Retro Corner - DUKE NUKEM

Duke Nukem has always been an iconic character – close to many gamers hearts.  An ingenious homage to popular characteristics of 80’s and 90’s action heroes.  His combination of macho ‘charm’, pithy catchphrases and big guns made him an enduring character featuring in multiple games over a plethora of formats.  His most famous adventure was undoubtedly his first outing in 3D – simply titled Duke Nukem – 3D.

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Originally released in 1996, released six months after Doom and six months before Quake.  Duke Nukem 3D was the most technologically advanced FPS on the market at the time. It still used 2D sprites for it’s enemies and objects – but featured interactive environments and an arguably more immersive environment.  The game also featured a series of firsts.  The ability to look up and down, as well as fully 3D movement while swimming and using a Jetpack. It also included more complex online modes than was normally available.  It also brought a new environment to the FPS genre, the near future setting, which was fairly unique at the time (but utilised effectively by a later FPS game – SiN)

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Duke Nukem also brought some fantastic imaginative weapons which were a delight to use.  From the usual pistols and meaty shotguns to a shrink ray, a freeze ray and even a Total Recall style hologram distraction.  The level designs in the early levels are perfectly structured and even the later levels – which seem a little tired.  Featuring non-linear routes and the superb, aforementioned interaction with objects.  Switches could be flicked, smashing water hydrants and the slightly childish humour of being able to relieve yourself at nearby bathrooms and interacting with strippers.

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The game’s humour is a little cringe worthy when we look back on it with our lens of the #metoo generation and a (thankfully) increasing awareness of political correctness.  There’s a lot of fun dialogue from films like The Evil Dead and They Live peppered in the puerile humour. I enjoyed the satire of having Pigs are alien police officers but the other aspects of the humour feel as if they were designed by and for sexually – repressed teenage boys.  I was one of those boys when I first played this and at the time, I loved it and even now.. sometimes, I produce a rye smile.  It’s very much a product of it’s time and if you approach this classic game for the first time, it must be understood as that.

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This new version – The Megaton Edition includes the original game, as well as three expansions and all the various extras that the game has accumulated over the years. Each if these expansions were fan-made creations using the games level editor.  Duke Caribbean : Life’s a Beach is fairly entertaining, as you battle your enemies with water pistols and super-soakers in an island paradise.   Nuclear Winter is a similarly wacky concept, complete with Santa hat wearing sprites.  However it’s level design isn’t as well thought out.  The final expansion pack Duke it out in DC features better planned levels, but doesn’t add much originality.

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This is an incredibly fun title which brings back a flood of nostalgia fuelled memories.  I confess that I often repeat Dukes opening line as the initial level loads up, I love the gunplay. I remember fondly the early days of my PC gaming which exploded due to this iconic title and the frantic discussions in the school playground surrounding it.  No matter your opinion, this is an important title in the history of PC gaming.  It’s worth a few hours of your time.

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