Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: 3D Realms
January 31, 1996 (DOS); June 1, 1997 (Macintosh); September 30, 1997 (PlayStation);
October 31, 1997 (Nintendo 64); Genesis release sometime in 1998 (Brazil
release sometime in 1997
Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown (PS1 version), Duke Nukem 64 (N64
The success of iD Software
's ground-breaking game Doom
(and to a lesser extent its
precursor, Wolfenstein 3D
) inevitably led to the production of a flurry of clones of
varying quality. Among those wanting to cash in was Apogee Software
, iD's former
distributor. Apogee had already had some success with a series of platformer
s known as
"Duke Nukem"; the games featured an eponymous marine badass proficient with nearly any
weapon, much like the soldier you play in the Doom games. With an already popular franchise
in one hand, and Ken Silverman
engine in the other, Apogee (using the name "3D Realms
" set about creating
"Duke Nukem 3D".
The game - which follows the loose plot of "Aliens have invaded Earth to steal all our women" - is split into three "episodes" - L.A. Meltdown, Lunar Apocalypse, and Shrapnel
City. (A fourth episode - "The Birth" - was included in the later released "Atomic Edition",
and featured some new enemies.) This was
mostly to fit Apogee's shareware
marketing tactics - the first episode was free, the rest came with the full version. The irritating consequence of this was that you'd start out each episode with no weapons except your pistol
and no items. The developers didn't seem to take that into account very much; thus the first level of the second and third episodes can be a bit more difficult than they should be, due to a lack of ammunition. At any rate, the game featured four difficulty levels: "Piece of Cake" (Easy), "Let's Rock!" (Normal), "Come Get Some" (Hard), and "Damn I'm Good" (Hard, plus enemies respawn
if not blown up).
In many respects, DN3D was only a small step above Doom. The biggest advance was that you could look up and down. That doesn't seem like much, but the Doom engine did not allow for it. (John Carmack
apparently felt it would cause the frame rate
to drop too much, and he may have been right in 1993.) Other additions are pretty small; there's some voice acting, and a few low-resolution movies, but that's about it. It still used sprite
s, so things look the same at all angles. This would especially look silly four months later, when iD would debut its new fully-3D FPS, Quake
It can be said without too much hyperbole
that Duke Nukem 3D was perhaps the game most instrumental in bringing about public outrage about "inappropriate" video game
s. The reason is simple: the game's content can be summed up in a single word, "gonzo
". Everything about it was bizzare and exaggerated; the violence, the out-of-place sexuality, and Duke's ultra-masculinity. Some of the game's levels were set in such places as a porno
theater, a porno studio, a strip club
, and a sex-themed amusement park
. You could go around offering money to stripper
s and hooker
s (who were apparently oblivious to the alien invasion), the former of which would flash some highly pixelated titties at you. (You could also kill these women - in fact, you had to to get certain items - which was something critics often made reference to, though in most cases the game punished you with more enemies if you did this.) There were floating aliens who shot rocket
s out of their asses (no, really) and told you to "suck it down". And then there was Duke's own colorful language - stepping in some fecal matter
and saying, "Shit happens
", or joking that, "It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum - and I'm all out of gum." A lot of this may seem like nothing to you, but you have to remember that many of those people (and indeed, many today) think of video and computer games as "intended for children", even when they clearly are not. Of course, there's an option to turn off "adult content" and put a password
on it, but that would require parents to (*gasp*) know what their kids are doing (which would have been a lot easier then anyhow, since at the time most families only had one computer).
Overall, Duke Nukem 3D has not aged terribly well; its graphics are laughable compared to modern 3D games (especially the newest ones, like Half-Life 2
and Doom 3
), and it's rather easy compared to more recent offerings as well. However, it's still a fun game to play, and good for some nostalgia for those of us who remember the last days of DOS
gaming. If you want to play it on a modern machine, you basically have two options: You can use a DOS emulator
such as DOSEMU
, but games like DN3D tend to run slow on such emulators even on the best computers. Your other option is to get a port
of the engine, such as JFDuke3D (http://jonof.edgenetwork.org/index.php?p=jfduke3d). Actually, I suppose a third option is to download FreeDOS
and install it on a new hard drive or partition, but I'm not sure how well that runs it.
And now, for some semi-objective content.
Duke's "Mighty Foot":
No ammunition, obviously. This is a last resort melee
attack, to use when all other weapons are depleted. It can also be used in conjunction with other weapons with the a "quick key", to take an extra couple hit points off an enemy if he's really close.
Max ammo: 200. Pretty standard handgun
. 12 rounds per clip
, and there's a short pause while Duke reloads it (automatic; there is no reload button). Does relatively little damage, but it's good for taking out the grunts. Pistol ammo is sometimes dropped by Assault Troopers and Assault Captains (see the "Enemies" list below).
Max ammo: 50. Normal shotgun. There's a sizable delay between shots, but they pack a big punch. This is a good weapon against just about every enemy except the bosses, but because the shells spread out, it's best and short-to-medium distances. Sometimes dropped by Pig Cops.
Ripper (A.K.A. Chaingun Cannon):
Max ammo: 200. The developers couldn't seem to make up their mind what to call this thing. Anyway, it's basically a machinegun
. Works well on most enemies, but uses up a lot of ammo, and doesn't tend to have the "stopping power" of the shotgun. Like the shotgun, it's not ideal for high-range combat, though it's a good deal more accurate than the shotgun. Enforcers sometimes drop chainguns or their ammo.
Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG):
Max ammo: 50. A huge bazooka
-like weapon which can fire rockets at pretty high speed with little real delay and no reloading. (You gotta hand it to Duke; plenty of video game characters carry more than one would think possible, but he manages to carry more than a tank's arsenal.) These are best used on high-powered enemies, or in cases where there is a large swarm of smaller enemies. Not advisable for close combat, for obvious reasons. Ammo is sometimes dropped by Assault Commanders.
Max ammo: 50. I throw a pipebomb in the air, when I hit the red button
, there'll be nothing there. Don't ask me who makes pipebombs with a radio trigger. I guess the rest of the 21st century is going to be full of technological marvels so easy to use that any 10-year-old can whip up his own A-Bomb. Glad I'll be dead by then. Anyway, these are good for crowded rooms and such. Again, don't use them in close quarters.
Max ammo: 50. An alien weapon that fires a ball of coherent energy which, as its name implies, shrinks the victim. They should have made their troops invulnerable to it, but that would make too much sense. Anywho, after shrinking enemies, you'll have a couple seconds to either walk over and stomp on them, or shoot them. Note that Assault Commanders take several shots before they shrink, and bosses will not shrink at all*.
Max ammo: 50. Atomic Edition only. The opposite of the Shrinker, this will cause enemies to expand until they explode. Even more gimmicky than the shrinker; it takes up a tremendous amount of ammo very quickly.
Max ammo: 99. Two-fisted mini-rocket fury. These are actually relatively safe in close quarters, but you'll still take damage from them if you fire at an enemy that's right in your face. While it's best to save this for bosses and high-level enemies, it's a decent short-term substitute for the shotgun or chaingun if you're running low on ammo for those.
Max ammo: 10. Stick one of these to a wall, and it'll create an (oddly visible) laser
which, when passed through, will cause the device to explode. Pretty useless in singleplayer, as most enemies won't go through it when you're too far away to take damage, and you usually won't have time to set one up when you encounter an enemy anyhow. You will also encounter tripbombs set up for you to walk into. Unlike in later games like Half-Life
, these cannot be shot; they will only detonate if something passes through the laser, or if an explosion touches them.
Max ammo: 99. Fires projectiles which will freeze enemies when hit enough times. Then you can smash them with your foot or a gun. Pretty useless.
*The non-boss Battlelords can be shrunk when their health is low, but the original can not be, I believe.
Immediately heals 10 hit points, up to a maximum of 100.
Immediately heals 30 hit points, up to a maximum of 100.
Immediately heals 50 hit points, up to a maximum of 200
Lessens damage inflicted by most attacks. New armor gives 100 armor points. Used armor, sometimes dropped by Pig Cops, gives you 25.
Inventory item, heals 100 points total. On use, will give however many hit points necessary to bring Duke up to 100, until it runs out.
Allows Duke to travel in the air. Great for speeding through levels. Has a limited lifespan which you may want to watch - even Duke can't survive a five-hundred-foot fall.
Allows you to see in the dark. Or more accurately, lights up all living things and dead bodies a bright green, so you can see enemies. Also allows you to see secret messages from time to time.
Gives you an additional burst of speed, as well as increasing your kick's damage, for a limited time. You can't shut them off like other items.
Protects you from the effects of toxic waste
, etc. for a limited time.
Allows you to breath underwater for a limited time. Turns out by default upon going underwater.
Creates a mirror image of you to confuse enemies. Essentially useless in single-player; they forgot to make the aliens susceptible to it.
Green-suited aliens that fire slow-moving lasers. They also have jetpacks. These guys are basically cannon fodder; a half-dozen shots from your pistol will take care of them. Through the magic of alien technology, the ammunition used for their lasers converts into bullets. Go figure.
The same as above, only in red suits. Slightly more hit points, and can teleport
. Sometimes these guys will teleport right as you deal the killing blow to them, and when they come back, they'll scream and fall to the floor. Fun times.
Mutated police officers that carry shotguns. Takes more damage than Assault Captains, and they're attack can be devastating at close range.
Recon Patrol Vehicles:
Hovercraft carrying a Pig Cop; fires lasers at you. Upon destruction, the Pig Cop will fall to the ground and attack you.
Pig Cop Tanks:
Atomic Edition only. A miniature "tank" operated by a Pig Cop. "Tank" is probably a misnomer here, since the vehicles do not fire shells; they do, however, have a powerful machinegun. Destroying these will trigger a large explosion which will hurt you quite a bit if you're too close; it usually (but not always) kills the Pig Cop inside as well.
Three-eyed, floating aliens that are at home both above and below the waterline. Stronger than Pig Cops; they fire some kind of mental energy
at you, which dissipates over distance. They also have a biting melee attack.
Green slime that shuffles its way across the floor hoping to sneak up and suck your brains out. It only takes one hit to kill, but they're agile buggers. Sometimes you can destroy their eggs before they get out, but it takes more firepower.
Small mounted guns that fire lasers at you, usually from a secluded corner. These things take way too much damage. If you can, it's better to avoid them, but this isn't always possible.
These flying kamikaze
machines are only too happy to ram right into you, exploding on impact. Your only warning is their activation sound and the shadow over you.
Besides its close-range spit attack, Enforcers use a machine gun to silence you. They take about as much damage as Pig Cops.
Atomic Edition only. These things will leap at you, clawing at you with metal digits. They can also fire a shrink ray out of their chest, and proceed to squash you. Turnabout's fair play, and all that.
Floating fatasses that fire missiles out of their rears. Really. If you let them get too close, they'll shred you with their antigrav
Huge aliens with an extremely powerful machinegun and grenades. Takes a huge amount of damage. The first one you see is the boss of Episode One. They get easier after that.
...I think that's about it. Now go play the game. But don't play any of those PSX sequels. They make the baby Jesus cry. Or something.