Retrospective: Duke Nukem 3D • Page 2

Hail to the King.

Think of the little slots you could throw pipe bombs down to explode monsters below, kitchen sinks you could swim through and automated claws that would pick up monster corpses, barrels and Duke alike as they trundled round on conveyer belt systems. The game surprises and delights on a consistent basis even now. And all this praise without mentioning the secret areas. The recreation of the Enterprise command deck, the spaceship from Independence Day, and meetings with both a deceased Indiana Jones and a crushed Terminator.

Next up in this relentless tirade of unbalanced fanboy praise are Duke's weapons, many of which I don't think have ever been bettered. Take the pipe bombs, and the way the game lets you lay hundreds of the buggers before depressing that holy red button. Back in the day the simple feeling of freedom and power this gave me blew my mind, and it still forces it into a gentle rotation today.

The freeze ray, meanwhile, to my fevered mind (and if you can think of a game that debunks this, debunk away) remains the only time that the freeze/smash grunt-murdering dynamic has ever been particularly fun. So often 'speciality' weapons that deal in shrinking/microwaving/glob-covering have been nothing but interesting preview-fodder ideas that have felt somewhat lacking in-game. Here they were genuinely useful, and used against a menagerie of perfectly balanced foes within whom there was nary a duff note. The Rancor-esque bosses were fearsome, the pig cops packed a punch more than enough to take the unwary down and those bastard floating brain/squids were brilliant in their own purple-insta-death-wave beauty. What's more, most of them had flying eyeballs when you blew them up.

Duke 3D even managed a cautionary tale or two. For example, never go outside.

Of course though, even this rampant enthusiasm has to run dry at some point. There are some moments at which DN3D will make you sad - not least those bloody four-orange-button puzzles where you have to randomly hammer in different patterns until you hear a joyous bleep and a door opening. Then there's the space levels, which just aren't as much fun for reasons previously furiously underlined in red biro (and run over in a green highlighter) earlier in my ramblings.

I'll also admit that the majority of episodes, and most certainly the Plutonium Pack, are very much front-loaded with their best offerings before proceeding to scrape deeper from the bottom of the radioactive barrel. I'm not going to start moaning about the sexism and boob-count though. This may be leftie Guardian-reading Eurogamer, but I'm still man enough to stand here and admit that I find boobs rather fetching on a lady. If that lady is ensconced in alien slime and begging to be killed, then so be it - I will be a gentleman and kick her in the face until she's dead as requested.

Dig out the Build engine kit and you can still amuse yourself, without having to nurse the complexities of rooms above rooms and polygons.

Yet another feather in the modern Duke-player's babe-loving hat is that wherever you buy it from now it'll come packaged with the Plutonium Pack - an expansion that few seemed to play at the time, yet contains many of the best Duke levels ever committed to the Build Engine. Babeland, a pastiche of Disney World containing an excellent riff on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, is the standout level, but the dogmeat-scented Duke Burger runs a close second.

In summary though: Duke Nukem 3D remains a great, great game - and you won't be disappointed if you choose to go back through or the Xbox Live Marketplace. It's always been a mystery to me as to why there's never been any talk of a sequel, but I suppose you can't have everything. Next week: why 3D Realms' Shadow Warrior was also absolutely brilliant and how it contained naked anime women sitting on toilets who were actually doing real shits. [This is not what is happening next week. - Ed] Groovy.

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About the author

Will Porter

Will Porter


Will ‘Velvet Owl’ Porter is a roaming freelance writer who most recently worked with The Creative Assembly on Alien: Isolation. You can find out how cold/hungry he is by following @Batsphinx on Twitter.


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