#302 Duke Nukem 3D

Posted: 19th July 2014 by Jeroen in Games
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349th played so far

dukenukem3d-2Genre: First-Person Shooter
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1996
Developer: 3D Realms
Publisher: GT Interactive

The Duke is in the house baby!

If, like me, you’re a PC gamer of a certain age you’ll probably have heard of this game. It’s not as multiplayer famous as Doom and the like, the humour and slight (pixellated) naughtiness was aimed just right for a twelve year old. And even ignoring that, it was one of the first exposures we had to FPS games.

The game series has been forever tainted by the interesting disaster that is Duke Nukem Forever – not leaving up to the hype and the definition of development hell – I remember reading excited articles about this in 1998 magazines. The big reason for the hype on that game, though, is that this specific game was that memorable.

Our Thoughts

So my first conclusion? My reflexes aren’t as good as they were, considering how long it took to get through the first level (trying the second episode was actually easier). Considering my general improvements in playing shooters, this is odd, and I suspect the limitations that are still present in this game might be a part of that. You can’t look up or down easily (there’s no real mouse look and the keyboard controls are awkward).

Oh, and I may have cheated when I played them that long ago and went far in.

 Now, yeah, a lot of the game’s initial draw came from the slightly puerile mature content, aimed at the teen/early twenty male demographic that was prominent in the time (let’s not get into arguments on how things are now – at least the age has shifted upwards, and genders are at least slightly more balanced. Everyone is welcome though). Part of it feels incredibly over the top now, parts of it immature, and not exactly politically correct these days – I suspect Duke Nukem Forever might not have gone over well in part because it’s not what we want any longer. At the same time, its simplicity – pixellated, vague images – means that there’s not much to see now. You see more on the average episode of Game of Thrones these days.

What shows about halfway through the first level though is how good the level design itself is. You walk through (a rather specific) cinema and arcade and the area actually feels realistically set up as such, not as a random collection of rooms and puzzles as you saw in Doom and the like. It feels real, with a number of the rooms that should be there used as secrets or puzzles to pass through, but it doesn’t feel like just that.

At the same time, one of the most vivid memories of this game is related to its level editor. Soon after this game was released, one of the students in our school created a Duke Nukem 3D level of my secondary school. As juvenile as it was (I recall some appropriately placed pig enemies), it was crazy, silly and fun enough that we loved and were amazed with the possibility. Quake may have brought in better looking and gameplay later, but the ease of creating content was as amazing.

Final Thoughts

It’s dated, sure, and the first person shooter genre has moved on since, but the level design – including the option to make them yourselves – make this game stand out. There’s the variety, and it’s just good fun to play even now.