Duke has been around a long time, so far as computer game characters are concerned. Duke Nukem first appeared in the PC title of the same name back in 1991, around 16 years ago, depending on when this is being read. There was a bit of confusion with regards to whether a certain Captain Planet villain already had rights to the name, but that was all cleared up over tea and biscuits and now nobody talks about it. Don't mention the war. Duke Nukem was just your plain old blocky sidescroller with state of the art PC sounds and eye-popping colour graphics.
Duke popped up again in late 1993 in Duke Nukem II with a similar theme, again we have a 2D side-scroller (which was of course a step up from those boring 1D ones from aeons past), but it was fun nonetheless. I recall many a long night of a misspent childhood sitting in the glare of a bulky CRT monitor, guns ablaze as I tried in vain to get those elusive special bonus points. Such simpler times. Such pixelated bloodshed.
Jumping forward, January 1996 saw the release of Duke Nukem 3D, whose graphics engine was rather a bit cleverer than Doom's in that the world was quite a bit more three dimensional. This was subsequently blown away later that year by Quake, which was quite a bit more three dimensional again, fully 3D in fact. Not that this matters any of course, Duke3D was far superior in terms of interactivity, gameplay, and plain old fun - which is what counts. Who wants to creep around in Lovecraftian dungeons defeating Shub-Nigguraths when you can run about town shooting rubbish bins, mighty-footing aliens in the face and exchanging currency for questionable 'goods' and 'services'? Some of you, perhaps. Maybe.
1997 saw the porting of Duke Nukem 3D to a bunch of console platforms, including the PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn. Having never owned nor played any of these ports I can't say much about them, except to behave with my usual bias and bigotry and say they probably didn't do Duke3D any justice.
Moving onto Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. This one was a 2D sidescroller made using a 3D engine and was released in 2002. It was neither developed nor published by 3D Realms, but instead by a company which has since been bought out, gone under, and has taken the rights to the game with it. The game is effectively owned by a legal department somewhere, the papers probably rotting away in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard' [*]. The game doesn't follow on from any preceding Duke game, and isn't in any sense a sequel to Duke Nukem 3D, although there's a few tributes to it in there. I had a bash at it myself back in the day, before quietly shelving it.
Duke Nukem Forever is still on the way, if we're to believe the teaser
recently put out by 3D Realms. The true spiritual successor to Duke Nukem
3D, the bloke is looking somewhat beefed up and ever-ready for action and
those punchy one-liners we all know and love
and yell at fellow
motorists while stuck in traffic. Maybe things are looking up for Duke this side
of the apocalypse after all.
[*]. Blatant DNA phrase-lifting. Pay no attention.