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Duke Nukem 64 Review

Publisher - GT Interactive
Developer - 3D Realms/Eurocom
Platform - N64
Type - 3D Shooter
Score - 6/10

I have to admit that I'm not a big Duke Nukem fan. When it was released for PC last year, it instantly got engaged in a battle with Quake for the first person shooter crown. While Quake was fully polygonal, Duke's attitude was a big selling point for a lot of gamers. I played the PC version, and his humor never grabbed me. Naturally, I approached the Nintendo 64 version with some hesitation, and not surprisingly, it still doesn't grab me. That doesn't mean that it won't grab you though.

Duke Nukem is returning from traveling the galaxy and saving the world when his ship is shot down. Naturally, he's a little upset about this, until he discovers that aliens have invaded the earth and kidnapped all the women. Duke becomes very upset, so he responds by taking matters into his own hands.

The gameplay is typical first person shooter action, finding keys, flipping switches, and getting bigger and bigger guns to blow away nastier and nastier creatures. Duke does offer one twist, in the form of a destroyable environment. Nearly everything in the game can be shot. Duke Nukem doesn't stop with simple objects, like fire extinguishers and toilets. The destruction extends to walls and buildings, forming alternate paths around the level, and sometimes completely transforming the landscape.

One major selling point on the PC was Duke's attitude, and it's still here. Duke makes wisecracks as he dispatches the enemy, there's humor in things like the pig-like aliens who wear LAPD uniforms, and there are some sexual overtones. Duke Nukem is definitely not politically correct, and can be somewhat offensive. People who think that most video games are just too nice should appreciate Duke's style.

The original PC game was networkable, and Duke Nukem 64 supports four player split screen action. This is where all the destroyable walls comes in really handy, because it gives you all sorts of opportunities to sneak up on your friends. Multiplayer mode includes cooperative mode, so you and your pals can battle against the aliens, in addition to the basic Dukematch. Dukematches can have Dukebots, CPU controlled Dukes that will try to kill you. This means you can practice Dukematches on your own against the Dukebots, or throw them into a multiplayer session just for more mayhem.

Owners of the PC version won't find much difference here. Level layouts are slightly modified, but are not significantly changed from the original levels. There's a slightly different group of guns, but I don't know if that's worth getting excited about. The major change is that the game has been cleaned up. The PC version had a lot of sexual content, such as an adult movie theater and a strip club. This has all been removed, and replaced with tamer content. The movie theater now shows "Uranus Attacks," while the strip club is now an empty warehouse. Personally, I don't really mind the changes, and I think anyone who hasn't played the original likely won't know what they're missing. There's one exception, though. In the PC version, Duke occasionally comes across women who have been captured by the aliens. There's nothing he can do to save them, and in fact they beg him to kill them. I don't blame Nintendo for not being very happy about this, but the solution seems inadequate. Duke still encounters imprisoned "babes", but now he rescues them. This just feels like a major violation of Duke's style.

While the game now sports a true 3D graphics engine, so when Duke looks up and down the world looks correct, the bad guys are still 2D sprites. They look very flat and are poorly animated. While Duke Nukem has 3D explosions, in one player mode at least, Doom 64 ends up looking better because of its rendered sprites. The multiplayer modes limit the field of vision, like in most N64 multiplayer games, resulting in a somewhat claustrophobic feeling. Two player mode is actually worse than four player, because the game very tightly restricts your vertical view. Given the likelihood of being attacked from above or below because of the level design, this turns into a serious problem.

The major thing missing in the sound department is music. There are environmental sound effects, in addition to the noises other creatures make, gun fire, explosions, and Duke's commentary, but when things are slow, there's just silence. Other than that, the sound's pretty good. The pigs' grunting is convincing, the guns are satisfying, and Duke has just the right tone of voice.

The basic controller layout is Turok style, but there's also a GoldenEye option for those who prefer that. The control is good, except that looking up and down isn't as natural as it is in either of those games. At least it's an improvement over the PC version. The control is more complex than either of those games, incorporating jumping, ducking, actions, and changing and activating objects as well as weapons. This ends up requiring buttons all over the controller, but most of the time that's not a problem.

I know this game supports the Rumble Pak, but it really made no impression on me. It shook sometimes, but that's all I can tell you. The Rumble Pak is not used as effectively as in other games.

Duke Nukem 64 really can't compete with Turok or GoldenEye. As a one player game, it's not as good as Doom 64, but at least it has a multiplayer mode. If you just can't get enough of the Duke "Come get some" Nukem attitude, or you're a huge first person shooter fan, you'll be satisfied, but most people should do better elsewhere.