Duke Nukem fans must be pinching themselves. Not only did two builds of 3D Realms' Duke Nukem Forever leak this past year, leading to notable fan projects like the Duke Nukem Forever Restoration Project, but earlier this month another cancelled game called Duke Nukem: Endangered Species also made its way online.
Now, it appears that the person behind those leaks, X0r, has yet another abandoned Duke Nukem game to share with fans of the series, the original Duke Nukem Forever from 1996: Duke Nukem 4 Eva. This was a sidescrolling game in the style of the first two Duke Nukem games that featured an art style similar to Duke Nukem 3D.
It was cancelled in 1997, but 3D Realms later repurposed the name for its infamous 3D title that became stuck in "development hell" between 1997-2011.
According to an interview hosted on Apogee's website with one of its developers, Darrin Hurd, a small team in Christchurch, New Zealand was making the sidescroller under contract from Apogee and was building it using 3D models from Duke Nukem 3D that it had animated and turned into sprites.
It was intended at the time to be the fourth game in the series and would have picked up immediately after the events of '3D', with Duke having to save Malibu and the Californian coast from the returning antagonist Doctor Proton. It included ridable vehicles like jet skis and motorcycles, plenty of ridiculous weapons, and various robot minions to blast through.
In the Apogee interview, Hurd revealed how the Duke Nukem Forever name came about:
"It was originally a bit of a pun. The main protagonist in our game was a female Russian soldier called Eva – her last name was a little too un-PC for today's generation (it was a different time). So when we as a group were coming up with a name, we thought it would be funny if Duke fell for Eva and her massive assets, and given this was the 4th installation of Duke, the name “Duke Nukem 4 Eva” was born. Over time the 4Eva eventually transformed to Forever."
He was able to clarify the reasons why the project was eventually cancelled:
"The game eventually got canceled, mainly due to the success of Duke Nukem 3D. At this stage everybody wanted 3D games. 2D games were a bit blasé for a while before becoming popular again. There was also a bit of a call to switch to Windows as it was gaining popularity by then, which would have been a bit of a nightmare converting my mainly Assembly code across.
"While it was sad, it was understandable at the time, and I have no ill feelings towards Apogee for making this decision. In fact most of them are still friends on Facebook to this day."
The recent leak includes four builds of the game from this period and has been patched where possible to run on modern systems. Unlike the previous leaks, it also comes with pre-patched versions of the game too. You can watch a video of it in action below: