An excellent port of the classic shooter whose gameplay holds up even today.
This is the single-player review of Duke Nukem 3D for the Xbox 360 Xbox Live Arcade. I do not have Live so I cannot review multiplayer. This is the port of the pc version including the fourth act “Birth”. The game is almost exactly like its pc counterpart. I have never played this game in any iteration before, so this review is as unbiased as I can make it.
STORY 6/10: Not surprisingly, much can't be said about the story. You are Duke Nukem, aliens are invading earth and abducting our babes. It is your job to kill all the aliens but you can't rescue the babes unfortunately. The story isn't really important; just know you got to shoot the aliens. Although the game does give you a bit of a backstory on what's happened before the first level.
GRAPHICS 5/10: This game was made in 1996, so cut it some slack. In that respect they are very good. But by today's standards they are pitiful. But if you want to enjoy this game, you have to look past the 2d sprites and enjoy the game for what it is. There is also some weird screen stretching when you look up or down. Fortunately there's little reason to ever do so if it bothers you.
GAMEPLAY 10/10: Even today this game's gameplay holds up and is even better than some modern fps's. I would like to break down the gameplay into smaller sections.
WEAPONS 9/10: The weapons in this game are a blast to use. My favorites are the shotgun, ripper (machine gun), rpg, pipebomb, and shrinker. There are total of 10 weapons you can use plus your size 14 foot which is an excellent use-anytime melee weapon. Personally I found the freeze gun and tripmines to be useless, but perhaps you may enjoy using them. Only thing I don't like is that using the bumpers to cycle your weapons, which is fine, is made slow because you must wait for the entire animation to finish before you can cycle again. Bad if you want to switch in the middle of a fire-fight. Rapid weapon cycling would be nice.
MOVEMENT/PLATFORMING 9/10: What I mean here is how you move and navigate the map. May sound odd, but the stuff this game did were big advancements for it's time. For example you can swim underwater, even fly using the jetpack, and jump. Even enemies will swim and jetpack after you, and it is all done very well. The platforming itself is also quite fun, using the surroundings to explore new areas and find secrets. A feature unique to this version is that you can click in the right thumbstick at anytime to make Duke run about twice as fast.
ENEMIES 10/10: The enemy's designs and types are very good. There is enough variety in the enemies in the levels so that once again killing 100 enemies doesn't get boring. They are generally stupid, unsurprisingly, but still present a challenge. They are capable of sneaking up on you and have good accuracy. The animations on them are done pretty well, and there is even some variety in their deaths and actions to keep things fresh and entertaining.
SECRETS 10/10: There is a cool feature built into almost all levels that allows for great fun and replay value. There's an average of about 5 hidden secrets or more on every level. A secret is simply a secret room or area that you must go out of your way to find and access. They range from easy: simply thoroughly explore the room, to hard: you have to be lucky, incredibly thorough, or informed. Finding secrets usually yields good items and always makes you feel good when you find one. It also helps to break up the monotony of playing through a level.
LEVEL STRUCTURE 9/10: You might find this game to be a bit challenging in figuring out where to go. It's not quite like your average shooter. You almost always have to find a keycard, find a switch, or notice a crack in the wall and blow it up to continue the level. Some people might find this annoying. I find it to be quite fun. The game also shows you what switches, cracks, and keycards look like under the “how to play” section which I recommend you read. This too helps break up the monotony of a level so you're not just mindlessly shooting, hallway after hallway. A nice feature is that you can select any level you want to play at any time, including the secret levels. The downside is you start out with just your pistol.
LENGTH 10/10: There are over 30 levels including bonus levels. If you've never played before and take your time, each level will take a minimum of 15 minutes to beat on normal (let's rock). You should be able to get a good 10 hours or more out of this game on your first playthrough, and you won't even find all secrets.
INVENTORY 9/10: This is where you can have things like the portable medkit and jetpack. Simply use the d-pad to switch between items and press B to use. This is an excellent feature that adds more depth to the game. Only problem is some items are useless or just never needed. Steroids for example make you run twice as fast. Well if you click in the right thumbstick, it's the same thing but it lasts until you click it again. I can't imagine steroids being much use even without clicking the thumbstick, as you can outrun most enemies anyway. Or maybe it's just not my play style. Also, I can never seem to get holoduke working properly. He's supposed to serve as a distraction but they usually shoot me anyway. For the most part items are useful.
AIMING 9/10: In the original pc version you didn't use the mouse to aim, but instead the keyboard. You almost never looked up or down, although you could if you wanted to. This means there was heavy auto-aim when it came to shooting enemies above and below you. In the 360 version you have full control of your crosshair and can look up and down with ease. Some people might find this to be bad because they prefer vertical-impaired aiming of the original which is fine. An option to allow this would have been cool for them but it wasn't included. You can adjust the sensitivity as a whole but you cannot customize vertical and horizontal look sensitivity individually. There is also an optional auto-aim feature to help with your aiming.
CONTROLS 10/10: For a pc port, this game works very well with a controller. You can also customize any action to any button. Except when switching weapons, which is a design flaw in the program and not the controller, I have not had any problems and find the default setup to be the best.
MUSIC 10/10: Although the music may sound old and dated, it is still very fun to listen to and never gets old. Each level has its own unique music that is truly top-notch. The music is designed more to be something you can jam with, rather than be environmental and fitting for the setting, which is what most games these days try to do. But the music also never seems out of place.
SOUND 10/10: From the gunshots to the sounds of the dying aliens, everything is done very well. I still get satisfaction hearing the dying squeal of the Pigcop from the bang of my shotgun. Enemies also make sounds, from just standing there to getting shot and doing an alien scream in pain, these are all quite fun to hear. And of course, one cannot forget Duke's numerous sayings. As you start the level, end the level, pick up items, kill certain enemies, blow enemies up, and more, Duke says a cheesy yet highly amusing remark. I think it's his macho-filled voice that does it for me. If it was some ordinary guy it would sound dumb, but Duke makes everything he says cool. If Duke's sayings make you jealous of his machoness, you can turn them off in the options menu.
REWIND FEATURE 10/10: This is a feature exclusive to the 360 version. Whenever you die, you can rewind the game back to any point since you started playing, no matter how long. Then simply press X and you will immediately start playing from where you selected. This basically replaces the quicksave feature of the pc and is far superior in my opinion. You can of course manually save and I recommended this be done at least every 7 minutes or so because the rewind feature from death has been known to corrupt and force you to load a manual save. It is very rare so no need to worry. I estimate a less than 1% chance of corruption occurring. The game also stores the last 50 games you've played and you can view them at any time. While viewing, you can also press X here too and begin playing from that point as well. Awesome! Obviously this won't work with multiplayer games. You can also save any of these clips so they don't get overwritten by more recent clips. You also seem able to share clips with friends and Xbox Live, but I haven't experimented with this.
CONTENT WARNING: This game is rated mature. It contains strong violence and gore, such as exploding enemies and goo splashing, as well as blood on the walls. There is strong language including the “S” word which is commonly used by Duke, but the “F” word is never spoken. There is strong sexual content such as scantily clad babes. You can also pay strippers and have them flash you, but their nipples have clips on them, so it's “technically” not nudity. There are also naked “pod girls” (girls abducted by the aliens) whose private parts are covered by these vine things which are imprisoning them. There is also an inventory item called steroids. Duke makes no animation to indicate he has used them when you select them; you merely experience the effects which is the redundant ability to run faster.
FINAL VERDICT 9/10: This is truly an awesome fps that rivals even some modern day fps's in the single-player department. Like all Xbox Live Arcade games I strongly recommend you download the trial first before you buy. You get to play the entire first level (2 would have been nice). If you like the first level, odds are you will enjoy the rest of the game even more as it never slacks off and just gets better and better.
Originally posted on GFAQS, 10-1-08.
Copyright © 2012 Kane's Games