Nearly 19 years after its original release and we’re still hailing to the king as Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition blasts its way onto the Playstation Vita. Portable gamers can now take the mayhem on the go, duking it out over a variety of different episodes, including numerous popular and difficult to find fan-made campaigns. All of which have been crammed into this generous port courtesy of Devolver Digital and Abstraction Games.
Revered by virgins the world over, Duke is an overly manly man; a misogynistic amalgamation of 1980s’ action movie heroes. Every guy wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him. The game lacks any real story, as you might imagine, opting to thrust you into the deep end, pistol in hand. Each episode in Megaton Edition has the same basic objective: kill all of the aliens and make your way to the exit, perhaps with a brief stop to toss a couple of dollars at a scantily clad lap dancer.
Duke is a bit of a jet-setter, finding himself in downtown Los Angeles, relaxing on the beach in the Caribbean, and taking a leisurely space walk on the moon. But no matter where he is, the basic gameplay formula remains the same, and one that some developers still follow to this day. Alongside both Doom and Wolfenstein , Duke Nukem was somewhat responsible for popularising the first person shooter genre. You can take issue with the game’s depiction of women and its puerile humour, but beneath those distractions it, to this day, remains a solid FPS experience that is only marginally less fresh than it was back on its release in 1996.
As a humorous, fast-paced run and gun shooter Duke was pretty much unrivalled at the time, but it also required patience and an inquisitive mind to play well. While you might spend most of your time caving in alien’s skulls you will also be expected to find various key cards and hidden pickups to progress through the game. Unlike today, developers back in the 90’s took a hands off approach, encouraging players to experiment and find solutions themselves, so don’t expect any handholding. Important items are not placed in plain sight, and finding them might require you to blow up walls, crawl through air vents, or press the action button at suspicious looking walls. Pampered modern gamers may find the game’s difficulty a tough nut to crack, even on lower settings, but thankfully Abstraction has ported the PC versions rewind feature to the Vita, meaning you won’t have to restart levels from scratch. Instead, if you die, you can simply rewind to before the s**t hit the fan and try again. Thoughtful additions like that make Megaton feel like a carefully considered port, rather than a regurgitated cash-in.
Abstraction has also carefully mapped the controls making the Vita feel like a natural home for Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition. Duke moves and turns effortlessly using both analogie sticks, and can fire his gun, or even throw his leg in the air, with a tap of the shoulder buttons. A quick tap of the touchscreen changes your weapons and you’re good to go. Understandably the Playstation Vita doesn’t even come close to breaking a sweat whilst playing Megaton Edition. Frame rates are buttery smooth and consistent, with only minor infrequent stutterring.but I would expect no less for a system running a game that is closing in on two decades old.
When you have had enough of the Duke’s offline adventures you can take the fight online in co-op and deathmatch modes. In my own experience playing competitively over the internet was a bit of a mixed bag with frequent lag and a lot of suspiciously young sounding voices in the lobby, but when things work you are bound to have a blast! Despite a lack of options and modes there is a wealth of maps to frag your friends on, shouting somewhat dated one-liners down the microphone all the while.
For a modern port of a, by today’s standards, pre-historic game, things hold up pretty well but not perfect. There are still various graphic bugs I remember seeing back in the day when the game was originally released, and more than a few times I found myself glitching out or being teleported to other parts of the map. The handy new rewind feature also has the tendency to corrupt your rewind data, meaning you might have to replay from a point further back than you would have liked.
That we are still playing Duke Nukem 3D today is a testament to how profound an impact the game has had on the industry, and how iconic Duke himself is. Underneath its aged exterior is a supremely crafted shooter with tight controls and action that most modern games can’t hold a candle to, least of all Duke Nukem Forever. Whether or not the series will make a triumphant return is a matter still up for debate, but one way or the other I am glad we still have Duke Nukem 3D and its legacy show how far the industry has come.