Classic games are all very well and good, but it’s always nice to be able to have a slightly “enhanced” experience that takes advantage of modern computer hardware while remaining true to the original experience.
That’s exactly what Clint Basinger of Lazy Game Reviews found when he tried out the Rigel Engine, a reverse-engineered, rebuilt version of Apogee’s classic action platformer Duke Nukem II, designed to take full advantage of today’s widescreen monitors and computer hardware.
At present, the Rigel Engine is “feature-complete”, in that it it plays both the single-episode shareware and four-episode registered versions of Duke Nukem II with no problems. Creator Nikolai Wuttke (also known as lethal-guitar) plans to include a number of additional features and enhancements, though — partly to bring the Rigel Engine version of the game up to parity with the original MS-DOS release, and partly to add some nice quality-of-life features for modern players.
The Rigel Engine allows you to adjust sound and music volume, play in windowed or full-screen modes, apply VSync, preserve the correct aspect ratio when upscaling and make use of gamepads without any calibration required. Limitations on the number of simultaneous sound effects and visual effects have also been lifted, so the game should look a lot more spectacular.
The widescreen mode works with any aspect ratio monitor — including, as LGR’s video thumbnail suggests, ultrawide displays. Wuttke does note that this changes gameplay somewhat, however, as it may bring “hidden” areas of levels into view or make some enemies appear earlier than they usually would.
Rigel Engine works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Wuttke is considering Android and iOS versions for future release, but has not yet made any concrete plans.
In order to use Rigel Engine, you’ll need a copy of Duke Nukem II in either its shareware or registered incarnation. Unfortunately, the registered version is, at the time of writing, not available for purchase anywhere online, but the shareware version can be acquired from archive.org.
The registered version has previously been available on various digital distribution platforms — including 3D Realms’ own website as part of the 3D Realms Anthology collection, which also includes some classic ’90s first-person shooters — but is currently tied up in licensing shenanigans with Gearbox Software, who presently own the Duke Nukem IP and have had numerous disagreements with 3D Realms over the last few years. Hopefully one day these will be resolved and we’ll be able to enjoy the classic Duke games once again!