Despite the critical and commercial failure of the character’s last title, Duke Nukem is an iconic video game figure that has endured in the minds of fans since the early ’90s. He’s been the star of numerous games on a variety of platforms, and if some new footage is anything to go by, it looks like the minds over at Gearbox studio had even more ideas on how to extend his legacy.
Coming from the end of a showreel highlighting Gregor Punchatz’s work on several movies and video games, the final clip in the series shows a trailer for a Duke Nukem reboot that’s never seen the light of day. It's worth noting that the trailer looks to be one of the canceled attempts to bring Nukem back in the late '2000s titled "Duke Begins", but nonetheless, it’s interesting to see this vastly different approach to the exaggerated world of the popular action hero.
The trailer shows a younger-looking Duke up to his usual crazy antics, including lighting a cigar off a burning dismembered hand, fighting a giant flying alien with a bazooka while driving on a chaotic freeway, and using his iconic shrink ray to minimize a pig soldier and crush it with his boot. The finale of the footage sees Nukem don a jetpack and battle an alien the size of a skyscraper, dodging debris as the giant foe swipes at him. Twitter user Andrew Hulshult furthered the interesting presence of the footage by confirming the trailer is indeed an early render for Duke Begins. The game would've been a prequel centered around the early days of the inappropriate action star.
It's interesting to see the footage now knowing where the developer decided to take Nukem in the actual sequel. The perspective looked to shift from first to third person, a notable difference in style and perspective from Duke Nukem Forever. Bringing Duke back to the beginning of the franchise's chronology was also a major change from the game that actually released, Forever acting as a traditional sequel that brought the protagonist into the 21st century.
Whether the studio looks to bring the franchise back with a new release remains to be seen, but with Gearbox re-releasing his iconic first outing in 2016 or allowing him to guest star in Bullet Storm's remaster in 2017, it's clear Duke Nukem hasn't escaped the company's minds just yet.
Duke Nukem Begins was canceled before it could finish development.