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Duke Nukem’s 22-year-old engine is powering a game today

Available on Early Access now

Voidpoint/3D Realms
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

3D Realms — yes, that shop behind Duke Nukem, until it was sold to Gearbox Software — will publish an “old-school first-person shooter” called Ion Maiden in the fall, billing it as a sequel to Bombshell, the 2015 top-down shooter. The game is available on Steam Early Access now.

What’s most notable is the game is being developed on an engine more than 20 years old and branded as a throwback, accounting for the pixelated visuals and previous-previous-previous gen animations. Ion Maiden is being developed in the Build Engine, the technology that powered 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D and 1997’s Shadow Warrior.

A news release promised that “just because this is a true old-school first-person shooter doesn’t mean there won’t be all the good new stuff the last two decades have brought.” So innovations in the 20 years since Duke Nukem 3D, such as headshots, auto saves, controller and widescreen video support will be present.

It’s also a roundabout way to bring to life what is, in spirit anyway, a new Duke Nukem 3D. Some may remember that Bombshell began life as Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction developed by 3D Realms and published by Interceptor.

That’s until Gearbox Software stepped in to remind both that, because it took on the unhappy task of finishing Duke Nukem Forever and relieving 3D Realms of the lawsuits chasing them for not getting it done in 15 years, Gearbox now owned everything Duke Nukem. So it was recast with a female protagonist and renamed Bombshell.

In Ion Maiden, protagonist Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison is back, pitted against the cybernetic army of Dr. Jadus Heskel. Voidpoint is developing the game, which a news release pitched as an unforgiving FPS harkening back to the original Duke Nukem days. Without regenerating health or cover, players will be expected to run-and-gun their way through the “multi-hour preview campaign” being offered in the Early Access version.

Ion Maiden is available on Earl Access for $19.99 right now. It’s expected to launch in the third quarter of 2018 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One.