2011’s Duke Nukem Forever languished in development hell for 15 years before its release. Its tumultuous cycle, which began in 1997, spawned multiple builds and demos by original developer 3D Realms. Today, footage of one of those early versions of the game has surfaced online.
As spotted by GameSpota 4 channels user known as x0r uploaded footage of a 1-minute, 20-second in-game installment of a 2001 demo of the game. The authenticity of the video was semi-confirmed on Twitter by Duke Nukem co-creator George Broussard, who was one of the main designers of Forever with 3D Realms during its long development. According to Broussard, he has no idea how the footage surfaced, but dashed hopes of a full, playable build by describing these demos as a “handful of barely populated test levels.”
Yes, the leak seems real. No, I’m not really interested in talking about it or retreading a painful past. You should strongly temper expectations. There really isn’t a game to play. Just a handful of sparsely populated test levels. I don’t know who leaked this.
— George Broussard (@georgebsocial) May 9, 2022
However, the backer claims to have access to the demo’s source code and plans to release it and a level editor in June.
The demo shows Duke mowing down alien-infected SWAT soldiers at a strip club while doing his signature banter. You can spot an early version of the Ego meter that would appear in the final game (where it basically functioned as a shield). The footage also shows a quick toggle weapon menu for changing gear on the fly.
Another short clip showed a first-person motorcycle segment. The no-frills clip is exactly what it sounds like.
Duke Nukem Forever received less than stellar reviews upon release (we gave it a 6.75 out of 10) and is the latest Duke Nukem game to date. The ill-fated title is ultimately most notable for having one of the longest development cycles in gaming history. The only significant sign of life the series has shown in recent years was the 2018 announcement of a Duke Nukem film starring John Cena. However, that too has quietly turned into its own development hell, assuming it still happens.