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Duke Nukem 3D (PC) artwork

Duke Nukem 3D (PC) review

"In the first two levels of this game’s first scenario, Duke takes refuge from the alien-infested streets in such wholesome places as an adult movie theater and strip club — where he can get tit shows from the pole dancers while making leering comments that make me think “drunken, seedy uncle” more than “savior of Earth”. God, Duke’s great!"

While hardcore Doomites like Blu and I could jabber at you for ages on how that game is the mack-daddy of the FPS until you’re ready to snatch up a shotgun of your own to turn our heads into bloody stumps, we don’t have to.

Duke Nukem 3D’s existence is all the proof you need. The parallels are amazing. After being the hero of a couple side-scrolling action games, the alien-slaying man’s man Duke Nukem moved on up to starring in a game that can best be described as a Doom Doppleganger -- WITH ATTITUDE!!!

The difficulty and scenario-select screens are designed to look exactly like those in Doom. The levels of both games also are loaded with tons of secret areas -- many of which contain hidden weapon caches. And, interestingly, both were re-released on computers with an additional fourth collection of levels (Ultimate Doom for one game, Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition for the other).

Battling is done via many of the same ways. Duke starts out with a pistol and his trusty kickin’ foot, but collects a ton of much more powerful guns along the way. And that’s a good thing, considering what he’ll be running into. Maybe he doesn’t need to use that much force to handle the Assault Troopers of the alien forces (which look and attack somewhat like that lovable Doom cannonfodder, the EmP....I mean, Imp), but each scenario is loaded with tougher tests. The nimble Enforcers move quickly and can decimate Duke’s life meter quickly if they get a bead on him with their chain guns. While Assault Commanders aren’t so fast, they can take a licking -- while occasionally emitting devastating rockets.

By now, if you’re a veteran of Doom, you’re likely losing all interest in this game, as all I’ve done is give a list of ways it’s similar to that one. Well, fret not, kiddies! Duke Nukem 3D does make a few deviations from the Doom formula and some of them are actually pretty damn cool!

The one that most people tend to talk about is the infusion of !ATTITUDE! Duke tends to make sure the player knows at all times that he is most definitely a badass, delivering various lines I could swear I’d previously heard uttered by Bruce Campbell in the Evil Dead movies.

And for a good part of the game, he also visits locations a lot more interesting than the rather generic tunnels and vague buildings that fill many Doom levels. In the first two levels of this game’s first scenario, Duke takes refuge from the alien-infested streets in such wholesome places as an adult movie theater and strip club -- where he can get tit shows from the pole dancers while making leering comments that make me think “drunken, seedy uncle” more than “savior of Earth”. God, Duke’s great!

A bit more awesome, though, is the inclusion of a few useful items that aren’t automatically expended when touched. While there are a ton of auto-use health items in the game, Duke also can hold a medikit in his inventory that can be used to restore health whenever you feel the need to (until it runs out of medicine, obviously). In Doom, the minute a player touched a radiation suit, it was a race against time to get past that area’s damage floors before its effectiveness expired. This game’s boots can be kept in the inventory until needed, activated to cross those floors, and then put back in the inventory for when needed next.

The scuba gear and jet pack also are very handy additions to this game. Duke can’t last too long underwater without the scuba gear and there are a decent number of levels that make him do a bit (or a lot, in the case of one very sadistic third-scenario level) of deep sea diving. With the jet pack, a number of secrets and shortcuts can be found. As a friendly warning, though, pray your jet pack doesn’t run out of fuel when you’re really far up in the air -- long falls are VERY hazardous to Duke’s health.

A bit less thrilling are the boss fights. Apparently, FPS technology hadn’t progressed to the point where you could have fun, strategic battles with tough enemies. Instead, Duke Nukem 3D has a handful of big fights against gigantic monsters that look and act just like regular foes -- but are bigger, take a lot more damage and can kill Duke much more quickly if they get him in their sights.

As a result, “strategy” in these fights tends to revolve around tried-and-true Doom tactics like quickly strafing and shooting OR pure garbage fighting like one encounter I had with the second scenario’s monstrous Overlord, which involved me running past it and around a corner. When it got past that same corner, but before it could turn and face me, I started pelting it with my powerful and quick-firing Devastator gun. The constant hits it was taking prevented it from being able to face me and rip poor Duke a new hole or three, allowing me to kill it with ease. An utterly uninspiring fight.

To be honest, the entire second scenario is pretty lame compared to the rest of the game, containing little of the creativity and wit shown elsewhere. Each level takes place in different parts of a gigantic and generic moonbase -- a far cry from the porno shops, prisons, banks, hotels and other locations creating the rest of the game’s stages. Most of the game seemed fun and interesting to me -- the moonbase was boring and stale in comparison.

I still pop Duke Nukem 3D in my computer from time to time, though. It’ll never replace the Doom games in my heart, but it’s still a pretty fun kill-a-thon that, at times, does show some nice innovation. Unfortunately, it’s just a bit TOO much like its predecessor for it to stand out in my mind as a particularly noteworthy game.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 02, 2007)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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