With the release of Duke Nukem Forever portraying the Duke Nukem of today, it’s always good to go back and reminisce about the Duke that was. Here’s a jump to the past with a Duke Nukem 3D retrospective and how this game forged Duke’s iconic status.
Duke Nukem 3D is a game that has made its mark in the annals of gaming history. Like a fine wine, it ages rather well. You’d think a game made nigh 15 years ago would suck if you were to pick it up today but strangely enough (maybe due to rose-colored glasses) it’s still actually fun to play. Some of the best gaming moments (past and present) I’ve had were playing Duke Nukem 3D.
While the visuals were somewhat better than the previous FPS during the time, they still were pretty dated looking especially when id Software’s Quake came out during the same year with actual 3D graphics.
At the time, Duke Nukem 3D was using the Build Engine and it was more akin to 2.5D than actual 3D because it basic world geometry was two-dimensional, with a height component thrown in. It would render as if it was 3D but not truly be three-dimensional. Many of the character models were also just 2D sprites but it definitely didn’t seem out of place at the time. Even now, the usage of sprites has an unexpected appeal for me anyways. Probably from all the nostalgia I get from seeing sprites. Nowadays though, if you really can’t stand the visuals, Duke Nukem fans put together eDuke32 and the Duke Nukem 3D High Resolution Pack which give Duke Nukem 3D a facelift that doesn’t take away from the overall feel of the game. eDuke32 works on a Mac, all you need is a Duke Nukem 3D “.grp” file and the installer should take care of the rest. eDuke32 is an authorized add-on and the High Resolution Pack is fan made that replaces artwork with higher resolution versions and the sprites with actual 3D models(I would recommend playing it this way unless you want to experience the old-school Duke.)
While its presentation wasn’t the most astounding, what Duke Nukem 3D offered was a crazy amount of interactivity in the game. Wasn’t it the coolest thing back then when you found out that you could hit the pool balls in the bar or tip a stripper and get a dance from it? Even the most mundane bits of interactivity, like turning off the lights or using the toilet back then were something new and exciting. Interactivity prompted much exploration, because I remember trying to find EVERYTHING that I could mess with.
Level design was a definite strong point of the game as well. The game did a pretty good job not just copying levels and areas over again and over again. Most, if not all, of the places ventured in Duke Nukem 3D had a unique feel to it and it certainly had you going into some unique places for sure. Ranging from a dirty cinema, strip club, porn shop, high security prison, and a space station. All of them different and fun to explore especially with all the easter eggs and secret areas sprinkled throughout the game. Oh, the hours I spent trying to find all the secrets. I always made sure I had some explosives on hand so I could blow up the cracks I’d come across to open some new areas.
Before Duke Nukem 3D, you never really got much of an idea on who he was from his first two games. With Duke Nukem 3D, that all changed when Duke was given life with the help of the gravely-voiced voice actor, Jon St. John, spouting off some of the greatest action hero quotes of all time (some of which was borrowed from Ash from the Army of Darkness movie.)
You found that he was a brash, over-the-top, egocentric, AWESOME action hero. He knew it. I knew it. And he never hesitated in shoving that fact in your face throughout the whole game. The great thing about this was that it added charm along with some tongue-in-cheek humor to the game since he was the parody of action heroes of the time. The Duke of today remains largely unchanged for which I’m glad.
Speaking of humor, A LOT of the humor was pretty immature and crude, but that was quite alright with me, because around the time I played Duke Nukem 3D, I was pretty immature and crude. Even to this day, I know not to take the game seriously so I can still enjoy the humor it has to offer. Seeing Duke rip off the head of an alien and then defecating down its neck had me pitching a fit back then. Now, it elicits a hearty chuckle.
Duke Nukem 3D was a fun romp of a game that let you throw money at strippers, piss in toilets, and play billards. I for one believe it to have aged pretty well since its debut in 1996 and some of the FPS’s of the today should take note on some of what Duke Nukem 3D offered. BUT never the keycard searches to open doors. Never brings those back. Ever.
What were your fondest memories about Duke Nukem 3D? Share them in the comments!