Duke Nukem 3D is enjoying a new lease of life thanks to the Megaton Edition, just released on Steam, which for the first time brings together the original game plus the three main add-on packs, Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach, Duke: Nuclear Winter, and Duke It Out in D.C. We took a trip down memory lane with the legend himself, to kick ass and chew bubblegum....oh rats, we're all out of gum.
Ask a serious FPS enthusiast which games helped to define the genre, and you’ll likely get a list of id Software’s greatest hits – Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake. However, as monumental as those games were, it took a little-known company called 3D Realms to inject massive amounts of pure fun into the genre. Gone were the bland repetitive space corridors, replaced with strip joints, burger bars, football stadiums and other real-world locales. The overall gameplay may have remained the same - collect a bunch of inexplicably-scattered keycards to progress to the end of each level – but along the way you could flirt with strippers, shoot some pool and even take a well-deserved piss break.
Welcome home, Duke
Of course, the biggest thing Duke Nukem 3D brought to the genre was its filthy laid-back protagonist, the inimitable Duke himself. Whereas the most we ever saw of BJ Blazkowicz was a bleeding, grizzly face, and he remained strangely mute even when being shot to pieces by Nazis, Duke is an always-vocal presence dripping with macho charisma. A great deal of the game’s humour comes from his culture-referencing quips and remarks, which remain hellishly quotable even 17 years on.
It wasn’t just Duke’s one-liners that cast a hefty nod at Hollywood (hail to the king, baby!). Sometimes entire levels were based on popular movies, such as a memorable Mission Impossible homage complete with air vents and alarmed floors. Even Disneyland took a kick in the crotch, courtesy of the Babe Land level. This marvel of design even featured an enormous Pirates of the Caribbean-style ride, recreating the mighty battle between the pirate ship and the fortress city, and an annoying squeaky mascot that could be silenced with a swift shotgun blast to the face.
A Megaton of fun
This Megaton Edition adds optional OpenGL visuals to the original episodes, which replaces the 2D sprites with proper 3D models – a neat little bonus, but we’re personally much more interested in those add-on packs, which we haven’t played through since buying the original discs back in the 90s.
Duke it out in D.C. takes Mr Nukem to the American capital city, where he blasts his way through the Lincoln Memorial, White House, Congress and other real-life buildings. It’s pure Duke action all the way, with a couple more cultural nods from back in the day – for instance, a tricky level set in FBI HQ contains some subtle and not-so-subtle X-Files references (including Duke whistling the theme tune as he struts in through the entrance). This pack is notorious for its ridiculously huge Smithsonian level, which took us over an hour to complete on our first run-through. It’s bloody huge, probably just as big as the real thing.
Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach is a funny little add-on that sees Duke stomping through various sunny locales such as hotels and pool parties. The weapons have been bizarrely replaced with super soakers and pineapples, and the enemies all rock Hawaiian shirts and rubber rings, making the game even more tongue-in-cheek than before. Strong level design and sheer randomness make this our favourite of the three add-ons, although the beach babes who strut around the levels are massively annoying with their constant “Mmmm, Duke,” bleatings.
Sadly Duke: Nuclear Winter is a big fat lazy mess, and best avoided. Not only does it reuse old levels such as the strip club from episode one, it also replaces some of the enemies with horribly blocky snowmen sprites. The constant Christmas jingly music is also irritating enough to make mothers murder their infant children. Best avoided.
Still, even with that clunker in the mix, Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition is well worth a punt for anyone who loved it back in the day, or for newcomers to Duke’s universe. You can grab it now on Steam.