Anthony's Film Review
Duke Nukem 3D
(Video Game, 1996)
A video game that takes the first-person shooter and an action game hero to the next level, with entertaining results...
Duke Nukem 3D is a video game that involves one of the most unusual departures for a video game protagonist (or any fictional character for that matter). Originally, Apogee Software created Duke Nukem as a typical muscular action hero and featured him in the first Duke Nukem game in 1991 and Duke Nukem II in 1993. Both games are two-dimensional side-scrolling action games where you run, jump, and shot while picking up new weapons, keys, health items, and upgrades. Also, the violence in those games is nonrealistic fantasy violence such that they are suitable for kids to play. I remember playing the first Duke Nukem game when I was about 12 years old and feeling the excitement of being immersed in an imaginative world.
Then, something strange happened. Actually, two things. First, the groundbreaking 1993 first-person shooter game Doom was released, which must've prompted Apogee Software, with the brand name 3D Realms, to make the third Duke Nukem game a three-dimensional first-person shooter. Second, with the more realistic violence that comes with FPS games, the character of Duke Nukem was redesigned as being foul-mouthed, politically incorrect, macho, and egotistical, as if the first and second Duke incarnations were injected with heavy doses of steroids. It's not impossible to make a Duke FPS game that is mildly violent to warrant a Teen 13+ rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but I'm guessing that the need to compete with Doom was why Duke Nukem 3D ended up being a Mature 17+ game with gratuitous and bloody violence. Yes, movie characters like Batman and James Bond would appear in darker films later on in their existence, but that's still nothing compared to Duke going from kid-friendly to adults-only. As much as I like the old Duke, I have to accept the transformation he's undergone.
In order to review Duke Nukem 3D, it's probably best to compare it with Doom. On a basic level, both games put the player in a 3D environment where one runs around, picks up weapons, guns down enemies, finds keys to unlock doors, picks up health items, and operates various levers and buttons. However, Duke Nukem 3D goes above and beyond Doom in several ways. For one thing, Duke can aim the gun vertically as well as horizontally, jump up in the air, and fly in a jetpack, whereas Doom's nameless Marine hero cannot do any of those things. In addition to activating levers and buttons, Duke can interact with a variety of other things just for the fun of it, like flipping light switches, peeing into a toilet, and even giving dollar bills to a stripper. What gives the game even more of a freshness is the variety of environments you fight enemies in, including a movie studio, bank, supermarket, police station, Japanese restaurant, waste disposal facility, Area 51, and even a football stadium. (Note: Some of these locations are only available in the game's Atomic Edition that provides additional levels.)
Perhaps the most notable feature in Duke Nukem 3D that the first Doom game doesn't have is a talking protagonist. Thanks to the talents of voice actor Jon St. John, Duke will dish out amusing one-liners in different situations. For example, when Duke gives dollar bills to a stripper: "Shake it, baby!" and "You wanna dance?" When Duke picks up some items: "Hail to the king, baby!" When Duke uses the bathroom: "Ahhhhh! Much better!" In addition, when you kill the big alien boss at the end of each of the game's episodes, you will see Duke abuse the corpse. The most striking example of this is at the end of the second episode. I won't go into graphic details, but I'll at least put it more mildly: Duke uses the alien's corpse . . . as a toilet.
There's really no plot in Duke Nukem 3D, other than the fact that he returns to Earth following his adventures in another world in Duke Nukem II, only to find that aliens have invaded Earth while he was away. But in a game like this, the plot is irrelevant anyway. The important thing is that Duke Nukem 3D provides a memorable game experience, where the players takes on a macho role while blowing alien creatures to smithereens. It's enough to place the game in a hall of fame for action games. So put aside the fact that Duke Nukem is no longer the less violent action hero from two games in the early 1990s. Just go along with the fact that Duke Nukem 3D provides a second and important step up in first-person shooter games.
For more information about Duke Nukem 3D, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.