In a game market flooded with HD re-releases of games that came out sometimes less than 1 year prior, it is surprising when we see a game as old as Duke Nukem 3D see a return to consoles, albeit last gen consoles. Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition is a port of the game that was brought to PC in 2013 by Devolver Digital and is visually impressive considering its age. Originally released in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D is chock full of irreverent, tongue in cheek humor that lets gamers indulge their inner “Duke” and play as a character that self describes himself as “The King” and “All that is a man”. The types of phrases that Duke constantly spits out as he blows away pig cops or tips exotic dancers are frequent and highlight both the type of egocentric character Duke really is, and that it’s not something that games can really get away with these days.
Duke Nukem 3D is an early FPS similar in gameplay to DOOM, and is rich in content. The linear, single mission levels are clever and full of hidden secrets and rooms. The gameplay is simple. Aliens have invaded earth. They have captured our women and mutated our police force. Duke is the one man that may be able to save the day. You embark on each level with a pistol and numeric health bar and progression is made by clearing one room at a time and ultimately finding the end of the area. If you have never played these older FPS games then you may be surprised by how dated some mechanics feel. Health is only regenerated by finding medical kits in the environment. Ammo and new special weapons must be discovered in the world, and are often in hidden or heavily guarded areas. The many different enemy types are essential for keeping the shooting fresh and the varied levels are also a nice touch. This is level design at its most basic, yet still entertaining, roots. Running and gunning is separated by finding hidden areas in the world that are only unlocked by the right combination of button presses on a wall, or by finding weakened areas in the floor or walls that can be destroyed. There are tactical items in game that can be used to change up gameplay are steroids, holodukes and jetpacks, to name a few. The variety of weapons and ways to approach situations are numerous and it keeps the combat from getting stale.
The game consists of a whopping 41 levels spread throughout 4 episodes and has 4 difficulty levels. Thankfully, since this is a modern port, there are leaderboards to track your ass-kicking abilities against your friends or the rest of the world. There of course are trophies, art gallery unlocks and gameplay capture features thrown into the mix. In fact, every time you die in game you can choose where you respawn by rewinding the recorded gameplay and choosing a drop in point. This is a very nice touch that more games should have. When you feel that you are getting beat up too much, you can invite a friend to play co-op online on both PS3 and PS Vita. Speaking of online, there is a full multiplayer suite that lets up to 8 players “Duke” it out in old school styled deathmatches. There are also custom games that can be played, however, finding people online is a somewhat difficult task depending on when you are online. At least you can play with friends in player matches and you are not forced to only play matchmaking.
Playing Duke Nukem 3D takes veteran players back to a time when vertical aiming and online multiplayer were relatively new things. It’s not politically correct; it’s maybe even more controversial given the recent big issues in the gaming media; and it’s bound to go down in history as a contributing factor to gaming misogyny – but by today’s standards it’s very tame, and it is well aware of what it’s lampooning. It also allows newer gamers a chance to experience some of gaming’s key moments from history and relive them with polished visuals, three DLC packs and trophies. Throw in cross-buy/cross save and you have yourself one heck of a package, so what’s not to love?