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Unlike the other five star reviewers here, I'm not going to hype this up into the clouds. People seem to forget that nostalgia doesn't automatically mean that the game is up to today's standards for people who haven't played the game yet. That is, the people who'd benefit from the reviews...
History:
This game came out at a time when real 3D animation was at it's infancy, game wise. For it's day, it was groundbreaking and definitely deserved it's legendary reputation. It introduced a fastpaced and actionfilled gameplay with many unforgettable enemies and weapons.
No other game had weapons that could shrink the enemies and let you step on them. No other game provided enemies like the aliens you faced in Duke Nukem 3D. No other game was this politically incorrect as it had strippers, gratuitous violence and delightful oneliners (for it's day) that basically blew the minds of even experienced gamers away.
It was magnificent, and it's only real competitor at the time was Quake, which struggled with the very first incarnation of a fully 3D animated world.
Gameplay:
You're Duke. A manly man with a chin that has the size and armor properties of your average Abrams Tank. You also run around with weaponry powerful enough to put said tank to shame. It's fairly straightforward. You shoot anything that moves, most things that don't, and progress through levels by pushing buttons, collecting keycards and activating scripted events.
For it's time, magnificently made and well designed. Adding flight (through a Jetpack) was another innovation that no one had seen in a shooter before. Basically, the game provides all sorts of new and interesting ways to kill your enemies. If you haven't played any games that's come after Duke Nukem 3D, that is.
Graphics:
Let's face it. It's old. The game looks horrible by today's standards, and features 2D enemies and 2D environment setpieces locked inside a 3D world made mostly of boxes. Even at the time, the graphics were slightly questionable compared to the innovations made in 3D animation and the quality offered by 2D animation as well.
Still, the game developers did a good job tying the world together, visually. There's plenty of problems with the graphics engine, and the set designs, but it's not directly bad. Just... not fulfilling it's potential.
Controls:
This is where you're starting to lose the warm and fuzzy feeling provided by the nostalgia hindsight. Even though mouselook is an option, it's hardly required. It's a throwback to the Doom days, in that regard. Pretty much everything is in your straight line of sight, and looking up and down is hardly needed. Where in today's games, your control of your character is usually nigh unlimited, Duke Nukem 3D just didn't stand the passage of time at all.
In fact, mouselook in this game actually makes it feel... wrong. It just doesn't work well with this game, as it's just not designed for that function. And that will in turn make any newbies to this age of shooters go "to hell with this...". Hell, it'll turn many experienced gamers from this game as they're used to better by now.
Test of time:
How well did Duke Nukem 3D fare over the years? Not well, I'm afraid. The game was excellent back in the day, but just doesn't deliver the goods these days. The controls are clunky and unnecessarily difficult. The level design is exceptionally poor compared to most shooters that followed this game, even though it was better than most of it's contemporary competition. The graphics are ugly as hell, and the sound effects are just as poor.
If you never played this, I honestly suggest not buying this at all. It was bloody excellent once upon a time, but there's much better shooters out there for your money. Several of them are on Gog.com even, as Unreal, Painkiller and so on.
If you have played it, however, and feel a need to sometimes visit memory lane, it's not too pricey. Buying this on Gog.com will allow you to peruse your memories of times past, whenever you feel like it. It's cheap and quick entertainment and will allow you to show your friends how we played shooters Old School. Just don't start it up with the "Oh my God this is going to be sooo great!" attitude. Remember that many many years have passed since you played this as youngling, and things have changed greatly since then.
Good game, once upon a time. Not so good anymore. I'll probably buy it so I can delete the "hacked" version that takes so much work to run on Vista. Also, it'll let me take my own 30 minute trips through memory lane when work is slow. But as with the version I already have on my computers, it won't be the same as it was back then.
"Adding flight (through a Jetpack) was another innovation that no one had seen in a shooter before."
Actually, Heretic, based on the DOOM engine and released in 1994 had a powerup that did just that. The wings allowed you to fly exactly like the jetpack in Duke.
Edit: Typo
Post edited February 27, 2009 by Joca
This was all good until I saw this:
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Deviate: Let's face it. It's old. The game looks horrible by today's standards, and features 2D enemies and 2D environment setpieces locked inside a 3D world made mostly of boxes. Even at the time, the graphics were slightly questionable compared to the innovations made in 3D animation and the quality offered by 2D animation as well.

People really need to start judge games' graphics for the year they were released in. I mean of course old games lack the modern shaders and mapping techniques, but you should see the innovativity behind the techniques and how they were established in 1996.
Duke Nukem 3D was top-notch in 1996, there's hardly any argument over that; more vivid colours than its competitors, ran more smooth on higher resolutions and over-all more life-like and convincing than Quake or any other first person shooter that was released in 1996.
I see alot of messages like this here and I wonder why people really come here if it's always the graphics they start pondering about.
Is dat sum rage over there Daedolon? :>
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Deviate: Controls

I gotta say the Mouselook IS requiered. How are you supposed to play correctly without it?
I understand that you feel the mouselook feels weird because of the lame 2D/3D engine Build... (it gives me a headache, so I can't play very long).
When you say : "Where in today's games, your control of your character is usually nigh unlimited, Duke Nukem 3D just didn't stand the passage of time at all.", what do you mean? You can strafe, jump, duck, run, strafe hack run (:D)... I hope you don't talk about cover and shit, or strafe jumping (because it's a bug of id's new technology at the time).
So when you say : "The controls are clunky and unnecessarily difficult."; I answer "lolwat". Basic inventory, and everything I said upper... where's the clunky and unnecessarily difficulty?
The level design well... it has its up and down to be honest. Some levels are excellent, but some other (especially in the 4th episode), aren't really great.
And I don't get how you can compare Duke to Unreal, there are two completely different games, in matter of ambiance, exploration, and fun.
I'm kind of lazy to add anything more... but I'm sure you were expecting those reactions, hehe :)
I was, and the views expressed in the review is of course entirely my own opinions and not necessarily how others might feel about the subjects. The same goes for the following:

"People really need to start judge games' graphics for the year they were released in. I mean of course old games lack the modern shaders and mapping techniques, but you should see the innovativity behind the techniques and how they were established in 1996."

And I did. Quake provided fully 3D animated enemies, weapon effects and so on. It even added a particle system, even though it was somewhat ugly. The style used for the textures and design was drab and dark, but that was intended. The graphics still far surpassed anything provided by 3D Realms, DN:3D included.
Nothing in Duke Nukem was graphically innovative, even for it's time. The style was new and fresh, but the tech behind it was definitely mediocre for it's time. If I didn't get this across properly in the review, I hope this clarifies that.

"Actually, Heretic, based on the DOOM engine and released in 1994 had a powerup that did just that. The wings allowed you to fly exactly like the jetpack in Duke."

I must have missed that. Never did get much playtime in Heretic I'm afraid. An error of ignorance.

"I gotta say the Mouselook IS requiered. How are you supposed to play correctly without it?
I understand that you feel the mouselook feels weird because of the lame 2D/3D engine Build... (it gives me a headache, so I can't play very long)."

I'm afraid it isn't required. The first time I finished the game way back when horsedrawn carriages were all the rage, it was with hardly ever touching the mouse. The game is designed to use keyboard controls in a similar fashion as the Doom series and other previous shooter games. The use of a mouse is hardly required for looking up or down, as the weapon would automatically fire in the angle needed to hit the enemy in front of the weapon.
It's fully possible to use, just like in Doom 1, but it's clumsy and unnecessary. Doesn't really bring anything to the gameplay. A matter of preference perhaps, but certainly true of shooters from that engine.

"So when you say : "The controls are clunky and unnecessarily difficult."; I answer "lolwat". Basic inventory, and everything I said upper... where's the clunky and unnecessarily difficulty?
The level design well... it has its up and down to be honest. Some levels are excellent, but some other (especially in the 4th episode), aren't really great.
And I don't get how you can compare Duke to Unreal, there are two completely different games, in matter of ambiance, exploration, and fun."

Controls: Reading my own words, I realize I completely failed to use the right words, terms and for that I apologize. What I meant was that the controls are... too basic. Too locked up in the technology and build engines of the time. Strafing is rarely required in the game, and when it is required it feels... unwieldy unless you customize the controls to a standard the engine isn't built for. (Today's default controls in most games, for instance).
Level Design: Mostly, my peeve on that is that by today's standards the levels are on two complete opposites of the spectrum. Either completely linear and almost impossible to deviate from the set path, or so sprawling and unintuitive that you'll run around wondering where the game designers wanted you to go, praying that you'll set off some random scripted event so you can progress.
It's how I feel at least, and that's how I review it.
As for Unreal, I didn't compare it to Duke Nukem 3D. I said it's a better buy for someone who hasn't played this game yet. From all the shooters on this website, DN:3D is one of the worst buys someone can make if they're not already familiar with the game and wish to play it for nostalgic reasons. Especially if they're already used to today's shooter games.
It's quite simply too far a throwback in technology, graphics, controls and design for someone bottled on today's shooters to truly enjoy.
And a small clarification: I'm not saying DN:3D is a bad game. For it's time, it was bloody excellent. But by today's standards it fails to provide. All those little things that we failed to see as issues back in the day are now glaringly obvious, and will grate on the nerves of anyone who hasn't already experienced the shooters of this generations and recognize them simply as limitations of that era's technology.
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Deviate: Nothing in Duke Nukem was graphically innovative, even for it's time. The style was new and fresh, but the tech behind it was definitely mediocre for it's time. If I didn't get this across properly in the review, I hope this clarifies that.

While i agree that Quake engine was the real innovator, i disagree about DN3D being "mediocre for it's time"... in those years the 2D "and a half" engines were still the way to go, and in this respect the BUILD engine was state of the art (fast and easy to get high-resolution modes, a nice WYSIWYG map editor, fake destructible rooms, etc...) , and fueled many nice games for at least a couple of years after Duke.
Mediocre when it came to innovation. It might have been "state of the art" when it came to that sort of engine, but it didn't bring anything even slightly new to the scene.
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DukeNico: I gotta say the Mouselook IS requiered. How are you supposed to play correctly without it?

Actually, it isn't; it uses the same vertical auto-aim of Doom and clones.
I remember Duke3D exactly for that reason: it was the last FPS i completed while using only the keyboard... my next step in the genre was QuakeII, and this is where i realized, right at the 1st level, that my old control scheme just couldn't cut it anymore, and started with the mouse+keyboard routine.
odd side note: I promptly adopted the soon-to-be-standard WASD configuration right there, and only because it was the default keyboard setup for shoots and pass in FIFA96 ;-)
Multiplayer duke with auto aim is just unplayable, unless you want to suck hard :V
I'm not sure what the point is in reviewing Duke 3D through the filter of modern games.
The OP said the game was "magnificent" and "great" then gives it 2 stars because it looks and plays like a game built with 1996 tech?
If it was a 5 star game in the 90s, then it is still a 5 star game IMO. To give it 2 stars because level design and graphics don't compare favorably to HL2 or Crysis really misses the point of GOG
This site is good OLD games. People come here specifically to buy old games. Giving a classic game like Duke 3D 2 stars just because it looks and plays like an old game is more flame bait than useful review IMO.
Not really. The game was magnificent back in the day, but can't measure up to shooters of today. If you'd read the OP (and the following posts) you'd see why I gave it a low score. For any new gamers that hasn't had any experience with shooters of that generation, it'll be quite representative.
And it's for those people the reviews are written. The people who haven't played the game yet.
The site is called Good Old Games. But if you haven't played the game, it's still a Brand New User who'll need the facts straight before paying for a product.
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Deviate: For any new gamers that hasn't had any experience with shooters of that generation, it'll be quite representative.

That's a good point, but you make it sound like you despise the game although I kinda understood that you liked it back in the day.
I'm of two minds on the issue. Back then I freakin' loved it. And still to this day I can derive pleasure from Duke's oneliners. But if I had played it for the first time today, I'd consider it a waste of money to be honest.
So the game is "Great", "Magnificent", and you "freakin loved it" but you give it 2 stars and recommend that a gamer who never played it should not even buy it because after nearly 15 years it doesn't compare favorably to modern games in respects to level design, graphics and controls.
LOL...you really are of 2 minds on this game.
But seriously...based on your review criteria of comparing gameplay, graphics and controls of old games with modern games, then the same points could be made about virtually every game in the library. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with what you say about the game, just your conclusion that it deserves a 2 star with a no buy recommendation.
Kinda harsh for a great, magnificent game that you freakin loved, no?
Any gamer, even young gamers reared on more modern PC games can have a lot of fun playing Duke 3D. Hopefully your review won't discourage them from trying one of the true classics of PC gaming.
It's my opinion, and that's what I put on paper when I review something. The thing is, nostalgia is all well and good but it tends to put a rosy tint on the hindsight. And seriously, start reading the posts before replying. I said was great. Was magnificent.
For it's time.
Things change. And when I write reviews I write them for today's gamers who might not have the benefit of experience that we older gamers have.