Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hail to the King... The Duke Nukem 3D XBLA Review

When Duke Nukem 3D first arrived on PC, it was truly something else despite being another first person shooter in 1996 that Doom started. While it played like shooters at the time like Doom and Quake, the questionable content raised some eyebrows among the gaming industry. Twelve years later, Duke makes his return appearance on Xbox Live Arcade maintaining what was great in the PC version and added more features to be more of a complete package. While Duke Nukem Forever may never come out or disappoint, playing the one that made him famous still feels great today. As a nostalgic festival of what first person shooters were before Halo or Half-Life, Duke Nukem 3D is worth a playthrough for fans and even newcomers who want to know why this game made a stir of controversy in the gaming world in the mid 90s.

As a mid-90s FPS, Duke is all about killing alien scums and being a true American with his signature quotes of "Come Get Some" or "Hail to the King Baby." The story is as simple as it gets with Earth being dismantled and it is to Duke to get rid of the aliens who wrecked havoc and save the planet. The gameplay follows the same formula that Doom started of shoot bad guys, don't die, find some keys and sometimes get lost, and shoot more bad guys for a few hours. That formula surprisingly still holds up today and being old-school means you not as babied through a shooter as you are today. All the fundamental weapons are there such as the shotgun, chaingun (Ripper), and the rocket launcher along with obscure ones that generate laughs at times with the Shrinker and the Freezer. At default settings, there is some sort of auto-aim in the game even though aiming in general with it on can be a pain of times. In addition, expect yourself to die a lot if you run to tight situations, but a new rewind system allows players to return from the moment they died or even the beginning of the level if things didn't go well (along with the save at any time system). Another potential issue with some players is motion sickness if playing for a long time especially having run mode turned on, which makes things go faster than it could be. As a single player game that came out twelve years ago, it still feels like mindless shooting, but it feels great despite some minor flaws.

Other than the single player campaign, there is multiplayer in the XBLA version of online deathmatches either one-on-one or free for all where a maximum of eight players go crazy in any of the levels in the campaign. It is a little unfortunate that deathmatch only levels don't exist and having eight players trying to kill each other while everyone in run mode feels too chaotic that lots of luck rather than skill is required to win games. Sometimes, you just have to fire at will and hope you kill someone in the process, but at least online games performed well with minimal lag. The other major multiplayer feature is co-op with also up to eight players tackling the campaign together even though the first one who ends the level also ends the level for everyone else. Despite that issue, it is still cool co-op play is still in in some way. New to the XBLA version also is a Halo 3-like saved clips system of keeping recent games of both campaign and multiplayer. This system is also neat to see blazing speedruns of the game's levels happen in mere minutes.

As a port of Atomic Edition with one more episode compared to the original PC release, Duke Nukem 3D seems fine running at a constant 60 frames per second with little to no instances of slowdown. Sure, the game looks ugly now compared to what is seen today, but if you have a nostalgic love for the enemy sets and Duke himself, you don't need to worry. There is no widescreen support in this XBLA version as the game screen is in 4:3, but at least the border surrounding the game screen looks like a cool wallpaper you would use on your PC. The sound quality remains the same from the PC version with Duke maintaining his signature personality and generic music throughout the campaign.

For 800 Microsoft Points (ten dollars), the XBLA port of Duke Nukem 3D offers a lot of value with a lengthy campaign the first time though, but can be beaten in a hour or two if you memorized the game to death. Along with online co-op and multiplayer deathmatches that are too chaotic requiring some luck to be successful, there is still some replay value after beating the game in addition to the saved clips system. The port quality seems fine as well keeping it faithful to the 1996 release with all the graphics and sounds in tact. The normal XBLA requirements of leaderboards and achievements ranging from game progression and racking up kills in ranked deathmatches are in too. If you're itching to relive the days of first person shooters when they were controversial and before they were too mainstream, I recommend checking out Duke Nukem 3D on Xbox Live Arcade.

Score = 8/10

  • Accurate port of Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition
  • Gameplay feels nostalgic, yet it still holds up to today's FPS.
  • Great additions of 8-player co-op and a Halo 3-like saved films system.
  • Motion sickness may be a problem for some if the game goes too fast.
  • Multiplayer deathmatches can be too chaotic at times with more luck than skill.
  • Aiming issues can be a pain with auto aim on.
  • No widescreen support, but the neat border makes up for it slightly.

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