Monday, 29 September 2008

Duke Nukem 3D XBLA Review

The Xbox 360 has seen quite a lot of 'golden oldies' returning to form on its 'Arcade' online publishing system in the last few years. From Doom to Street fighter, almost every memorable title of the last 20 years that isn't a Nintendo or Sony exclusive has been re-branded and hawked for a few MS points on the 360. Often they include added online features like co-op or online play which the titles may or may not have had in the past but with the added benefit of broadband, it is always an improvement. Sometimes you even get the game running at better resolutions than were available when it was released.

Sadly, time forgets some of it's children and not all of them are remembered well enough to be considered financially viable for the Xbox. Still, every Wednesday something comes out and now and then it is an old classic we have been badly missing. Recently we got a real gem - Duke Nukem 3D.

This is still the Duke Nukem you knew and loved back in 1996 and whilst the sprites and levels haven't aged well compared to the young upstarts of C.O.D. and Halo, they still work well and nothing has been removed. Unlike Duke Nukem 64, you get all the strippers and porn shops you can handle on the 360. For those too young to remember the Duke (and probably too young to be playing as him) he is basically a sarcastic, wise cracking, sexist bad ass who decides that when aliens take over LA and try to steal Earth's women for breeding purposes that they need his size 13 boot planted firmly up their collective assholes. He decides to take on the alien horde not because he is the last fighting man left or because he is the new Space Marine messiah but only because it is time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and he is all out of gum.

Shake It Baby!

This game is not politically correct. There are enemies called pig cops, which are literally mutated pig policemen. There are strippers and porn stars hiding about in levels whom you can pay to show you their breasts. Duke swears, a lot. When you launch a RPG into a weaker enemy and he explodes into multiple giblets Duke will probably reward your hardcore butt kicking with a well deserved exclamation of 'Holy Shit!' The game itself is an old school run and gun sprite based FPS game, but with more twists than just humour and tits. There is a jet-pack, so you can move in true 3D. You can look up and down which in Doom you could not. There are basic physics, so you can blow the environment up and even play a bit of pool. There are the usual pistols, shotguns and machine guns but you also get a shrink ray which lets you stamp on enemies and turn them into paste, not to mention the awesome and crafty pipe bombs. Oh yes, in this game your melee attack isn't a mundane fist or cliche knife - you put your boot directly in the face of any ugly S.O.B. who dares try to take you on and you can do this at the same time as firing you gun, which in 1996 (a long time before Halo separated melee attacks from the main fire button) was revolutionary stuff.

The game has been spruced up a bit for the 360. You get the usual 8 player deathmatch options, but you also get 8 player Co-Op as well, which (if you can find a host that doesn't lag to hell) is awesome fun. No amount of aliens on even the hardest difficulty can withstand the might of 8 Dukes put together. There is also a rather useful rewind function which no other FPS game to date has, which lets you rewind your game when you die to any point previously on that level making the 'quick save and die' play style of the 90's something to be left to rot in the past where it belongs. You can even save the video of the level and send it to friends, Halo 3 style. This works for Deathmatch and Co-Op too, and it really adds something fresh to a 12 year old game. You get all three original chapters and the expansion chapter 'The Birth' for your MS points, which translates into a lot of value for money.

However, this is a 12 year old game, and it has its faults. Level design isn't as up to date as newer games and it can show - finding the red key card can take half an hour just because it was hidden behind a door randomly assigned throughout the level that looks just like every other door but opens when you press X. The graphics and cut-scenes, hilarious as they may be, (remember kids, when the Duke promises to rip off your head and shit down your neck, he MEANS it!) are horribly dated and make the original Metal Gear Solid in game cut-scenes looks like something Pixar drew up. The game is still fun to play but it can be incredibly unfair with Doom style monster closets. The gameplay that was original then can feel very stale now. Lag is also present online despite this being a game designed for 56k modems being played over Broadband due to live chat which kills so many otherwise lag-less games speed wise. It's playable but if you get a poor host you will not be happy. Death-match is also rather stale at times as it is quite hard to shoot tiny 8 pixels sprites in the distance with poor auto-aim and no scoped weapons.

Still, Duke Nukem is an awesome game, even after all this time. With the new live features it has been given a new breath of life and it's ready to rip any game that thinks they can trump the sheer bad-assery of Duke Nukem 'a new one'. If anything, this game is a comedy classic and inspires a real feeling of being a total one-line spilling movie action hero. This game is worth getting but if you don't like the FPS genre or just old FPS games in general, it won't change your mind. For everybody else, this is Doom with better online features, humour and tits. At only 800 MS points it is time for everybody to "Hail to the king baby!"


Reviewed by: Edwin Jones

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