Taking control once again of the mentally handicapped Duke, you will shoot your way through hordes of aliens, saving babes and reciting lines from every action movie ever made. He is a character from a different time and playing it these days it comes across as rather sad and tragic. Paying strippers to expose their pixelated breasts was probably cool back in the 90’s, but nowadays it’s a little weird, or maybe as Roger Murtaugh would say, “we’re getting too old for this ****”. Lethal Weapon funnily enough being probably the only action film that Duke doesn’t steal a line from.
That’s the bad, the good though does outweigh it somewhat. Remember the good old days when FPS games made you engage your brains just a little and you didn’t just go around traipsing after the AI that conveniently has a “Follow Me” icon above his head? Well, we do, and this is an FPS design choice we wouldn’t mind seeing a return of.
Making your way through each level requires a little thought. Levels are very open and will require you to scour every nook and cranny looking for keycards and the path to the exit. But much like that other 90’s FPS you may have heard of Doom, level design does get worse as you progress through the game. There’s really no surprise that it’s the first level people remember most fondly (and it’s not just because of the strip club and movie theatre portions). Levels do degenerate a little into cheap ways of getting you killed, with monsters coming from hidden rooms, sneakily placed laser trip wires and sections where stuff just explodes for no reason. So basically, you’ll need to save regularly if you don’t want to struggle through the latter sections of the game.
As the “Megaton” name suggests the game is certainly not short of content, containing the original set of levels as well as a number of expansions that were released along the years. This includes the Christmas themed Nuclear Winter and even a Caribbean themed one where Duke battles aliens on the beach, which naturally includes a lot of scantily clad (and pixelated) women. They’re all really good fun, if only the Vita port could do them justice.
Sadly bugs are fairly frequent, at least once per level the game would just freeze for a couple of seconds before you took control once again, which tends to happen randomly. The most annoying however (which thankfully only happened once) occurred when trying to reload from a previous point. A really nice thing about Duke 3D is how it handles death. Get killed and you’re taken to a replay of events that led up to that point, right from the beginning of the level. So it’s a lot like something you’d find in a racing game like Forza Horizon or Grid, where you’re able to select the point you’d like to resume from. Sadly this didn’t exactly work as intended, as at one point the game simply failed to load up the replay (complete with error message) and threw us back to the start of the level. And then there’s the problems with multiplayer.
Every online game played thus far has been unplayable. The maximum player count is only four, yet it has some utterly atrocious lag. Players jumping across the screen, guns firing five seconds after pressing the button, it’s dreadful. This isn’t even with a full room, just play a simple 1v1 game and it’s still a horrible mess. Perhaps the developers had to rush it out in order for it to hit January’s Playstation Plus date, because as it stands, it really could’ve used a couple more months development time.
There is a lot to like about this trip down memory lane, but really Duke Nukem 3D just feels like a relic from a bygone era. While we would welcome back some of the classic FPS design traits, the rest is best left in the past.