Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition

Genre: FPS
Developers: 3D Realms
Publishers: Apogee
Released: 1996

Zolgar paid: $5.99
Beaten: Not in a long time.
Zolgar's rating: I cannot give this game a simple numeric rating, there's too many factors involved.
Replayability: Low to Moderate

How does one review a game like Duke Nukem 3D?

By modern shooter standards, if you pick up and play DN3D today, it sucks. It has terrible graphics that have not aged well, the good old fashioned “pixel hunt” for secret doors, and controls that a modern gamer will find impossible to use.

Yet if we travel back to the year 1996, we had a lot of shooters to choose from. The 'old faithful' Doom (and the rest of it's series), Heretic, HeXen, Wolfenstein 3D, as well as a few most have never heard of. Quake would be released soon, and Team Fortress would come near the end of the year... but right at the beginning, we got.. the Duke.

Duke Nukem implemented a lot of new things, and was a major contributor to the modern FPS. It gave us flight, it gave us buffs and items that could be stored in our inventory until we needed them. It gave us a full 3D experience, looking around, aiming at foes flying above us.

DN3D also influenced the gaming industry in another way. It proved that the gaming industry had balls, and introduced adult themes in to more mass-market games. Hell, the first two levels take place in an adult theater, adult bookstore and strip joint.

Lastly there's the humor. The game is full of sight gags, finding such iconic characters as Luke Skywalker, Snake Plisken and, Indiana Jones laying dead. A Duff Beer blimp, Duke Nukem arcade machine, Balls of Steel pinball table, and the list goes on. Add to that the things Duke says... my favorite is still when you 'use' the Duke Nukem arcade machine “Hmm, don't have time to play with myself.”

Those factors combined, 3D Realms created a game that, to this day, still has a cult following.

Duke Nukem 3D picks up where Duke Nukem 2 left off. Yep, it's the 3rd in the series! Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem 2 were actually side scrolling platformers. Duke is returning from Earth after saving the world from an alien menace, and looking for a little uhm.. R&R, when his ship gets shot down over LA “Damn, those alien bastards are gonna pay for busting up my ride.” and so, he sets off on kicking ass and chewing gum (and he's all outa gum), uncovering an alien plot to use human women to breed a queen.

By modern standards, it has little to no story, but back then, the little end of episode cut scenes were quite a bit of story.

Mechanically, DN3D plays like an oldschool FPS. Mouse to move and shoot, awkward keyboard options. Run around the levels and shoot everything that moves, get better guns to shoot tougher foes. Solve basic puzzles. Bosses are fought in the classic style of keep shooting them and avoiding being shot by them, none of that newfangled 'knock the boss in to a propeller' or 'electrocute the tentacle monster' bullcrap.

Graphically. Come on, it's from 1996! The entire game file is a whopping 27mb (by way of comparison, my DarkSpore folder is a little over 4gb), the graphics were decent at the time.

All hope is not lost though. As I mentioned earlier, DN3D still has a cult following. There's two little things you can get:
Eduke32 and the High Res Pack (HRP)

Eduke32 provides a lot of engine upgrades for DN3D, allowing you to have a fully customized control scheme, and defaulting the control scheme to that of a modern FPS.

Meanwhile the HRP updates the graphics of DN3D to put them on par with a FPS from just a few years ago. If you really want to, this also supports the graphics pack that makes the women of the game a little less.. family friendly. (No sorry, I won't link you to that.)

These two things combined make DN3D able to be put up next to a modern shooter, and while it's age will show, it can still compete. It also reminded me of why it was that many hours of my teenage years were wasted on DN3D.

As if that weren't enough, however.. you can also still manage to track down the 3 semi-official expansions: Nuclear Winter, Life's a Beach and, Duke it Out in D.C. Giving you 3 more episodes and 3 new stories to play.

But honestly, even that's not enough.. and besides, those expansions kinda suck. One you're saving Santa Clause, and one you're saving BILL CLINTON! There's also countless user created mods out there, which do everything from add a few levels to make an entirely new game. (I'm sure you're capable of finding those on your own.)

Hail to the king, baby.”

Availability and price:
GOG: $5.99
Impulse: $5.99
Amazon: Not very budget friendly.
Ebay: $5+

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the write-up, I saw your GOGmix and decided to check out some of your revamped old-school reviews. Keep it up, please.

    I'd just like to comment that I found Duke3D to have an incredibly high replay value. You fail to mention how incredibly innovative DukeMatch was. There was no other FPS at the time of its release that allowed your character to fly around with a jetpack! The Duke3D ladders at the time were probably the most highly contested of any game period.

    Also adding to its replayability was the fact that every copy of Duke3D came packaged with Build, the game engine itself! This made for incredibly easy and extensive modding, more-so than just level design. This was particularly unprecendented at the time, and really remained so for many years. Most FPSs that allowed user made contributions just came with simple level editors, like with Doom and Dark Forces, but never gave you access to the whole development engine. Due to having access to Build, whole new games (total conversions) were created. I myself, at age 12 (1996) created my neighborhood (inside houses included) in the build engine for Duke3d. I had played this game for years and years over, and never got bored.

    "Suck it down!"

    Also, I'm fairly confident that you were able to adjust the control scheme. I used keyboard and mouse very effectively, with arrow keys to move, and mouse to look. IIRC it could be done from the in-game menus, however if not it certainly could have been set through editing a configuration file.

    Thanks again for sharing your opinions with us!