Friday, 5 April 2013

Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition: A History of Violence

Back in the late 90s I had a school friend called John. John had a big house, a tree house and parents who were happy to let me and other friends sleep over. His mum would make us amazing bacon and egg sandwiches in the morning, even if his dad had to tell us off for being loud past midnight. He had stick insects and a fat tailed gecko and while we were kids we were the best of friends. John was also one of the first people I ever played computer games with. He had a SNES that we used to play Smash TV, Super Bomber man, Megaman X and Super Metroid on. We also completed Halo 1 together on Legendary difficulty which I still like to tell people today, even if they aren't interested. Some of my most enduring memories of time spent with John however was while we were playing Duke Nukem 3D
Hail to the king baby
We'd take it in turns to play, swapping if people died. His dad would let us play on his computer in their attic/office. Duke Nukem 3D was a silly, explosive, gory, and borderline sexist game so naturally as boys on the cusp of adolescence we loved it. We'd play for hours and we eventually completed every chapter and beat the game's final boss. It looks like this:
Pictured: The coolest shit for a 12 year old boy... possibly even cooler than boobs. And way less confusing.
As time wore on and me and John grew up things changed. John started doing a lot of drugs and our all night game sessions got replaced with all night parties of a different kind. I tried to stick around for a while but I didn't feel comfortable around his new friends and the things they did. Slowly but surely we grew apart and these days we barely talk let alone see each other. 

This isn't a new story and everyone changes when they grow up; I'm not naive enough to think that this experience is unique to me. I also don't blame John or resent him it's just the way things go some times. Such is life. I am however to this day a big fan of Duke Nukem 3D and many times over the years I've tried to run it on various PCs. The problem is it's horrifically dated (It's almost 20 years old) and controls like shit; it's a game from the prehistory of FPS, before standardised control layouts and iron sight aiming. This alone makes the game very hard to play after being spoilt by modern shooters for so long. To tell the truth I've never even got past the first level while playing it alone. Until now...

Old Duke, New Tricks

A few weeks ago Duke Nukem 3D was released on Steam as a shiny special edition (Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition) for about £7. Needless to say I snapped up a copy ASAP. The result is an amazing restoration of the original by Devolver Media with a number of new Achievements and special missions. The first thing that struck me about the look and style of Megaton Edition is how much care has been taken while updating the graphics. Enemies and objects are still 2D sprites in a 3D space but everything has been polished and had its resolution bumped up. It looks like I remember it but it doesn't look like fried shit. Comparisons could be drawn between Megaton Edition and the epic labour of love Black Mesa Source; both look like the original but also fresh and vibrant. The controls of Megaton Edition are also massively overhauled compared to the original; you can navigate the game world with keyboard and mouse just like a modern shooter but still can't really aim down any gun sights which is good. The Duke always shoots from the hip.

Replaying History

While the restoration of DN3D has made it playable by today's standards A lot of Megaton Edition's plus points come from the original game itself. Well designed and varied levels keep you entertained, the legendary arsenal of weapons provide endless fun (shrinking people and stepping on them isn't getting old any time soon) and the dizzying array of secrets and easter eggs add depth to what is basically a silly game about shooting the bad men.
Well the bad brain... squid things and gun alien guys.
DN3D is also surprisingly still cool. Effortlessly and timelessly cool. In a gaming era where games like Farcry 3 can't decide weather to make you stare into the darkness that dwells inside all men or play Skrillex to you while you burn weed like it's some investment banker dad trying to fit in with his son's bros Duke Nukem Megaton Edition is a breath of (old) fresh air. It's not trying to be anything apart from a big stupid boomfest with a 90's attitude and it does it so well you can't be mad at it. DN3D was a magical lucky confluence of fun, a milestone for gaming. It was a collection of well designed levels, inventive enemies and chaotic ultra-violence that paved the way for FPS games as we know them today. It's a piece of gaming history you can play today for a small fee and it's well worth the price.

Also when I boot up that game and hear that menu music I'm back in that attic with John, we are just boys again and I'm about to blast a psychic levitating alien squid brain thing out of the sky with a shotgun. You know what? You can't put a price on that feeling.

Stay Crunchy Internet

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