PLATFORM: Xbox Live Arcade

DOWNLOAD IT FOR: 800 Points/ $10
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: 3D Realms

PUBLISHER: 3D Realms

Duke is back, baby. 3D Realms hit gold when they re-released one of the best shooters of all time on the Xbox Live Arcade, showing not only why he used to be King but even expanding and improving upon the original game.

Overshadowed by the controversy over the game’s adult content, it’s easy to forget all the innovations that Duke Nukem 3D brought to the table. Most people simple know it as that game where the guy spouted one-liners ripped from the Evil Dead trilogy while tipping strippers, watching animated porno and blasting away pig cops (while trying not to step in the shit they leave behind after they die).

But the game was a revelation for first person shooters at the time. It was the first game that allowed aiming via mouse look- something that’s the norm today. The use of the jetpack allowed for true 3D movement and level design at a time where everything was stuck on one plane. And practically everything in the damn game could be interacted with, from garbage cans to mirrors to urinals. I can’t be the only one who remembers being dumbstruck by the pool table on the first level whose balls actually reacted realistically to your bullets and feet.



The sex and violence in the game seems almost tame nowadays but strangely enough, Japan and Germany have banned this version. Some things never change…
 

THE PITCH


You play as Duke Nukem, a badass with a hardon for killing aliens. They’re trying to take over the Earth, which is bad enough, but they’re stealing our babes as they do it, which is a huge no-no for Duke. So he straps on his boots and jetpack and takes the fight to them.


   


THE PLAY

The controls won’t surprise anyone who’s played a first person shooter in the last two decades, because this is the one that started it all. But the one thing that will surprise fans of the series is the amazing replay system that’s in place. Every time you die you’re offered the chance to rewind the game and try a new tactic. It’s more similar to the system in Braid than Prince of Persia, because there’s no limit to how far you can rewind each level. It’s an incredibly smart idea that allows you to forget about saving the game every 10 feet on the harder difficulty settings, and is fun for anal types like me who get mad when a small alien kicks your ass for no reason. One quick RPG suicide and you’re back, smoking that alien that sneaked up on you before. Every game should have this kind of system in place.



The one other thing that you’ll immediately notice is how great it is to have some challenge. This game does not hold your hand. You’re not told where to go or what to do- when you come across a row of switches in front of a locked door, it’s up to you to figure out the pattern to open the door. You won’t find the answer written on a wall nearby or something. It’s refreshing for the modern gamer, someone so used to being told every little thing to do. Sure, once in a while it can get frustrating as you search for that one key card you somehow missed, but exploration in this game is fun, since there’s so many secret areas and references to other movies to find (one of my favorite that I’d never found before was running across a strung-up and dead Luke Skywalker inside an ice cavern).

The game is still fun, the weapons still among the most imaginative and useful around. You’ll relish using the shrink ray against your enemies and stomping them to bits, or freezing them and shattering them with a bullet. Duke’s always had one of the best collections of weapons around but if there’s one gripe you’ll have with the game, it’s in how you select them. On a PC choosing a weapon was as easy as hitting one of the number keys, but on the Xbox you’ve got to sift through them by hitting the left or right bumpers. This means that it’s basically impossible quickly switch a weapon, especially since he has to pull each one up before moving on to the next. It would have been nice to have a quick-select menu, perhaps using the d-pad. But it’s not a game killer.

There’s tons of hours of fun to be had here, for newcomers and old fans alike.
 
THE PRESENTATION
 
The graphics were state of the art 10 years ago, but they aren’t going to wow newbs today. But they’re nicely animated and still do the job. The big bosses in the game are still frightening when they appear.


 
The sound effects were always a big part of the game. It’s still got perhaps the best chunky explosion sound ever in games, and hearing your enemies explode when you launch an RPG at them never gets old. The music has a little bit of an uplift, but new gamers won’t be too impressed with the repetitive midi music. Still, some fun stuff, and Duke always has a funny line to punctuate his actions.
 

THE REPLAY

 

Besides the huge number of campaign levels (throughout 4 different chapters) you can also play through the whole game co-op with 7 of your friends. This adds a huge amount of replay value, and never mind finding the dozens of secret areas scattered throughout the game. While it’s great to have 8-play online co-op it’s sad that there’s no splitscreen co-op. Duke Nukem 64 had it, so why couldn’t this version?

But the online “Dukematches” more than make up for it. You can play them either 1 on 1 or 8 players at once, which is a free-for-all that’ll leave newcomers stunned and confused. These are some fast and brutal matches and you’ll get killed before you knew your were alive if you don’t know what you’re doing. You really need to learn weapon and item placements, because the pistol will be no match for anyone who knows where the big weapons are and can explode you all over the place.



Incredibly fun, fast matches that are perfect for a few quick games during a break.
 


THE VERDICT
 

An absolute must-buy for any FPS fans, or anyone who was too young to play it when it first came out. Get over the graphics and you’ll see that the level design, weapons and humor are still top notch. Plus, the multiplayer will keep the fun going for months and months… at least until Duke Nukem Forever comes out.

Uh… it is coming out, right guys?


9.5 out of 10