In 2010 it was announced that Interceptor Entertainment was working on a remake of Duke Nukem 3D, the classic game of shooting, booting, and polluting children’s minds. What had begun as a fan project to bring into the then-modern Unreal Engine 3 was given Gearbox’s blessing and renamed from Duke Nukem: Next Gen to Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded.
A year later, the Duke remake was put “on hold”. The project’s lead, Frederik Schreiber, wrote in a blog post (opens in new tab) that Gearbox’s product manager and legal counsel had told him the remake was “getting too much attention from the press and the fans” and that “We were required to pull all media related to Reloaded, from our website and Facebook. We were also told, not to talk about it anymore.”
At the time, Duke Nukem Forever had been released to what could generously be called a mixed reception. Gearbox was focusing on DLC in an attempt at rehabilitating the unloved game. When Schreiber asked whether Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded would still have Gearbox’s blessing be published at a later date, he claimed he was told, “we can’t tell you if we will allow the game to be released.”
Schreiber and his team cut their losses and moved on. Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded was largely forgotten, until the group called x0r_jmp, who previously leaked an E3 build of Duke Nukem Forever from 2001, put a build from September of 2011 up on anonfiles (opens in new tab) on December 31. It’s labeled “test-version 0.001” and includes a handful of maps, like Hollywood Holocaust, and you can try some extremely Unreal Tournament-esque multiplayer with bots.
Back in the day, one of the best things about Duke Nukem 3D was exploring levels full of secrets and interactivity, and seeing the city skyline and cinema made shiny and new is a delight. But if you really want to replay the classic FPS now but with some graphical updates and modernization, thanks to modders you can. Here’s our guide to the best way to play Duke Nukem 3D today.
As well as the leaks relating to Duke’s more famous outings, x0r_jmp was responsible for a leak of canceled 2D platformer Duke Nukem 4Ever, which you can play in your browser at the Internet Archive (opens in new tab), a downloadable prototype of a big-game hunting shooter called Duke Nukem: Endangered Species (opens in new tab), and a pitch for a Duke Nukem movie (opens in new tab). Apparently we haven’t heard the last of them, as the group says (opens in new tab), “We have several new releases lined up for 2023, so watch this space for updates!”
As for the team who worked on Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded, they eventually had a happy ending. As Interceptor Entertainment they made a 2013 remake of Rise of the Triad that helped inspire the retro shooter renaissance, then renamed themselves Slipgate Ironworks and went on to co-develop Ghostrunner. Currently they’re working on Phantom Fury, the sequel to Ion Fury. Frederik Schreiber, who kicked off the Duke Nukem remake, became CEO of 3D Realms.