R.I.P. Duke Nukem
The year is 1996, I had left school and was attending college. This pretty much meant one lesson in the morning and another in the afternoon with at least a hour and a half gap before the next lesson. So myself and a group of friends used to spend far too much time in a local internet cafÃ© abusing their LAN to play multi-player games. The most popular of these to play ended up being Duke Nukem 3D, from my first play I was thoroughly hooked. So a year later when I got my first PC it was the first game I bought, but this story starts off much earlier than this.
1991 and Apogee released Duke Nukem a side scrolling platform shooter game. The plot is Dr Proton has held a large city captive and you as the pink vest wearing, blonde flat topped hero must stop him.This game was one of the first shareware games. You could play the first level for free and as such gained popularity by people passing it along on disks or on bulletin boards during the early days of the internet. The game â€œborrowedâ€ AKA stole a lot of graphical elements from other games, mainly Turrican and Mega Man.
1993 and a sequel is released, this time they actually attempt to give Duke more character as well as adding some humour.. This is done using text only cut-scenes and the opening is a parody of Lethal Weapon. The plot involves aliens kidnapping Duke Nukem and his escape to save mankind. Gameplay wise though it basically re-treads a lot of things that were in the first game apart from a few new moves that Duke can perform. Mainly the ability to hang onto pipes and move along them whilst shooting. Once the game is completed the end credits mention that Duke Nukem will be back in Duke Nukem 3D.
Before I get onto Duke 3D, a quick departure to a non Duke Nukem game released by Apogee in 1994 called Rise Of The Triad, or ROTT for short. ROTT is a FPS game which is definitely a precursor to Duke 3D. Using the same game engine as Wolfenstein, you take control of one of five characters fighting against the evil Triads. It would have been a formulaic game if it wasn’t for some of the very strange power ups available. First off was God Mode, God Mode in most games meant you were invincible and couldn’t die. In ROTT it means you literally become a god, you grow in height whilst blasting enemies with bolts of power whilst yawning loudly because of how bored you are. Dog mode turns you into a dog with a bite attack and bark blast ranged attack. Shrooms which turn everything all wobbly and psychedelic. Mercury mode, where the place has the gravity of mercury, meaning you have the ability to fly and finally elasto mode making you bonce off walls like a pinball.
1996 and Apogee are now known as 3D Realms and they release Duke Nukem 3D. The plot of this game is that aliens are kidnapping women, so its time for Duke to don his Sunglasses and kick some arse. This game is full of great little bits of humour and parodies of film and news events. All the police have been transformed into anthropomorphic pigs. And in one of the bars on a TV you can see a white 4×4 being chased by police cars, a parody of O.J Simpson’s attempt to flee from the police. Technologically this game was a big step up from other games like Doom. For a start you could have multiple levels placed above each other, or have multiple paths through a level by climbing through air ducts or going through sewers, compared to Doom’s sprawling, but flat levels.
Another thing making this game unique is the array of weapons on offer. As well as the FPS standard arsenal of a pistol, shotgun, machine gun and RPG, it also includes really fun weapons like the Freeze Ray. This does what it says on the tin, it temporarily freezes your enemies and you either kick them or shoot them with a pistol to shatter their bodies, just like Wesley Snipes in Demolition man. There was also the shrink ray which would surprise surprise, shrink you enemies and you could then stand on them to end their lives. Then there were pipe bombs, they were similar to grenades, except you triggered them manually. You could throw multiple pipe bombs before triggering them all together for a larger explosion. Finally there’s the laser trip wires, normally these would just be traps fror you to avoid in a game, but in Duke you can lay your own and lure your nemeses into them.
Other advances made were the ability to use the mouse to aim up and down, whilst this is taken for granted in modern FPS games at the time this was revolutionary. Of course this wasn’t perfect and your view of buildings became skewed. It was needed though because you would be attacked from Pig Cops in flying vehicles, Octo-brains or aliens who were on higher levels than you. You also have the ability to fly using a jet pack to reach out of the way places. There are also some levels that take place partially underwater meaning you have to swim up and down whilst watching out that you don’t run out of air. The large variety of levels was really unlike anything else seen at the time.
One of the things that set this game apart from other FPS games of the time was the fact that Duke now talked. Thanks to CD-ROM technology you could get sound far better than previously available, previous attempts at speech in games sounded like Stephen Hawking talking in a metal bin. Duke is voiced by John St John who got the inspiration for the voice by doing a deeper version of Clint Eastwood. Duke quips about what’s going on within the game almost constantly. Some of these voice clips are activated by pressing the action button on certain areas, such as in front of a mirror and Duke will say â€œDamn I’m looking good.â€ Or standing in front of a toilet you hear the sound of his zip being undone and the sound of him pissing followed by â€œAaahhh much better.â€ There were tons of little easter eggs hidden away in the game like that.
The game garnered a lot of controversy, not only because of the violence, but because of the swearing and nudity contained within the game. Because of this the game received an 18 rating from the BBFC and became one of the games targeted by the tabloids along with Carmageddon and Sega CD game Night Trap to show games corrupting influence on children. Completely neglecting the fact that these games were rated only for adults, you wouldn’t get shoddy shock tactics reporting from the British press nowadays of course. In case you’re a bit slow on the uptake that was sarcasm.
In Part 2: The Plutonium Pak, Duke hits the consoles & Duke Nukem: Forever and ever and ever…