Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top Games of All Time #3: Duke Nukem 3D (PC)

Why isn't that gun isn't in the game?
“Who wants some?!” asks the man with the crew cut and the sunglasses as he picks up another groovy, highly explosive weapon.

The answer is “me.” One thousand times over, me.

Duke Nukem 3D was Texas-based game company 3D Realms’ vulgar answer to id Software’s 1993 megahit first person shooter, DooM. Though the games share too many similarities to deny that DooM was a major influence on the latter’s fast and furious gunplay, Duke Nukem 3D somehow manages to be everything DooM is and a lot of things it isn’t. DooM is scary and atmospheric. Duke is loaded with atmosphere was well, but instead of high-tech space stations, most of the action takes place in more familiar locals like cities and restaurants. There are of course the typical outer space levels in Duke’s sun-shaded world, but the underlying tongue-in-cheek, sophomoric humor resonates with fans in an entirely different manner than anything that came before. Instead of the serious, Silent Hill-like dread many people feel when they sat down to play id Software’s masterpiece, Duke Nukem 3D seems to say to its players, “Hey, this is a game, man. Enjoy it!”

The big baddie at the end of Episode 2 doesn't go down very easily.
The D3D team had created not just another generic first person shooter, but a likable, over the top persona in Duke Nukem himself. Whereas the gaming community had taken to referring to the unnamed hero of DooM simply as “DooM Guy” long before his appearance as such in Quake III Arena, Duke’s crass, oversexed mannerisms and borrowed one-liners are still instantly recognizable in today’s gaming world, despite the fact that the last true Duke Nukem adventure was released almost 15 years ago.

These "fine" gentlemen are responsible for Duke 3D!
Plenty of players picked up Duke Nukem 3D when it came out in 1996 to drink in its violent, crude content, but soon realized that 3D Realm’s “DooM killer” was about more than just firearms and breasts. By itself, Duke Nukem 3D is an excellent, albeit short, game. But what really shot D3D into stardom was the relatively simple level editor that was included on the CD, which made it easy for Dukeheads to craft their own worlds with a bit of time and effort. Most users puked out poorly designed wastelands full of ammo, weapons and mismatched textures, but some levels were truly a sight to behold. Never before had creating one’s own levels (called “maps”) in a 3D game been as easy and uniform as using the Build engine. For the first time in my life, I had graduated from  game player to game creator. Even though most of what I churned out was horrendous, there were a few maps I made that are worth loading up even today.

A shot from the first level.
Within just a few days of Duke 3D's release, the Internet was teeming with hundreds of user maps, extending the life of the game immeasurably. Collections of these levels began springing up as early as three months after the world was introduced to the Duke of Nukem, and fans were willing to shell out the bucks to “come get some.” One early compilation called Nuke It! 1000 found its way into my hands not long after I purchased Duke 3D, and I spent hours playing through its 1000-plus levels until early one summer morning when I nuked the final map. No problem – by then, there were other add-ons to be had, including Duke It Out in D.C., Duke! Zone 500, Nuclear Winter and, my personal favorite, Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach. There was also a dial-up multiplayer mode, the ability to edit art and music found within the game, and even totally new, user made episodes to download and play for free.

I have a few more, but they wouldn't fit in the picture. I'm not sure if that's awesome or embarrassing. Or both.

I’m pretty sure I've spent more time on Duke Nukem 3D than I have on any other video game – probably entire weeks, if not months, of my life all totaled. I regret not one second of it. It’s been said that the measure of a good video game is how often one goes back to it; if that’s the case, then Duke Nukem 3D more than deserves its place on this or any other top games of all time list.

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Don’t forget to vote for your three favorite games, in order, as a comment to this post! The top games of the Wordsmith VG readership will be appearing in a future article. Have your voice heard!

Tomorrow: Wordsmith VG takes the fight for greatest game of all time to the streets!

1 comment:

  1. Ginny Frey's Top Three:

    1. Toejam and Earl 2: Panic on Funkatron
    2. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
    3. Super Mario Bros.