Duke Nukem 3D is 2.5D(ecades) old

Going back to when Duke Nukem wasn't ruined

They done Duke dirty. Look how they massacred my boy, etc. God (damn), do I love me some Duke Nukem. Today, the 25th anniversary of the series’ magnum opus Duke Nukem 3D, seems as good a time as any to have a quick look back at just what made it (and Duke himself) so (damn I’m) good.

A lot seems to have been said about how real the Build Engine environments felt compared to its genre contemporaries, but I’d argue this has basically nothing to do with Duke 3D’s appeal. It’s easy to say that in 2021, yes, where the game’s supposedly realistic structures resemble a series of Lego warehouses, but even at release it was a game that thrived on superior level design in the abstract sense, with a surplus of great secrets and an arsenal of weapons and items so bloody good that you actually had an incentive to look for them outside of a nebulous achievement or trophy.

It stands at the arguable apex of its breed of classic first-person shooters, as well it should coming from the indisputable Golden Age of FPS, alongside something called Doom, and later Build titles Blood and Shadow Warrior, both of which are – and you can quote this – cracking stuff.

Let’s talk for a moment about Duke Nukem’s attitude to women. The character, and the… er… franchise. Because you’d be forgiven for thinking it isn’t great. And, you know, it’s not. But when you compare the macho-man lurid sci-fi pastiche of Duke 3D with the genuinely repugnant misogynist shit-garbage that is Duke Nukem Forever, you may come to realise why Gearbox’s absolute character assassination rubbed gamers the wrong way. Putting aside the fact that the game itself is of zero worth, Duke Nukem cracking wise in the face – literally, in the face – of the game’s topless, functionally impaired women being murdered and worse – is an absolutely fundamental misunderstanding of the character. Sure, Duke Nukem 3D as a game doesn’t love women, but you can bet your arse that the Duke himself does. Even the under-rated tie-in comics got this aspect of the character right.

But, yes. Duke Nukem 3D. A masterpiece, clearly. Surely the best first level in any first-person shooter. The opening with the crashing ship. The palm tree secret leading to the apartment. The cinema. The jetpack. It’s pure brilliance. The whole first episode is majestic stuff and a better shareware product than even Doom, there, I said it.

You can basically only buy Duke Nukem 3D through the hateful Gearbox's admittedly rather good 20th Anniversary World Tour Edition on consoles and PC, and you're getting all four original episodes plus a very cool new one from some of the original team. It's a shame that the superior Megaton Edition is a no-go now. If you're interested in some other versions of the game, this video elucidates. Yes, I made it, that was a fairly blatant plug. It's fine, no monetisation, you're helping me in no way. You could even leave abusive comments on it, I won't report them. At any rate, make sure you get Duke Nukem 3D played, because it is good. I have no idea how to end this blog. This will have to do. It's finished now.