Duke Nukem 64
Duke Nukem is the kind of brutish, macho, masochistic, paranoid, gun-carrying, violence starved, psychotic that videogame detractors everywhere love to hold up as an example of all that's wrong with interactive entertainment. Is it any wonder then, that 3D Realms' Duke Nukem franchise has grown to become id Software's major competition? Duke Nukem 64, while certainly not the fulfilling banquet that Rare's Goldeneye proved to be this year, is definitely meaty enough to fatten you up. Even if you feel like you're drowning in first person shooters these days, Duke 64 delivers enough innovative secrets and bullet riddled action to silence your cries. This game is even more of a classic, "can't-stop-playing" affair than Doom 64 was. And though we'd hate to admit it, we all remember how well that one managed to wrap us up, now don't we? Watch Your Feet, This Gets Messy The major difference between Duke Nukem 64 and Doom 64 is the increased mobility you have. This is important, because the diabolical level designers at 3D Realms and their counterparts at Eurocom, who handled the port of this game, have crafted some of the trickiest and most surprising environments the N64's ever seen. It seems that in the world of Duke Nukem 64, every wall can have a trap door embedded in it. The visuals of Duke Nukem 64 blend high tech, high powered, 3D textured polygons with fast moving, but undeniably ugly, 2D sprites. In other words, the explosions are purty but the people ain't. The look of this game will not immediately impress diehard players, who have, no doubt, been gleefully enjoying the very latest in 3D graphics acceleration. But Duke does look good enough, and certainly moves fast enough, to convince anyone that there's a lot of fun to be had here. On top of the immediate benefit of speed, Duke Nukem 64, can also provide quick-on-the-draw gamers the opportunity to battle large numbers of grotesque aliens on screen at the same time. The frame rate of this game is so fast and there's so much to pay attention to, I've heard tales of some people becoming disoriented and queasy after a few moments of game time. I'll tell you something, if you've become ingrained in the relatively civilized pace of Goldeneye, be prepared for a shock when you see how quickly you can whip around in this one. As is standard course for games that try to squeeze a million things into the package, there are some hiccups with Duke 64's frame rate. You'll notice this especially when the screen is overcrowded with beasties and moving background objects. This isn't such a hardship though, because, for the quality of the blast 'em up gameplay you're getting, a little visual soupiness every once in a while is endurable. The enemy creatures in Duke Nukem 64 are more disgusting than their original design would suggest. Against today's motion captured polygonal enemies, the blocky, pixilated, poorly animated, feeble baddies that you get to mow down in Duke 64, hardly seem worth the trouble. Save for the obviously evil Pig Cops, most of these guys look exactly like the sorry-ass chipboard cutouts Will Smith avoided in his training mission in Men In Black. Nevertheless, there are so many of these goons flying around, it's fun watching them rip them apart after they play catch with your pipe bombs. Rip Him A New One!
Contrary to earlier fears, the risqué elements of the original Duke Nukem 3D, have not been tampered with too much for this N64 conversion. The bodacious dancing babes that littered movie screens, stages, tables and various decorative posters in the original game have been altered a little, to the dismay of sexist pigs everywhere. And, some of the colorful language that Duke used to spew has been tamed a bit as well. But you'll still be chuckling under your breath at some of his ultra anti-PC utterances.
I think you'd have to be a pretty dry turd to not at least smile when Duke stumbles upon a certain disemboweled long haired action hero and comes up with "I guess he didn't escape from L.A." If you're expecting some tunes with your Nukem carnage, you'd best not be holding your breath. The only thing you hear in this game is action. Tons of laser blasts; grenade concussions; screaming baddies; splurches and splatters; and the occasional grunts, groans and mumbles out of our hero, are the noises that make up the ambient soundtrack for this cart. Believe me, there's so much death defying activity in this game, I didn't miss the absence of cheesy MIDI guitar solos one dang bit. Friends Are Nice Just like the best of today's Nintendo 64 games, Duke Nukem 64 offers up some killer multiplayer action. Although the four player, split-screen Duke Matches are much more confusing than the equivalent activity in Goldeneye, you do get used to 'em after a few rounds. Then you and your pals can start taunting and berating each other like the bloodthirsty animals all of us Duke players aspire to be. Unfortunately, in the N64 version of the game, you can't get Duke to start taunting other players for you, so you'll have to practice getting that Duke attitude down (just promise to drop it when your parents or partners are nearby).
One terrific gameplay feature is the ability to enter into a full screen Duke Match all by your lonesome. Although this may sound like a bit of a sucky idea at first, I think you'll quickly see how much fun squaring off against Duke 'Bots can be. You can choose the skill level of your opponents (or should I say, intelligence - duh, walk into walls much?) and then start testing out your many, many intriguing weapons. Favorites? Gotta be the Pipebombs, Missile Launchers and Laser Tripbombs. The Shrinker/Expander Ray Gun is also a terrific little device that would have been right at home in Mars Attacks.
Another reason to start up a Duke Match, is to see some of the later, more difficult levels in the game. Duke Nukem 64 is not an easy puppy, even on the Piece O' Cake setting, so a sneak peak at the cool stuff that lays ahead is just what the doctor ordered. My favorite levels you ask? Dark Side - the moon station; Pirates - the pirate ship level (yes, the pirate ship level); and Stadium - which takes place inside a football stadium. The developers employed a refreshing sense of humor when they put this game together and you're going to love them for it. Masterful Mayhem Say what you want to about this genre, there's just no getting away from the fact that Duke Nukem 64 is an excellent game. Loaded with missions, secrets and multiplayer possibilities, this is a cartridge that you and your friends will be turning to time and again, even if you've already become entranced by this year's impressive collection of first person shooter games for the Nintendo 64. I'd add Duke Nukem 64 to my collection in a heartbeat.