Written by  :  Smackmud (5)
Written on  :  Nov 14, 2005
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars

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The last great 2.5D game.

The Good

The history of FPS games is marked by 3 major milestones...Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. Each of these games completely revolutionized FPS gaming with their release...Wolf3D introduced slick graphics and layed out the basics, Doom took the graphics to a the next level and introduced changes in elevation to level design, and Quake of course brought FPS gaming into the all important third dimension.

So where does Duke3D fit in?

Duke (and the excellent Build engine with which it's based) bridged the gap between Doom and Quake, bringing us such now-important gaming elements as mouse-look, jumping, crouching (which Quake didn't even let us do), flying, hi-res graphics, and one-liners. You could zip around in jet packs, shrink enemies and then stomp on them, tip strippers, remote detonate pipe bombs...all in all, Duke3D was a blast and an instant classic. Even the fairly good Build engine games that came after it (namely Blood, Shadow Warrior, and Redneck Rampage) didn't have the same coolness or fun factor as this game. Gameplay was miles ahead of Doom, or even Quake (which was released almost at the same time). Enemies were still just 2D sprites, but now they were rendered in excellent SVGA graphics. Level design was clever enough to hide the fact that the Build engine could not put a room over another room (but it sure fooled most of us!). While most of the weapons were rather generic (the standard pistol, shottie, multi-barreled chain gun, and the melee weapon i.e. Das Boot), some were down right ingenious and loads of fun to use (the pipe bombs, the freeze gun and the shrinker...I think the gaming world let out a collective "sweeeeet" when they first fired the shrinker at the mirror and shrunk themselves!) It was a very polished and feature packed slaughter fest.

And the "Award for Coolest Ironic Video Game Baddie" goes to....the PigCops!

The Bad

So if it's such a great game, why didn't I list this game with the 3 major FPS milestones? Am I just kissing Id's ass? The reason in a one word....technology. I consider Duke a "mini" revolution because technically Duke3D was a little behind the times. It unfortunately got released the same year as Quake introduced us to the future of FPS with its revolutionary full 3D engine. And while its true that Duke and its Build engine brethren where much more fun to play then Quake and the various early clones of that game, it was clear that the future of gaming was changing, and by the time Quake II hit the shelves, 2.5D engines had faded of the scopes. While the Build engine allowed for some great new gameplay innovations, it was little more than a tweaked and enhanced Doom engine. While Quake itself wasn't all that great a game, the engine was much more versatile than the Build engine allowing modders to twist and contort the engine to create completely different games - and in some cases different genres (Air Quake, Quake Rally, and Basketball Quake come to mind). The controls were half-assed between Doom and Quake...mouse look was just starting to be implemented and didn't quite feel right somehow. This wasn't a problem at the time because we weren't saturated with full 3d games, but play the game now and you'll know what I mean. Some of the levels were a little dull. Every now and again I would get the "been there done that" feeling that inevitably creeps up in every FPS.

The Bottom Line

All in all an excellent game. The Duke will forever be immortalized as one of the all-time great video game personalites along side Commander Keen, Mario, and Laura Croft. While not as advanced as Quake, it's still light-years better than Doom, and a hell of a lot of fun. It's a real shame that nothing ever became of it's sequel, although it was in the works for years. I lost track of it after the switched from the Quake II engine to the Half-life engine (or was it the Unreal engine?). If anyone knows if the Duke3D sequel is still in the works or has been canned please, email me and let me know.

Final word: If you are interested in classic gaming, and want to sample the glory days of 2.5d gaming, or just want to have loads of FPS fun, this game is a must!