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Duke Nukem: Hail To The King Or A ***king Embarrassment?

Last month saw the release of Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition, an updated version of the Duke’s classic 1996 game, so maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the “equal opportunities ass-kicker” as arguably his best game arrives on Steam after so many low career points.

Starting life as a largely silent, uninteresting hero, Duke jumped from 2D platformer obscurity to iconic early-days 3D first-person megastar thanks to the large and controversial success of Duke Nukem 3D, both in the game itself and in real life. A handful of games later over the course of 15 years and all things Duke have hit the fan, crushed by the weight of ageing fans’ expectations and his own ego. So what went wrong for the man who has single-handedly saved us from countless alien attacks?

Duke Nukem

Well, for one thing there is nothing original or interesting about the Duke Nukem character. His many games are self-aware and openly refer to the subject matter on which he is based. His machismo is made up of all the classic action heroes, mirrored in his bottomless pit of stolen or altered one-liners he utters throughout the games. He’s an ass-kicker (and bubblegum-chewer) from the 90s with attitudes towards women from the 70s, a total anachronism we have all since grown out of. Having spent 15 years in development (an industry record), one would have hoped to have a more updated, fleshed-out character once Duke Nukem: Forever hit the shelves back in 2011.

Personally, I found Duke Nukem: Forever to be a fairly tolerable game despite it being evidently poor. Sure, it was no game changer, it lacked decent graphics and level design, but a fair amount of it was fun and a little amusing to play. The immature child in me who enjoyed the Duke’s first 3D adventure all those years ago couldn’t help but giggle when he was awarded the ‘Turd Burglar’ achievement, worth 0G, for finding a piece of excrement in a toilet and picking it up. But this act also sums up what Duke has done to his franchise, uttering ‘what am I doing?!’ as he takes the steaming turd of a game in his hand and throws it against the wall of fans’ hopes and dreams - and watching it splat.

Duke Nukem

So, what of Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition? Is there any love left for Mr Nukem any more after a turbulent-at-best history of games? His third-person outings in Duke Nukem: Time to Kill and Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes were, again, tolerable games with generally good gameplay and generic Duke personality. Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, a side-scrolling platformer, was generally well received but he has since been awarded unofficial accolades such as ‘worst handheld game ever’ for the Nintendo DS game, Duke Nukem: Critical Mass.

Duke Nukem: Megaton Edition casts you back to the infancy of the first-person-shooter, the classic look and feel epitomised also by the early Doom and Wolfenstein games, but with the original and best Duke Nukem flavour. The graphics have of course been overhauled, but not to an extent where they look out of place. Think HD pixelation. Duke knows it’s the gameplay that counts, a character can’t simply carry a game over the finish line, and the core gameplay here is intact. Throw in three of the original expansion packs, namely Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach, Duke it Out in D.C. and Duke: Nuclear Winter, and for £6.99 you’ve literally got a load of bang for your buck. Put the last 17 years out of your head and remember Duke Nukem for what it is – a classic slice of violent 90s heaven. “Come get some.”

Roister Doister | 12th April, 2013
Misterwoot's picture
Duke Nukem is and can only be a slice of giggles wrapped up in classic 1980s "They Live" Carpenteresque ultraviolence and silliness.

If shrink raying pig cops and stomping on them isn't fun, what is?

Nailed it Roister my old mate

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