Tuesday, May 24, 2011

VGR Duke Nukem 3D

Long before sequels started using "3D" as numbering sequence for third installments, when the actual 3D used to stand for graphics and not reliefs and when it was still a pretty new thing in gaming..... came the King of all shooters, DUKE NUKEM! (that's what she said!)

If Doom & Wolfenstein 3D are the grandfathers of the genre, Duke sure is the undisputed King to the title.

After two simple Dos sidescroller (as seen in Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem 2), Apogee, by then 3D Realms, came back with an all-new Duke using a completely different engine, with new gameplay mechanics yet still pretty similar to its predecessors at heart.
The rest is now history...

VGR: Duke Nukem 3D
From Apogee Software/3D Realms
Played on PC
Also available on Mac, Saturn, PSX, Nintendo 64, Megadrive, Gameboy Advance & Xbox 360

Type FPS
Year 1996

A mere three years after the previous installment, Duke was back.
And along for the ride, 3D Realms was decided to bring Duke to the foreground of the gaming scene. Since both previous titles were simple Dos-running sidescroller, the guys at 3D Realms decided it was time to bring Duke in a big budget sequel, the same way their "brother"-studio, iD Software, was going through a transition with their own Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.

Instead of borrowing their engine, as in the past occasions, they decided to make their own and improve upon the feedback iD was having with its titles.
Doom, for example, wasn't able to feature multi-ayered levels built upon various floors. Nor was it actually featuring much 3-dimensional spaces but disguising several 2D structures under a 3D visual.
These notions and many more details were the basis on what elements 3D Realms would design the Build Engine.

In 1996 came the sequel nobody was actually expecting. It came by surprise and marked a whole generation.

Duke was back with a brand new "skin".
After defeating the evil Dr. Proton and the Rigelatins army in two sidescrolling action games, it was time to rediscover a hero and propulse the FPS genre to new horizons...

Let's kick some ass and chew gum. And I'm all outta gun...

Out of the fryin' pan and into the fire!
Duke Nukem thought he had just stopped an alien invasion...but that was without counting for another invasion right away!

Since the game was made around and for the shareware era, it was originally presented as three separated episodes, which have been since then always released together as a whole complete game.

Episode 1
The game ties into Duke II's ending directly.
Duke was coming back from space...when his space shuttle is hit.....and the Duke falls in Los Angeles.
There, he finds the whole friggin' LAPD has been mutated into pig creatures!
The aliens took control over the Earth while he was in space. Duke decides to go after the alien cruiser floating above San Andreas, which seem to be responsible for the attack. Duke finds out the aliens have been capturing human women for some reason. He goes after the alien Battlelord aboard the ship.

Episode 2
Duke takes the fight to the aliens. He goes to space to confront them directly.
The monsters seem to have incubators stationed over the Earth, in space stations.
Duke ends up fighting the Mothership installed on the Moon. He goes for the kill on the aliens Overlord...meanwhile the second wave of aliens attack the Earth again!

Episode 3
In this last (original) episode, Duke goes back to Earth, to help out the resistance front in L.A. again.
This time will Duke will have to go against the aliens leader himself, the Emperor who has descended upon Earth for the last strike....

Mighty food engaged!

Alright, the plot may be a bit silly and simple, and I probably made it sound more badass than how it actually comes out when you actually play the game...but let's say it's okay for this kind of game, and does the job to explain why you're shooting pigs in the street.
So, the game's actually a pretty straight forward First Person Shooter.
It's as classic as it gets!....because it actually is a classic that came long before the hundreds of other FPS since then!
I wrote something about the FPS genre a while ago, and Duke's definitely the daddy of the more cinematic scripted ones that spawned Half-Life 2 and the likes.

The levels are non-linear, in the sense as you're not really walking long corridors after the other, but more exploring large spaces with lots of space to go around freely.
The environments are highly destructible.
There's ton of weapons, back in the early days of the genre creators tended to be creative with that aspect.
From using your own foot, to the pistol, a shotgun, rockets, pipebombs...and my favorites, the scifi guns like the freeze gun, a shrink gun, etc... The game covers quite a large range of different type of weapons.
There's also some unique items to use, like steroids to boost up Duke for a while, a medkit, an holo-Duke, the jetpack, a scubagear...

Nobody steals our chicks... and lives!

The game is pretty silly and doesn't take itself too seriously, as you might have guessed.
People now tend to look down on Duke for his macho attitude and the portrayal of women (mostly strippers) in Duke 3D...but it's because people are actually taking the game too seriously.
Duke's the ultimate action man. He was already a sort of Schwarzennegger in disguise in the original games. Duke Nukem 3D turned him into the ultimate alpha male, the amalgam of all the kind of action heroes movies saw during the 80s and early 90s. He's part-Terminator, part-Cobra, part-John McClaine.

There's lots of humour, be it in Duke's one liners, or the levels, enemies attitude, etc..

In fact, regarding the women, you're supposed to help them, save them. Not shooting the hostages/strippers/etc.. Doing so will result in the game spawning more monsters actually.

Duke has to stop a monster invasion, make his way through the LARD (the mutated pig-cops - another turn of phrase on the famous slang for police officers).

Shake it, baby! 
Of course it's sort of a mature game even by today standards. But I guess I can't condemn letting kids play this. After all most of us grabbed it when we were probably too young to understand most things in this game, and lots of stuff went way over our heads back then.
There's some nudity and crude jokes, but in the end, it's kinda done tastefully I've seen much worse in current titles. (be it in games or movies)

The game is vast. There's plenty to do.
The game even had a multiplayer mode, one of the earliest ever, even for its time it's pretty good and all the necessary options are available.
It originally ran on lans, and has been kept alive and kickin' thanks to Duke fans.

Your face, your ass, what's the difference?
But the game's main feature is its highly interactive world.
The player is supposed to be proactive in Duke Nukem 3D. You will only check out strippers because you'll want to. The same way you can play around with the background resulting in all sorts of action.
Some switches might effect the level, but there's also others actions that will help out the player (fountains will restore some health, lights will help you see around better..) and finally the rest, which I call the 'diversion'. And it's this last kind that makes this game come to life despite its 1996 graphics (nice, but kinda pixelated for this "HD" era).
You can turn on TV screens, sing in a mic, use the toilets, etc...

Jon St. John is the one that makes Duke be, well, Duke. 
His badass over-the-top voice, his tone... Simply put, a perfect voice acting! (and the only human voice through all the game)
The environments feature lots of situation humour, there's parodies all over the game, references to pop culture. You'll encounter the evidents ones, like the monolyth from 2001, Luke Skywalker in a cave, Indiana Jones, Doom's Doom Guy, a T-800....
And even more subtle references, seems like the guys at 3D Realms were truly having a blast while making it.
And let's not forget to mention loads of Evil Dead/Army of Darkness allusions, from many Duke Nukem quotes, to even the game's own cover art.

Overall, it's a fantastic classic and a quite unique experience, there's really no other game like Duke. Some other might have tried the chock and adult approach, only to end up trashy. Others might have been inspired by design in their concept and mechanics...but there's only one Duke!

Afterall, most heroes or other game's plot take themselves too seriously. Duke's here to save the world, and have fun while he's at it.

The game still looks pretty good by today standards actually, which doesn't come as a surprise. With current versions of Duke the game can push some bigger resolutions and run on more hi-tech machines than what it was designed for.
The version available on Xbox live didn't even alter or polish its graphics, that tells you something!
The enemy sprites are colorful and understandable. The only weaker point is that on Duke's Build Engine, enemies graphics come out often "flat" when seen from above (unlike Doom's iD Tech 1 Engine)

In November 1996, after the release of the final episode and the complete edition of Duke Nukem 3D, came out Duke's last update which was called the Plutonium Pak. It was actually one of, if not the actual first online Downloadable Content for a game.
The game came out late repacked as a whole new title called Duke Nukem 3D Atomic Edition. This edition added a new weapon, lots of bug fixes and even a final new episode.
Here's the pitch:
Episode 4
In this new episode, Duke fights the various last remaining hordes of aliens all over the place.
Duke ends up finding the aliens have been capturing women to produce the final last boss of Duke 3D...the Queen!
Now he has to stop this monstrosity before it repopulates the alien invaders....

The game is fun, long, there's a dozen or so levels per episodes. And if you're an hardcover gamer like yours truly, there's either harder difficulties (where monsters respawn if you don't destroy their bodies!) or a tons of secrets to find. A scorecard will reveal all the monsters you've defeated in each level, the time it took you and the secrets you missed.
All the episodes really show a progression from a design standpoint. New episodes will add new enemies and weapons, even some better graphics. (which show how 3D Realms kept polishing there game all along, like rain and actual 3D tables in Episode 4)
Levels continue from one into another showing connections between each other (apart from the random Episode 4 that came out as DLC originally).

The game was adapted onto several different systems over the years. Most console ports from the mid-90s were pretty solid actually, despite each system weakness. 
The Saturn port I have is pretty good, and was made by FPS experts from the Saturn, Lobotomy Software using heir own made SlaveDrive Engine. Even on a completely different Engine, the game's recognizable and playable. It even added a sweet tank minigame and a level, Urea 51.

The Nintendo 64 was fully 3D, with new character models, though heavily censored for Nintendo appreciation. There, the episodes come one after the other without the usual separated episodes selectable. The PSX was pretty faithful actually, apart from different sounding music.

Finally there is also a fairly "unlicensed" 1998 (!!) Megadrive port by Tec Toy, though heavily simplified for the 16-bits system. Made from new assets from scratch. Tec Toy used some sprits and sounds from the original PC version, but then the game features completely different gameplay mechanics, level design and engine (which appears to be drawing from Wolfenstein 3D, I imagine). It is thought to be a heavy-modified hack of the Megadrive's only other FPS, the 1994 Accolade game Zero Tolerance. It is by 3D Realms to not be official, but Tec Toy always claimed having obtained the license from GT Interactive at the time. While this version looks completely different, it is supposedly only one episode-long, based on the second of the 3 original episodes with the levels completely redesigned for the system, of course. This port is really difficult to control and not that enjoyable, but it's a fun oddity if anything.

I give it:
 3 / 3 Invaders!

1 comment:

  1. There was also a second voice actor who performed 'additional' voice actnig, more specifically the babes, too. Damn, what an awesone game!