Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition Review
We’re all trying to forget the travesty that was Duke Nukem Forever and to assist in our recovery, Devolver Digital and Abstraction Games brings the previously released Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition to PlayStation 3 and Vita. It’s basically a port of the 2008 game that launched on the Xbox Live network; it boasts the same cool rewind time feature, online-cop and leaderboards. It only goes for $9.99 and for those looking to take a bloody, highly pixilated trip down memory lane, it’s probably not a bad buy. But for some reason, despite it’s immense old-school charm, it’s not as stable as it should be.
The old-fashioned graphics are here in abundance, throughout the game and all the extra episodes this particular version includes. Yep, this was the way first-person shooters always used to look; i.e., grainy and completely unrefined. I hear the Vita iteration has received a spruced-up visual presentation but as I’ve never played the Megaton Edition before, I can’t do a compare-and-contrast. I can say, however, that the graphics don’t withstand the test of time. Such a visual display will put a nostalgic smile on the faces of the oldsters out there but otherwise, younger gamers will probably laugh. Well, let ‘em. It’s still cool.
The audio isn’t anything special but the action does sound decent on the Vita. Over the past few years, I’ve been quite impressed with the audio in various Vita productions and although Duke Nukem’s effects and soundtrack are obviously outdated, Sony’s handheld does a good job. Of course, given the era in question, the balancing is more than questionable and sometimes it’s hard to understand the words. That’s the way things go, though. Duke saying “shake it, baby” was always comical; we were still a long way from crystal clear effects, professional voice performances, and gorgeous music compositions. Just accept it for what it is.
First and foremost, the controls map well to the Vita, thanks in large part to the dual analog sticks. I really don’t like changing weapons on the touchscreen but it works all right and you’ll soon get into the swing of things. The aiming is a tad finicky but thankfully, we get an auto-aim feature that is a great help. It feels wrong, somehow, to use such a function when playing an old-school shooter, but it really does help. Those not used to the archaic style will miss commonly accepted modern-day features like iron sights, reloading and recoil, but again, just accept the reality of the olden days. Draw distance is actually pretty good, despite the rampant pixilation.
Now, one thing to remember when embarking on these classic quests: There was a time in this industry when most games were hard. In same cases, they were really hard. I’m not sure if early Duke Nukem games qualified as the hardest of the hard but either way, they’re still a good deal more difficult than most titles you’ll play today. Shooters vary widely in terms of difficulty and accessibility these days, but I can’t think of one that will really push an avid gamer’s skills to the limit. In the Megaton Edition, you’ll die plenty, and there may be times when frustration gets the best of you. It doesn’t help that old-fashioned game design could be really infuriating; there’s a big difference between hand-holding and giving you zero assistance whatsoever.
Hence, you might be confused as to what to do, where the necessary lever is, or how to progress to the next area. It might happen. You might also stumble upon an enemy that lights you up big time. You’ll just have to adapt. The good news? The replay feature lets you retry a level from any point before you died, which is an option we definitely did not have back in the day. This feature even works when playing co-op multiplayer, so finishing the game isn’t a mix of irritation and drudgery. Sure, one could argue that gamers today are spoiled and games are too easy but let’s face it…it’s just more fun when you don’t want to break everything in sight.
As for the game’s performance, it’s mysteriously glitchy. These issues aren’t crippling deal-breakers but they are noticeable. For instance, your weapons can just disappear when cycling through them, and the multiplayer suffers from definite – and disappointing – lag. Competitive multiplayer can be downright comical at times and in co-op, your partner very often gets in the way. You also can’t turn off the Vita’s microphone when playing multiplayer, which is a big mistake. The portable in question should’ve had no trouble running such old-school games but for whatever reason, there’s a lack of stability.
Even so, Duke is still Duke. You’ll gleefully plug the pig-like monsters running rampant with automatic weapons, and you’ll recall all those play sessions from yesteryear. Granted, this is more fanservice than anything else, as it’s exceedingly unlikely that such a collection will appeal to the unfamiliar. For those long-time fans of the franchise, though, there’s a lot to like. There’s a fair amount of content, the control works relatively well, and all that classic charm is here in spades. Yes, that includes now-legendary one-liners, strippers, and plenty of blood. It’s not the same blood we know now but back then, it was pretty shocking.
Duke Nukem 3D: Megaton Edition on the Vita is a mostly enjoyable experience. It lacks the refinement and cleanliness I anticipated, as some of those bugs really shouldn’t be here, and the multiplayer especially suffers. And I don’t care how nifty it is, I will always prefer buttons to touchscreen controls. Otherwise, this is Duke Nukem in all his corny, cheesy, B-movie glory. The weapons and pacing are great and the fun factor is sky-high, provided you’re not led down a dark path of frustration due to outdated design. The bottom line is that if you know what to expect, you’ll probably be satisfied.
The Good: Classic Duke charm and Type-A charisma is prominent. Great pacing and awesome weapons. Controls are mapped well to the Vita. Aim-assist and replay features are much appreciated. Co-op can be very entertaining. Fun factor is super high (usually).
The Bad: Game is too glitchy. Major multiplayer lag. If you’re not a fan of the old-school FPS style, don’t bother.
The Ugly: “This proves that multiplayer has come a looooong way.”
1/15/2015 Ben Dutka