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From the Vault: The Game Doctor Reviews: Duke Nukem franchise

From the Vault: The Game Doctor Reviews: Duke Nukem franchise

Bill Kunkel, "The Game Doctor" was long a force in the gaming journalism world.  While Bill left us many years ago, I came across a number of reviews he sent me with instructions to "post these someday."  They make for a nice trip down memory lane for those us that that knew him and an introduction for those who didn't.  Read on...

The Duke of Nuke: Duke Nukem is Electronic Gaming's Hot, New Action Icon

In this era of multiple media, one never knows from which entertainment fountain the next action movie icon will spring. Comic books, toys, and now, video and computer games are producing a new breed of action heroes—and heroines.

Ensemble franchises like Mortal Kombat (based on Midway's electronic fighting games) scored two films and TV series, and the amazing multimedia success of Lara Croft (from Eidos' Tomb Raider series of video and computer games) helped open the way for a more testosterone-heavy action avatar.

He was soon to arrive, chewing bubblegum and hurling pipe bombs. And his name would be: Duke Nukem.

In the wake of the success sparked by id Software's early first-person action games such as Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom, the race was on to create an "engine"—a game generator which can be periodically upgraded to produce any number of games employing the same format—which would qualify as a "Doom-killer" (i.e., an engine comparable or superior to id's). As it happened, id was also cultivating a profitable side business by licensing its older engines to other software companies. Since id was upgrading its engines with each new game, its own product would always have an advantage over its licensors'. On the other hand, licensing an id engine enabled smaller publishers to enter the market with technology that was just a notch below state-of-the-art. And, given the enormous audience demand for first-person games, id couldn't develop enough new product to satisfy users who constantly craved new weapons, new environments, and hot, new graphics.

Other, more ambitious publishers, meanwhile, sought to develop their own red hot engines in order to compete directly with id. Among the most successful of these developers was Apogee, with its "Build" engine. Apogee, which publishes games under the 3D Realms label, rolled out its "Build" system in 1991 with the computer game Duke Nukem. The franchise hit paydirt, and two years later, the sequel, Duke Nukem II, rolled out and kicked butt on the software sales charts.

The third game in the series, Duke Nukem 3D and the barrage of hype which preceded its release, created a frenzy of interest in the series. As the title suggests, Duke Nukem is the first-person shooter for adolescent males of all ages. This franchise's stock in trade has always been unabashed, gratuitous violence, a spectacular range of ordinance, and lots of scantily-clad ladies—elements that seemed to mark this franchise for success in the multi-media world.

Aside from the games themselves, the primary Duke Nukem collectibles are the Resaurus action figures, which include not only Our Hero (whose motto: "I'm here to kick [butt] and chew bubble gum—and I'm all out of bubble gum!" was lifted from Roddy Piper's character, Nada, in John Carpenter's 1988 horror film, They Live) but Battle Lord and Pigcops, as well.

Promotional materials (POP displays, stand-ups, posters, etc.) from the games are also collectible, and fans of the character may want to visit our online store to check out a set of three T-shirts which include the logo, a "Hail to the King" model, and the obligatory "I'm here to chew gum" T-shirt.

But the biggest news in terms of future collectibles is the arrival of a Duke Nukem feature film sometime next year (working title is Duke Nukem: The Movie). Very little is known about this project right now, but 3D Realms and the series' publisher, GT Interactive have partnered with special effects experts Threshold Entertainment and producer Lawrence Kasanoff to make it happen.

And when it comes to Duke Nukem, making things happen is generally not a problem.

Lock and load, rock and roll, and start unwrapping that bubblegum.

—Bill Kunkel

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