The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

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Most Overrated Games #8

Duke Nukem 3D
Duke Nukem 3D (PC, 1996)

Duke Nukem is the third in the "holy trinity" of old first-person shooters (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D). Everybody played Duke, and it’s not hard to see why: the game looked incredible in 1996, and the levels of gore, swearing, and sex pushed the envelope for video games — they’d even be considered cutting-edge now, fourteen years down the road. To top all of it off, the Duke Nukem character is one of the most easily-beloved in gaming, with his instantly-recognisable pumped-up G.I. Joe appearance and liberally-ripped-off B-movie one-liners. The game also shipped with the Build editing utility, so players could make their own levels right out of the box, which proved highly popular. Did anybody not make the "big room full of naked women" map when he was fourteen? No. Nobody didn’t do that.

The gameplay, unfortunately, was getting on toward dated by the time the game came out; Duke 3D was a rather late entry in the old-school FPS genre, back when it was mainly a cross between rail-shooters and scavenger hunts. Goldeneye and Half-life were right around the corner, and would totally redefine what a first-person shooter should be with their focus on tactical thinking and stealth; Duke Nukem was still stuck in the old run-and-gun, search for the key mentality. Worse still, Duke takes it a step farther than most such games; you don’t just have to search for keys, you also have to search for weak spots in walls to blow up (and hope you have some rockets left when you find them), riddle out proper sequences to press buttons in, and find numerous "secret passages" that involve walking straight through seemingly-solid walls.

And of course there’s fall damage. If there’s anything that just simply isn’t fun, it’s a game that includes a jetpack and also fall damage, so you can zoom way the hell up in the air, but then you have to land super-carefully or you’ll get hurt. Not only is there fall damage, there’s a shitload of other types of environment hazards; when people make fun of video games for including giant rotating gears that crush you to death if you don’t time your movements just right, well, they’re talking about Duke 3D; it’s pretty much the game that started that shit.

Duke 3D was a fun game, but almost in spite of itself; the setting and the character and the interactivity and the sex were all fun, but the gameplay itself was hopelessly lacklustre. The real tragedy of 3D Realms’ closure is that they had a chance to take the style of Duke 3D and transfer it to a more well-developed game concept, but it never quite happened.


February 8th, 2010 Posted by | Most Overrated Games Ever | one comment

1 Comment »

  1. This comment is a place to store all the extra hyphens I didn’t manage to wedge into paragraph 1, sentence 3.

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    Comment by Darien | 8 February 2010

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