Written by  :  Chris Wright (105)
Written on  :  Nov 22, 2007
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars4.4 Stars

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Memorable and innovative: the second great FPS

The Good

id released DOOM II in October, 1994, and for about a year and a half that was the most popular first-person shooter on the fledgling market. Then in early 1996 came Duke Nukem 3D. This game took the basic run-and-gun philosophy of the DOOM games, added a liberal dose of humour and cultural references, added some innovative new weapons, some fairly interesting new enemies, and a very effective new scripting system. This last feature is the most unique and valuable contribution of Duke Nukem to the early FPS genre. It allowed subway cars to loop around a track, making designated stops. It allowed walls to be blown apart by explosions, making new routes and uncovering secret rooms. It allowed earthquakes to send skyscrapers crashing to the ground. And it allowed all sorts of cool explosive sequences to be scripted into the game. Not only that, but the Build editor included with the game made it easy to use these advanced features.

Multiplayer is an area where Duke really stands out. There are useable items that create all sorts of strategic possibilities. The jetpack allows you to reach excellent vantage points. There are video monitors throughout some levels that allow players to safely observe the whereabouts of their opponents. The Holoduke creates a decoy illusion. Steroids allow you to run faster and kill adversaries with a single kick. Laser Tripmines and manually-triggered Pipe Bombs allow a clever player to triumph over one with quicker reflexes. And when a player emerges from the water, they leave wet footprints behind. A very nice, thoughtful touch. Duke Nukem deathmatches have the potential to be far more interesting and cerebral then DOOM's, and quite frankly, most games since.

The Bad

Ultimately, though, single-player Duke is not as compelling to play through as DOOM or DOOM II. Yes, the monsters are quite good, but they do not compare to id's iconic demons. Some of the maps are excellent but some are forgettable. The weapons are innovative, but the Shrink Ray and Freeze Gun feel somewhat gimmicky. Episodes Two and Three feel a little tacked-on. It's a strong game but ultimately plays second fiddle to DOOM in the history of the first-person shooter.

The Bottom Line

Duke Nukem 3D is one of several games to follow id into the market with a solid, memorable FPS. Out of Blood, Dark Forces, Heretic, and Rise of the Triad, Duke stands out in my mind as the most interesting, innovative, and memorable. It also has extremely high replay value: download the demo, which includes all of Episode One, and see for yourself.