Sixteen Bits Online

MAY 1996

Duke Nukem 3D

Reviewed by Alan Tebb

Get ready for real action with a totally different Duke Nukem!

The last time I played Duke Nukem, the Duke was a comic cartoon figure in a linear, two dimensional arcade game. Collecting lives, running away from fused dynamite, bursting balloons, blasting creepy crawlies, and looking for teleport keys accounted for most of the challenges. Those days of innocence and simplicity are long gone.

The Duke is now a full blown, 3D alien exterminator in the very best tradition of the Doom style game. Get ready for a surge of interest in Duke Nukem 3D that will rival the heady days of Doomís first appearance.

Doing the rounds at present is a shareware playable demo of the first three levels of Duke Nukem 3D and anyone who has played it is likely to tell you itís hot! The full blown production version has not been released in Australia as of early May. My sources tell me that the Australian censors may have a few prob- lems with the game and it is going before the censorship authorities some time during the first week of May for classification. In the US I believe it has been classified for ages fifteen and above. In Australia that limit may be higher.

The game incorporates typical Doom type action with some low grade swearing and a few ribald scenes. Apparently the censors are more concerned by the fact that innocent humans, caught in the cross fire between the Duke and his alien opponents, suffer collateral damage of the terminal kind. Because innocent casualties can occur by mistake, they can also occur by deliberate targeting and thatís an option the censor doesnít like. The designers have included a Parental Lock in Duke 3D, but at this stage Iím not exactly sure what it does to the game play or dialogue. It is expected the full game will be released in Australia, but the final outcome will not be known until some time in May.

Anyway, back to the game floating freely around town without having gone through censorship control. The action begins in Los Angeles (looking cleaner than usual however) in the midst of an alien invasion. The designers have had a field day with the urban landscape, which I like in preference to the Doom landscapes. The duke can climb on boxes, walk along ledges, smash windows, climb into buildings, break down doors and even turn light switches on and off. Objects inside buildings have an amazing degree of functionality. The Duke can shoot out the grates covering ventilation ducts, crawl through the ceiling spaces (complete with scurrying rats) and at the other end, peer down into rooms to see what lurks. In bathrooms the mirrors give a reflection of Duke moving about, and shooting a basin or a toilet bowl results in a fountain of water spraying out of broken pipes. I even played ďSloshĒ with balls on a pool room table. Try not to step in any puddles of alien blood, it leaves boot marks all over the floor. Offering the bar girls and dancers some cash has yet another dimension of real life functionality, try it and see what happens.

The Duke sports an armoury that ranges from a pistol to a shotgun, minigun, RPG launcher and pipe bomb (my favourite). Along the way you can expect to find a Duke Hologram projector, breathing apparatus, protective clothing, armour vests, night vision goggles and a jet pack. The aliens pack a deadly punch as well as a few tricks up their sleeve. One particular warthog variety of alien can even fire from the prone position and then stand up, run forward in a zig zag motion and throw itself down on the ground to continue firing! Luckily the Duke can also crawl forward into a firing position, crouch behind tables and walls etc. The aliens use power back packs and armed hover craft to patrol the streets, so moving in the open from building to building has the same risks as a stroll down a Sarajevo boulevard.

The sound effects are outstanding, Dukeís occasional comments are amusing and the alien growls and howls are as good if not better than Doom. Although Iíve not tried it, the word on the Internet is that Duke 3D is a better single player game than Doom ever was, but Duke 3D lacks the net play thrills of Doom. This is a little premature given that people are comparing an early shareware release of Duke with the considerably refined versions of Doom. Letís wait and see what the final product has to offer.

At first glance I think Duke Nukem 3D is going to be a huge success. As a fan of Doom I was very impressed with the effort that has gone into Duke 3D. If the people that organised the Doom match some time ago at the PCUG premises in Fyshwick are still around, I think we should look to organising a similar event for Duke 3D. For the month of June, pro- vided the release in Australia goes ahead as anticipated, BitStorm will be offering a ten percent discount on the new release price of Duke Nukem 3D to members, on presentation of a valid membership card.

Summary

Format
The final release version will be CD- ROM only. Iím not sure how many discs at this stage.

Manufacturer
Apogee

Genre
Action - combat

Price
No price at this stage for Australia, but $40 in the USA for the final version.

Classification
The Australian Censorship Board is yet to make up its mind. Suitable for at least 15, more likely 18 and over.

System Requirements
The final version will require at least a 486 DX2/66 with 8 Mb RAM and VGA graphics. The creators of Duke 3D would recommend a Pentium with 16 Mb RAM, a PCI local bus and a VESA compliant video card in order to run the SVGA graphics. In addition you will need a CD player, sound card and either a keyboard, joystick, mouse or Gravis Gamepad to play. I ran the game on a 486 120Mhz machine with PCI video and 16 Mb RAM and it was outstanding.

Assessment
(out of a possible )

Graphics
The graphics in DOOM were good, the graphics in Duke 3D are great. The urban landscape adds enormously to the realism because it reproduces things we are all familiar with (although Iím not saying Iíve been to all the places the Duke goes into!). To have the building interiors and fixtures looking and working as real as they do is a tremendous achievement on the part of the program designers.

Sound
The sound effects are bone chilling, hair raising and downright scary! When you hear a deep, throaty growl somewhere nearby in the dark, there is only one thing to do, switch to auto- matic and strafe! At times I found it difficult to understand what the Duke was saying and if it were not for the captions, I would have missed a lot. Music is a feature in some places (such as the disco) and where it is used it adds a further touch of realism to the game.

Game Play
In addition to the usual running and jumping, the Duke can take up a prone firing position, crawl, and swim underwater. The firing angle in Duke is slightly off centre (as if his weapon is tucked under his right arm) and this takes some getting used to. In the final release version, up to 8 players can play in Modem/Network mode. And yes, co-op play is there as well. In the shareware version used to write this review, the Duke had 6 weapons. In the final release there will be 10 weapons including a freezethrower instead of a flamethrower, and a wall mounted trip bomb. In the shareware release of the first episode there are five levels and one secret level to play. The final game has two more episodes, each with 9 levels and 2 secret levels each. Total levels will be 28 over the three episodes.

Addictiveness
What lies in the next building, what lurks around the next corner, what horrors await in the next room? If you donít find Duke 3D totally addictive, Iíll be very surprised.

Violence
Heaps! This game will once again spark the debate about animated violence in computer games. Is it appropriate, can users distinguish between computer animations and reality, do games such as Duke 3D lead people to act out their violent fantasies in real life? I donít think anyone really knows for sure, but that wonít stop lots of people raking over the same arguments again. The game has no nudity, but there are some scantily clad women dancing in the disco. The language contains some swearing, but I believe a parental lock can be applied to tone this down.

Documentation
The online help that came with the shareware game was sufficient to load and play the game. The final version will probably have a limited manual in print form.

Ease of Installation
The game loaded without a hitch at the first attempt. All hardware settings were correctly seen by the game and loaded accordingly.

Value for Money
Without knowing the final Australian price itís hard to comment, but based on 28 levels of heart thumping action, new monsters, weapons and plenty of innovative game play, I think Duke 3D will be a run away best seller.


Sixteen Bits Online - May 1996