Footage of Gearbox Entertainment's unreleased Duke Nukem Begins appears online

It looks like Gearbox was working on a Duke Nukem game way before the dreaded Duke Nukem Forever.

Back in the 90s, Duke Nukem was everywhere and everything. The franchise generated over $1 billion in revenue in 2001, just ten years after the first game was released back in 1991. However, as successful as the series was, which revolved around the adventures of its eponymous protagonist, the glamour all fizzled out in the late 2000s.

The Duke Nukem franchise has effectively been dead for the better part of the past two decades.

The final nail in Duke's coffin was 2011's Duke Nukem Forever, a game that was canceled and postponed so many times that by the time that it was released, most people didn't really know nor care for a new Duke Nukem game.

Now, we've got footage of a game that would have preceded 2011's Duke Nukem Forever by at least a couple of years.

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When was Duke Nukem Begins supposed to be released?

According to the animator behind the project, the canceled Duke Nukem game would have been a third-person title that explored the origins of the titular hero. It was meant to be Gearbox Entertainment's first foray into the series before working on Duke Nukem Forever.

Gearbox reportedly worked on Duke Nukem Begins from 2007 to 2009 before focusing its efforts towards Duke Nukem Forever, which was released in 2011. Work on Begins was reportedly halted and eventually canceled because of a legal dispute regarding who owned the rights to the franchise. Eventually, the rights did go to Gearbox in 2010, allowing them to work on and release Duke Nukem Forever.

The animator responsible for the video upload is Gregor Punchatz, who is known for his work on the monsters from the original Doom game.

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Interestingly enough, this isn't the first time that Punchatz has revealed footage from Duke Nukem Begins. Back in 2019, he released parts of the same video in a sizzle reel. However, this marks the first time that Punchatz has uploaded the entire trailer online.

In case you haven't watched the video yet, it doesn't feature actual finished gameplay footage. Instead, it's more of a concept showing what the game would have looked like and how it would have played. Judging from what is shown, Duke Nukem Begins would have featured a Freeze Ray and Shrinker, two weapons commonly associated with Duke Nukem. We can also assume that Duke would have had the ability to rip enemy's arms off and use them to whack other enemies around like a melee weapon.

While Duke Nukem Begins was eventually canceled, it appears that Gearbox later reused parts of the project in Duke Nukem Forever.

Will we see a Duke Nukem game in the future?

The good news is that the rights to Duke Nukem now belong to the Embracer Group. The bad news is that there's little incentive to work on a new Duke Nukem game.

It's never fun to hear news about scrapped video games. Lest we forget, we recently reported about the canceled Superman game back in the late 2000s.

With that said, there is good news for anyone hoping to see a new Duke Nukem game. Publisher, Embracer Group, now owns both Gearbox and 3D Realms. This holds a lot of promise as far as future Duke games go. However, just because the publisher effectively now owns the rights to the franchise, it doesn't mean that it will necessarily reboot the series just yet.

After all, Duke Nukem's main appeal would probably not do well in the current gaming climate. Thus, we doubt if Embracer Group, as well as Gearbox, would be willing to take a big risk anytime soon.

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is based in the Philippines. He is a lifelong gamer and a PC hardware enthusiast. He builds and repairs laptops and computers for friends and family in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter.