more details and articulation than the previous series from 1997.

Critical reception

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.[24] Charles Onyett of IGN likened Duke Nukem's maturity to a "twelve-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".[25] Ryan Winterhalter of 1UP.com 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."[26] Cian Hassett of PALGN was more positive of the character and found 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).[27]


  1. ^ a b c Jon St. John at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b Gearbox Announces: “We Own Duke Nukem”
  3. ^ Release date announcement
  4. ^ Duke Nukem Forever Official Website
  5. ^ a b Duke Nukem Character Memory Card
  6. ^ An Interview with Duke Nukem - Balls of Steel[dead link]
  7. ^ One on One with Bruce Campbell verbosity.wiw.org
  8. ^ November 5, 1999 IGN For Men Interview: Bruce Campbell
  9. ^ Post on 3DR forums about Duke Nukem's voice
  10. ^ "3DRealm's Official Duke Nukem I page". http://www.3drealms.com/duke1/index.html. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  11. ^ Thread on 3DR forums about character design
  12. ^ "Duke Nukem: Endangered Species Hunter Features Revealed". 3D Realms. February 16, 2001
  13. ^ IGN Staff. "Endangered Species Extinct". IGN.com. December 18, 2001.
  14. ^ "http://www.shacknews.com/featuredarticle.x?id=1127". Shack News. Retrieved May 06, 2009.
  15. ^ Michael McWhertor (2009-05-14). "Take-Two Sues Duke Nukem Forever Devs Over Failure To Deliver". Kotaku.com. http://kotaku.com/5255220/take+two-sues-duke-nukem-forever-devs-over-failure-to-deliver. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  16. ^ Duke Nukem Forever coming '2011' on Xbox 360, PS3 & PC, courtesy of Gearbox
  17. ^ Howell, Bob (2011-01-21). "Exclusive: Duke Nukem Forever Has A Release Date, New Trailer - News". www.GameInformer.com. http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2011/01/21/exclusive-duke-nukem-forever-has-a-release-date.aspx. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  18. ^ "Take-Two Interactive Software - Investor Relations - Take-Two News Release". Ir.take2games.com. http://ir.take2games.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=86428&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1542454&highlight=. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  19. ^ "Duke Nukem for DOS (1991) Trivia". MobyGames. http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/duke-nukem/trivia. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  20. ^ "GameSpot - /features/vgs/universal/duke_hist/p8_01.html". Au.gamespot.com. 1996-01-29. http://au.gamespot.com/features/vgs/universal/duke_hist/p8_01.html. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  21. ^ "Duke Nukem: The Movie - MegaGames movies". 2001-03-20. http://www.megagames.com/news/html/movies/dukenukemthemovie.shtml. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  22. ^ "Premiere, The Movie Magazine, "Joystick Cinema"". 2002-01. http://www.thethreshold.com/Threshold_pub05.html. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  23. ^ "3DRealm's Official Duke Nukem Action Figure page". http://www.3drealms.com/actionfigures/index.html. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  24. ^ Dan Whitehead (June 11, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever Review". Eurogamer. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-06-12-duke-nukem-forever-review?page=3. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  25. ^ Charles Onyett (June 11, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever Review - Xbox 360 Review at IGN". IGN. http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/117/1175639p1.html. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 
  26. ^ Ryan Winterhalter (June 14, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever Review for PC, 360, PS3 from 1UP.com". 1UP.com. http://www.1up.com/reviews/duke-nukem-forever-review. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  27. ^ Cian Hassett (June 11, 2011). "Duke Nukem Forever". PALGN. http://palgn.com.au/19171/duke-nukem-forever-review. Retrieved June 11, 2011. 

External links

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