“I’m gonna rip off your head and excrete down your neck” – that’s not verbatim but it still has the effect of a shotgun blast to the brain, in true Duke Nukem style. In the midst of 80s blue-collar hero films featuring high body counts and plenty of sex, Duke Nukem 3D let a geek become a God.
3D Realm’s first-person shooter may have sold over 3.5 million copies in spite of some heated controversy about its portrayal of women, but it’s not famous for its popularity. It’s known for The Duke. He single-handedly brought games into the mainstream. News critics saw him as a threat, and with reason – bad language, naked hookers and police depicted as pigs – Duke Nukem knew a good thing long before anyone took a joyride in Liberty City.
Despite having rocket launchers, shrink rays and a chain gun, the mighty boot was still a supremely fun way to wreak mayhem. Add in the jet pack, holographic Duke, aqua-lung and nightvision, and anybody could be forgiven for turning their back on reality all together in favour of their Pentium 100MHz rig.
Unlike its predecessor – Doom – the environments in Duke Nukem 3D were a more tangible reality in a post-apocalyptic LA with real strippers that you could pay to get naked – doesn’t get much more tangible than that. Just in case that shout from down the hall to, “tidy your room” tore you back to reality, the Duke was there to remind you, “It’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum... and I’m all outta gum.”
Nerd knowledge: That bubblegum line first appeared in the 1988 film They Live. The head-ripping quote was, of course, courtesy of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket.