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Duke Nukem 3D Review

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Sometimes we don’t remember things exactly the way they were, or if we do we find ourselves maybe looking at something differently after so many years. Duke Nukem is one of those things I like more now than I did when it was originally out. So I guess I owe 3D Realms and the people who choose what goes on the Xbox Live Arcade playlist. Because the remake of Duke Nukem 3D that’s just been released for XBLA is a lot more fun than I remember.

Originally released for the PC back in 1996, Duke was one of the original first person shooters, even though it came out four years after Wolfenstein 3D, generally regarded as the first 3D FPS. Four years is an epoch in today’s video game evolution, but back then it wasn’t such a long time. Id’s games like Doom and Wolfenstein were showy tech platforms that were exploring the possibility of new technologies. Duke on the other hand took the technology and actually gave it some content. It was clever, vulgar, funny and coarse, and people loved it.

But over ten years later, the humor doesn’t seem nearly as sophisticated. Duke himself is a throwback to 80’s movie action heroes, simultaneously channeling Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren and Guile from Street Fighter II. Maybe it’s the grind of time or my encroaching senility, but Duke seems funny again. Playing through the XBLA port, I caught myself laughing out loud. Often at the quaintness of the material, but also genuinely.

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