Saturday, March 2, 2024

Why Duke Nukem 3D was Revolutionary

Duke Nukem 3D is a classic FPS game from the mid 90s and is considered one of the greatest FPS games of all time. This was the third installment of the Duke Nukem franchise. It was one of the most advanced games from a technical standpoint as well as a gameplay standpoint. Even with more modern technology many newer games lack features that this game had.

Many things made Duke Nukem 3D environments feel more immersive then plenty of newer games. That is impressive considering this game was released in 1996 and was created using the 1995 Build game engine. Let’s dive in and see what made this game revolutionary. In this game the entire environment is interactive and partly destructible. The interactive environment heavily alters the gameplay too. Many new games to this day often offer minimalistic environmental interaction. Below is a list of environment interactions:

Certain walls can be exploded by using the rocket launcher.

Light switches can turn on and off the lights.

When you shoot water related objects such as a urinal, toilet or fire hydrant then water will spray out.

If you shoot a TV or glass bottle, the glass will shatter.

You can destroy some trash cans and other various environment details.

When an air vent is shot and destroyed you can crawl through the air duct.

There is a pool table with interactive physics.

Buildings have security cameras throughout and you can view them by watching a security monitor.

There is much more environment interaction than just on my brief list above. This level of detail and realism is very impressive and puts many modern games to shame. Many times in newer FPS games when you shoot items throughout the map there is no destruction or realism. These environments also contribute to the gameplay by adding secret rooms to them contain either power ups or weapons. The maps also sometimes offer multiple paths to choose and allow you to skip whole rooms and level segments if you so desire. Other impacts of this environment interaction even impact player healing. When you shoot a fire hydrant, urinal or toilet and the water starts spraying, you can press the action key to drink the water to increase your health. You can also use air ducts to reroute your path through the maps. When you destroy certain trash cans, you will see that there was either health pack of some ammunition that was in the trash can that you can now pickup. Some modern games stick to one art theme for level design, however in DN3D there are many settings including outer space, a fast food restaurant, a movie theater and many more.

The levels also offer unrivaled play-ability. Sometimes you will try and create shortcuts using the RPG and try different methods to get the best level time, since you are competing with 3D Realms listed times. Sometimes you keep exploring trying to find each secret so you can see at the end of the map if you found them all. Sometimes you will focus on eliminating every enemy to see if there are 0 aliens alive at the end screen. There are so many ways to play these levels and some have various paths to complete them.

Other then the brilliant environment design, the unique weapons make this game enjoyable. There is of course the expected RPG, pistol, shotgun and LMG style guns. However instead of just having all standard guns you have more exiting options too, just to name a few there is a shrink ray gun and a freezer gun. The shrink ray allows you to make the enemy aliens small enough to stomp to death with your boot and the freeze ray turns them into ice that you can shatter. So many other futuristic fictional themed FPS have the creative art freedom of designing unique weapons due to them being in FICTIONAL settings. However many of them still seem to just try and create remixed AK47s instead of adding unique freeze ray style guns etc.

Another aspect besides environments and weapons is the power-ups in this game. There are steroids which cause Duke to run very fast. Steroid use in a video game might be considered controversial but the Duke Nukem series is always about controversial humor. There is also scuba gear to explore underwater for a long duration. Of course the basic power ups are in the game too, there is armor, night vision goggles and atomic health (up to 200 health). However my favorite item is the jetpack, it allows you to explore and find certain secret areas of levels that require flight.

The last aspect that makes DN3D standout is it’s rude humor and controversies. Since this game was developed through 1995 and released in 1996, the O.J. Simpson Trial was a hot topic at that time. In DN3D there are several references to this such as signs saying “Innocent?” and footage of the white Ford Bronco chase showing on a TV. Other humorous aspects would be the pig cop enemies, there are literal wild boar in police uniform. The game does allow you to interact with strippers and take steroids. Taboo subjects and real life controversies aren’t feared by 3D Realms. Duke Nukem was the GTA before GTA existed. This is actually a fact because Grand Theft Auto made it’s debut in 1997 and Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996. Not many other game franchises have been brave due to wanting to not be bashed by the legacy media.

Another aspect that out does modern games is the port and expansion pack totals. 3D Realms allowed several other studios to create expansion packs such as Duke it Out in D.C., Life’s a Beach, Zero Hour and Nuclear Winter. The port count is also astonishing. Duke Nukem 3D can be enjoyed on PC, Sega Saturn, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nokia N900, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Genesis and Nintendo 64.

Everything about this game feels revolutionary, including the soundtrack. The theme song is so epic that even Metal God Dave Mustaine wanted part of the action, and there is a Megadeth cover of the Duke Nukem 3D theme song. Seriously everything feels epic about this game and it shows. The community support is top notch; there have been fan made high resolution texture mods to give the game a modern appearance. There are many custom mods and maps to download.

So in conclusion:

Duke Nukem 3D was released in 96 and the environments are more interactive than most 2019 games.

Duke Nukem 3D has more unique weapons then almost every modern shooter I have tried.

Duke Nukem 3D has more ports than anything else that I am aware of.

Duke Nukem 3D has one of a kind gameplay that couldn’t be replicated by any other dev for over 2 decades and counting.

These are some of the reasons why Duke Nukem 3D is considered to be revolutionary.

Josh G

Copywriter for over 5 years with both B2B and B2C experience. I am expanding to other writing styles, as shown on this portfolio site.