The game takes place in the then future world of 1997 (which was the "near future" at the time of game release), in which Dr. Proton, a once sane scientist named Blunderwitz but now a radiation-lobotomized madman, is determined to take over the world. He plans to accomplish this by using his army of Techbots, advanced, mechanized killing machines designed for the singular goal of annihilation. The first stage of his takeover bid was Earth's largest city. All resistance and counter-attacks attempted by the military met with failure. Thus as a final resort, the CIA hires the eponymous hero and Ultimate Alien Butt-Kicker Duke Nukem to stop Dr. Proton's plans.
The first episode (Shrapnel City) finds Duke in the devastated city, blasting his way through the urban streets swarming with Techbots. In the second episode (Mission: Moonbase), Duke follows Dr. Proton to his secret high-security moonbase, where his experiments and machinations reside. Finally, the third episode (Trapped in the Future!) sees Dr. Proton realizing that Duke is ruining his plans, and so he flees to the future with the help of his time machine. Duke gives chase, and must fight him across time if Dr. Proton is to be defeated and his mad schemes put to a permanent end.
The game is level-based, with the objective in each level being to reach that level's exit. Points are scored for killing and destroying enemies and for collecting items and completing objectives. It allows many objects onscreen to be shot: obstacles, as well as enemies, can be destroyed by gunfire. At the end of every level (with the exception of the last level in each episode), the player can receive up to seven 10,000 point bonuses, earned by making certain achievements in the level. Objectives include destroying all security cameras in a level and collecting all four letters of "DUKE" (even more bonus points are awarded for collecting them in the right order). At least two other Apogee titles, Duke Nukem II and Rise of the Triad, have similar end-of-level bonuses.
The game features many power-ups, including upgrades for your weapon (which allow faster fire rates), boots that make Duke jump higher and a claw that allows Duke to grapple along certain ceilings. There are many more collectibles that just offer points, including floppy disks, flags, radios and balloons. Besides points, some collectibles include health powerups. Most pick-ups can be found inside colored boxes, which are broken open when shot. However, some grey boxes are traps, and reveal dynamite which explodes and can harm Duke.
The game was notable in its time because of its smart level design, which allows for very fast gameplay. There are a number of routes the player can taken in each level, all of which end up at the same place. Alternatively, there is much to explore. This combination was much favored by gamers.
Duke Nukem only uses one weapon in this game: the atomic pistol, which fires large green zig-zag nuclear bolts. It can only be fired straight ahead (i.e. left or right) and not up or down, The atomic pistol can be upgraded by picking up a special upgrade item which looks like the atomic pistol itself. Each time an upgrade is picked up, an extra nuclear bolt icon is displayed in the item panel on the right. This indicates the number of nuclear bolts that can appear on the screen at the same time. The highest level of upgrade is 5.
Due to technical limitations the game world scrolls by shifting 8x8 "blocks" rather than individual pixels. Similar techniques are used in e.g. Zeliard Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure and Duke Nukem II. Console and arcade platform games would typically perform this using dedicated hardware, such as the PPU in the NES which can scroll the background.
The graphics borrowed heavily from other games, such as Turrican[ and the PC version of Mega Man.
After the game's release, Apogee became aware of a Captain Planet villain called Duke Nukem, and to avoid a lawsuit Apogee renamed the 2.0 version of its game Duke Nukum , having rejected the idea of discarding the pun on "nuke" and respelling the name Newcomb or Newcombe. It later turned out that Duke Nukem was not a registered name, so Apogee registered it and used the original Duke Nukem name in the sequels.
Duke Nukem was followed by Duke Nukem II in 1993, featuring the same hero still without the dark sunglasses, and later Duke Nukem 3D in 1996. A third sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, was announced in 1997. Plagued by various developmental problems and delays, the game would later be picked up by Gearbox Software and released in 2011, fourteen years after the game was announced. Several spin-offs were developed for consoles only, such as the PlayStation titles Duke Nukem: Time To Kill and Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes, and the Nintendo 64 game, Duke Nukem: Zero Hour.
In 2002, Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was released to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Duke Nukem. It uses a 3D engine and elements from Duke Nukem 3D, but with the side scrolling style of the first two titles.
Cheats and HintsEdit
Backspace + PgDn: Get all four keys and full firepower for your Nuclear Pistol.
Using asp as a command line parameter (e.g. dn1.exe asp) will enable the following cheats:
G + O + D: Full health and all items
G + O + W: Skip to the next level
G + W + F: All items
Alt and F6 - Play the demo level
In Duke Nukem, there are seven secret bonuses you can get on every level, each giving you 10000 points at the end of the level. Here they are: 1. Destroying all cameras in a level
2. Not losing any health in a level
3. Making all of the ACME signs fall
4. Destroying all missiles in a level
5. Collecting the letters D, U, K, and E in the correct order
6. Destroying all of the Snake Techbots
7. Destroying all of the Bunny Techbots