Back in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D launched on the PC, giving gamers a less serious alternative to Doom or Wolfenstein. Since its initial launch, the game has since made an appearance on a wide-variety of devices, from the Mega Drive, PS1 and Sega Saturn to the PC, Xbox 360, iPhones and Android devices. Now, almost 20 years later, the Duke has made his way to the PlayStation Vita, courtesy of Abstraction Games and Devolver Digital.
The PlayStation Vita release is titled Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition and comprises of the original game and three expansion packs – Duke It Out In D.C., Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach and Duke: Nuclear Winter as well as throwing multiplayer into the mix. This offers players over sixty missions to take on as our ass-kicking hero, adding plenty of value to a game that is Cross-Buy with the PlayStation 3 version and currently free to PlayStation Plus subscribers.
Added to the fact that a lot of PlayStation Vita owners constantly cry out for more first person shooters to be made for the console and it sounds like the Duke is on to a winner right?
Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that this game does well, for example the level design and open-feel to the areas is something that a lot of first person shooters still struggle with nowadays or the imaginative array of weapons that the Duke has at his disposal throughout the main campaign and the expansion packs – there’s the Shrinker (that does exactly what you’d imagine) in the main campaign to Super soakers and Pineapples (replacing Pipe Bombs) in the Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach expansion.
Before I dive into the rest of the review and I go into detail about what the game does get right, I will start with this – the Duke sure as hell is one misogynistic man. Almost every chapter of the game is full of crude, derogatory remarks and wisecracks from the blonde-haired Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike.
Now it’s not that I’m a killjoy, some of my favourite games deal with adult themes, but when this is a 16-rated game (it has been an 18-rated game in previous forms) that aims its humour at those at the lower end of the puberty scale (there are trophies for standing in poo and tipping strippers) it begs the question whether the Duke really is a parody of the action heroes of the Eighties and Nineties as many people believe him to be or just a poorly-judged lead character for a video game. There are those that say that this is just the humour of the time, to that argument I would have to present Duke Nukem Forever as my rebuttal.
Thankfully, the game’s lack of a story means that we don’t get too much exposure of this mind-bogglingly jock-like character. The main premise of Duke Nukem 3D is that the world is subject to an alien invasion and Duke is on a one-man mission to save it. We are treated to an aged cutscene at the end of each of the game’s four chapters where we get to endure some of the Duke’s drivel as he mutilates the boss that you just killed.
This lack of narrative also makes navigating some levels confusing. There were times when I had killed everything in sight, opened every door I could find and still be absolutely clueless about where I had to go next. This normally meant that I had missed a small button or destructible piece of the environment that led to the next location.
Asinine protagonist and simple story aside, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition is a good game. It is definitely the best Duke Nukem game that has been released (although that is not too difficult) and it is a good first person shooter. The aforementioned level design is brilliant, for a game that is almost twenty years old to offer gamers the amount of freedom that Duke Nukem 3D does is something that some modern-day first person shooters should be ashamed of.
Almost everything in each level can be interacted with, if you enter a dark room you can look for a light switch and flick it on to illuminate it or if you come across a pool table you can then attempt to pot the balls (which behave exactly as you’d expect them to). There really has been a lot of effort put into each of the stages that you will play through.
Not only can you interact with a lot of the environment, you can destroy most of it too! If you see a crack in any of the walls as you explore a stage, be sure to fire a rocket or fling a pipe bomb in its direction to expose a new route or a secret area. Likewise with any air vents that you come across. There was one level that I played through where I dropped a pipe bomb right at the start of the stage, this then blew a hole in the wall right next to me which exposed the game’s exit – allowing me to bypass the whole level!
Duke Nukem 3D’s control scheme also, on the most part, works really well. In traditional first-person style, the analogue sticks control movement, X is jump and the Right trigger is the shoot button. I did find that aiming with the crosshair could be a little tricky at times, thankfully the game has aim assist active throughout to help you shoot down the bad guys. The game utilises the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen to allow for you to switch weapons. You will use the left and right side of the touchscreen to scroll back and forth through the guns at your disposal.
There are various items that the Duke can use to help him defeat the alien scourge and navigate the land including a jet pack, scuba gear and protective boots. These are equipped by using the Circle button and selected by using left and right on the D-Pad. My only complaint with the control scheme was that crouch was assigned to the Triangle button, making it hard to crouch and aim/look around at the same time.
Another neat feature of the game is the timeline. When you die in Duke Nukem, you are presented with a timeline of your progress through the level. You can jump straight back into the game from where you met your maker or you can decide to rewind the timeline and spawn at an earlier part of the stage – enabling for you to tackle the game with a different approach. I think that this is a great addition to the game and it eradicates the need for checkpoints but does allow for you to go back to an earlier part of a stage to take a breather and stock up on items if the action does get a little too much for you.
Once you have completed a stage your run is saved and can be viewed under the ‘User Clips’ section of the main menu. From here you can watch your run-through of any level you have played, with the game allowing for you to jump in and play from wherever you feel.
This is also the same for the multiplayer. Footage of your online matches is also saved to the ‘User Clips’ section. Although you can’t jump back into the action here you can view it from the perspective of any of the participants in the game. This could potentially help those that are not too great in the multiplayer as they could watch what others are doing and possibly find ways to improve or help them with locating shortcuts or secret areas.
These clips that are stored can be shared also, allowing for any of your friends who also have the game to view your moments of brilliance (or stupidity) if you choose to upload them. This is a welcome addition to the game and is something I would love to see appear more often in games.
The multiplayer itself is fast, frantic and great fun. You can either play co-op, one-on-one with another player, or with up to seven other players (including Cross-Play with PS3 players) in a free-for-all deathmatch. The co-op mode will see you and friends (the lobby screen suggests up to seven other players!) fight your way through the main campaign of the game which will certainly add to what is already an enjoyable campaign!
The multiplayer does however have a few glitches, there were occasions where I could unload a few rockets into another player and the hit would not register or other times where the game would be plagued with lag. Even with these issues, the multiplayer is a blast and I spent a lot of time having fun running around aimlessly and kicking people with the Duke’s almighty boot! The only question that I have is how long can this game keep it up for? With only a handful multiplayer modes available and a handful of maps, I can’t see it being too long before it becomes a struggle finding an online game with other players.
Overall, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition is a good game. The graphics still hold up quite well for a 19 year old game even if the enemies and the ‘babes’ are a bit on the pixelated side. I found the game to be an extremely enjoyable first person shooter that was ruined by an annoying lead character. I did play the game back in the late nineties as a young, immature adolescent and back then the humour did appeal to me, however now I find the Duke to be a bit on the juvenile side.
Gripes aside, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition certainly does give you value for money and is a game that is worth a look at. Our hero Duke likes to kickass and chew bubblegum and he certainly does that throughout this game. It is just unfortunate for him and his immature behaviour that I am all outta patience!