Duke Nukem Forever earned an F on 1UP, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a historically significant game. In fact, its fourteen year stint as vaporware dwarfs its nearest competitors: Prey at ten years, Too Human at nine, and Battlecruiser 3000AD at eight. To put these fourteen years into perspective, three console generations have come and gone in the time it took to produce DNF. Odysseus took less time to get home from the Trojan War. Duke’s development cycle is longer than any war in American history, and longer than The Great Depression.
Obviously, the game conceived of in 1997 bears little resemblance to the DNF we got in 2011 — or does it? We’ve combed through all of the game’s available footage and found certain key sections and ideas that survived through the years. We boiled our findings down to the following video, and you can find large versions of the trailers we used along with our detailed observations below. A word of advice — the video uses a picture-in-picture format so you might want to watch it in full-screen on HD if you can.Click here to watch in HDWe took our footage from the following six shows showings of the game:E3 1998 TrailerThis was Duke Nukem’s first big public outing. Based on the Quake engine, this video debuted around the time 3D Realms said the game would originally launch back when they announced it in 1997. While the plot and structure of the game differs greatly between this trailer than in the final product, a few sections apparently survived into 2011; for example, the highway scene made it into the game, though with significant changes. Whereas in 1998 Duke sat on a flatbed truck blowing up enemies, Duke in 2011 drives his monster rig around flatbed trucks while dodging exploding barrels. It’s possible that the two sections are entirely unrelated, but there was probably always a vehicle sequence planned to show Duke’s travel between Vegas and other places in Nevada.The story in this version of the game is completely different than the 2011 DNF. The original plot saw the return of Duke’s nemesis from the first Duke Nukem, Dr. Proton. The game still took place in Nevada, but Area 51 figured prominently into the plot, and the aliens from Duke 3D were nowhere to be seen.The mine and mine cart sections present in DNF 2011 show up in this trailer as well. However, a scene depicting a rolling stone chasing Duke down a la Indiana Jones is not in the current version. There’s also quick shots of the ghost town sections, along with Gus, an ornery miner who became the unofficial mascot for the game when his imaged was used in a screenshot that was printed in nearly every major gaming magazine at the time.Shortly after revealing this trailer, 3D Realms announced that the Duke Nukem Forever would switch from the Quake engine to the Unreal engine, but that the switchover would take six weeks at most…oops.E3 2001 TrailerThe 2001 trailer became the public face of the game for years, remaining the largest single look the public would have of Duke Nukem forever until Bryan Brewer’s 2009 demo reel. This bit of footage sees a brief return of the mine cart and ghost town sections, and it also marks the first public appearance of Vegas in the game — though the final Vegas sections in DNF bear little resemblance to anything in this trailer.2001 marks the first appearance of the mothership battle, which apparently originally took place at sea. The trailer shows Duke battling enemies on jet skis as well as shooting down fighters on a turret and taking on the mothership.Take Two had acquired the rights to Duke Nukem in 2000, and by the time the trailer debuted, Duke Nukem Forever had beaten Daikatana and was on the way to rivaling Battlecruiser 3000AD in the contest for history’s worst case of vaporware. Following the release of DNF, a former member of the team offered a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown of the trailer discussing what was real and what wasn’t