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Duke Nukem 3D
developed by
3D Realms
published by
FormGen
for
PC CD-ROM / DOS


June 25, 1996

"I ain't afraid of no quake!"

Nor should you be Duke. Oh sure, your biggest nemesis may not come from the nether regions of space but rather from the workstations of iD's development studios. Nonetheless you still kick ass and chew bubble gum. Quake may have the engine but in the playability department Duke's got them by the proverbial body part. There is simply no better game to play on a networked LAN against multiple opponents than this one and I won't hear a word against that simple statement.

Finally the Doomesque engine gets out of the dungeon of mundane-the-same stone corridors and into gritty real-world playfields like porno theaters, apartment buildings, swimming pools,subway cars and geisha houses. Add to that the fact that the developers have added a few simple but effective interactive elements to the environment, such as mirrors that fuel Duke's vanity ("Damn, I'm looking good") or toilets that relieve Duke's bladder ("Aaaaah...") and you've got something that hooks you into the game immediately.

Sure, a lot of the humour is sophomoric and based in the bathroom variety but Duke's entire persona is so full-blown, over the top, Schwarzenegger-cum-Stallone-cum-Keaton (Beetlejuice) machismo that frankly nothing else would produce the same amount of politically incorrect charm. Duke Nukem takes great pains to be exactly what it is: giddy, alien-anihilistic fun that has no morals what-so-ever. It is a game in which everything that moves must die, so why even pretend that anything else could be any less offensive to the anal-retentive crowd.

I also liked the fact that Duke has a personality. I've gotten a little tired of playing first person games in which the main character is some blank-slate everyman. I know that in the past that was so you felt that the arm outstretched on the screen felt like an extension of the end user but let's not even begin to think that graphics have got to the point where we all think "Virtual Reality" should be. Playing as someone who treats the whole "save-the-world" thing as a personal vendetta (because they blew up his craft or are abducting all the attractive single women in the world) is, in this case, far more involving.

All right, let's get into the gameplay itself. Duke's real strengths are in the multiplayer but let's forget about that right now and talk about it as a single player game. I usually believe that if a game stands up well as a single player game... all the better for it beyond the obvious fun of pitting your self against real flesh and blood opponents. Duke excels in this department. Oh, the time I wasted here at the Playground when everyone went home never mind the hours upon hours playing against four other EP staffers on our LAN. The levels are so well constructed and full of reasonable challenge to keep you going and going. As usual, many of the monsters can be killed through computer stupidity. For example, an alien who holds his gun in his right hand will not realize he may be firing into a wall if only partially exposed to you. He makes for easy pickin's this way but this sort of thing makes up for the fact that one doesn't have the ability to dive and roll and do other fancy avoidance techniques that you might employ while playing splatball in the forest, for instance.

But beyond that, some of these "alien bastards are fairly tricky. At first I despised the Pig Cops (yes, earth's entire police force have been mutated into derogatory slang) who would drop to their fat bellies to take pot shots at you. But eventually as I got to meet and greet the rest of the buggers, the most hated of all of them all was consistently the Enforcer. Big lizards with chain guns that hop in front of you from above. I rarely died as a result of their pelting gunfire but they always managed to do some serious hurt before I expedited their annoyance with a pipe bomb. Other notables of skullduggery were the brainless but relentless Sentry drones and the positively repulsive Assault Commander who fired full volleys of missiles at you and then dared you to "Suck it Down!". That's when you slide like James Brown at The Apollo, bring out the RPG and ram a little of his own medicine down his fat greasy throat. (For full effect re-read that last sentence as if you down Jack Daniels on a regular basis and prefer your eternally lit stogies large and acrid. Once you've got it, speaking in Duke becomes quite catchy and more than a little fun. Just ask Kurt Russell as he revives his bad-ass role of Snake in Escape from LA.)

There is full value in the amount of time it will take you to complete all three episodes of Duke Nukem. All of it attributable to the complex and gorgeous levels. The level editors are the real stars of 3D Realms exceptional design team. Every area has been designed with a logic that is infallible. There isn't a single placement of a rock cliff, or storage locker or power up that doesn't make total and complete sense. Just the fact that the first and third episodes are set in Los Angeles is a stroke of logic that not even Spock could poke holes in. Where else could you find a cache of military ammunition and pipe bombs but in the seedier part of the city of Los Angeles?

Then there is the case of the art design and the engine. In 800x600 this is a gorgeous piece of work that is as smooth as a good bottle of Glenfiddich on a higher end Pentium. Some of my favorite works are: The Abyss, a gorgeous and spiritually creepy descent into the lair of the first episode boss, The Dark Side from episode 2 with its monolithic homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Hotel Hell, with its plethora of rooms to explore or die in.

But as I have said before the real strength of Duke Nukem is its multiplayer support. Never, have I had so much fun in front of my PC. We used to have 4 player marathon sessions that stretched into the wee hours of the morning until such time as we decided that maybe we had a job to do beyond this one game. The RPG would fly, the pipe bombs would lie in wait and the amount of keyboard manipulation was frenzied. We found that we just couldn't get enough of the very first level. For pure instant gratification and speed there is no better in all of Duke but if you crave a little more sophistication and more weapons then go for a subway ride in episode 3. A word to the wise though, keep all 486's of the LAN when you play with anymore than just two players. Even in low res that one dog slow 486 will turn the whole game into molasses. Otherwise this will fare well on anything over a P100.

With solid support on the TEN network, the level editor (a fantastic feature which Roger will cover) and an already strong following the debate will rage for some time as to which title (Duke or Quake) will grab the highest honours this year. My early bet is on Duke as it is just too much fun in one package to beat. I simply have not had this much digital fun in all my years of gaming and may not for some time. But then again Tie Fighter vs. X-Wing hasn't been released yet. Duke Nukem 3D is and should be considered an all time classic in the world of video gaming. It certainly hasn't broken any new ground but it has pulled from the best aspects of Doom, Descent, Marathon and Dark Forces to become the very best of its kind. Not bad for a guy who started his career as a rather pathetic 2D platformer.

I give Duke Nukem 3D...........................10 out of 10

John Shaw

Thought Drop

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