Sunday, January 5, 2014

VGR:Quickies Duke Nukem console exclusives

I reviewed the entire "main" Duke Nukem series, it's time to finish my look back at the "spinoff" titles.

Don't miss out my previous Duke Nukem-related reviews!

Did you know that Duke Nukem wasn't exclusively a First Person Shooter franchise?

Actually, the majority of the games in this series are either sidescrollers (such as the original two games or also Manhattan Project) or either Third person shooters?

Only Duke Nukem 3D and Forever are actually the sole FPS entries.

Mostly produced "on the side" to both help players wait for the long-in-development DNF and explore the console market, they were home systems-only Duke Nukem title that tried different things.

To avoid repeating possible threads Forever would use, they mostly revolved around time travel as central gimmick, entirely different enemies (besides the occasional Pig Cop with new origins) and offered radically different gameplay for the series.

Here's all the game produced during that time. Let me start with....

Title: Duke Nukem: Time to Kill 
From n-Space/3D Realms/GT Interactive/Take-Two Interactive 

On PlayStation
Type 3rd Person Shooter
Year 1998

In "Time to Kill", the story sees Duke in downtown L.A., having a good time post-Duke3D. Our hero was going to a strip club.. when suddenly there's a Pig Cop invasion!

This time it's apparently the turn of the Darks, more aliens, attacking Earth! And now our timeline is all messed up and it's up to Duke Nukem to clean it up!!

This game's a third person title, pretty similar to Tomb Raider which had only been release 2 years prior to this, back in 1996. It was a huge hit and became a big influence on action titles for the new following years. There's actually a lot of references to it in Time to Kill, along the usual Evil Dead series quotes as well, Back to the Future and many more!

The first stage in the city works as main hub for the game, the segments will take you into different stages such as the strip club, the subway, apartments, etc. Every time the hub changing due to the problem in the "time stream".

That's when Duke will start going back in time via a time-space warp, opening up new areas and exploring alternate settings from the old west era to medieval times and ancient Rome! The Darks and the Pig Cops have been changing history around. You will face three giant bosses, one after each era cleared up.

The game is a third person platformer first, with shooter mechanics.

Travelling through time with Duke.

If the shooting mayhem is slightly reduced from the previous FPS iteration of the series, it's still just as gratifying at the end of the day.

The game also offers 2-player deathmatches based on singe player stages. With hidden power-ups to make some challenges.

Overall: It's a fun little title with a decent over-the-top story and great humor.

It was principally made while Duke Nukem Forever was in production back in the 90s.

It is not without its flaws... If it had come to PC as well, I can easily imagine they would have added a map feature, seeing just how huge some of the levels are. The controls are ok if a bit stiff.

A Nintendo 64 version was also supposed to come out but was scrapped in the development. An attempt to bring it back resulted in a brand new different title being developed for Nintendo's system.

The game proved successful enough and proved how much the Duke Nukem franchise could sell on home systems back in the day. This title would be followed by a direct sequel on the PSX again but also a distinct episode for the N64, kind of similar but a different take enough from Time to Kill to call it a separate game and not simply a port.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Title: Duke Nukem: Zero Hour      
From Eurocom/GT Interactive 

On Nintendo 64
Type 3rd Person Shooter
Year 1999     

The story revolves here around time travel as well, with aliens once more attempting to alter the course of history.

This time focusing on erasing Duke's ancestors.

In "Zero Hour", the game begins with Earth's Government calling on Duke to get rid of their problems once more. Aliens appeared out of nowhere and started attacking New York City this time.

First Duke has to reach the Statue of Liberty, only to find out the aliens actually attempting to go back in time to mess up Earth's history. Duke ends up in the future along for the rid.

He finds himself in a world where aliens won their conquest in a post-apocalyptic setting. There's been a nuclear fallout and the human resistance is trying to retake America. The humans built their own time machine when there seemed to be no more solution to this invasion.

It's time to re-write history! Starting first with the Old West again. In these other time periods you will have to make work with the local technology available at that time.

After that it's time to explore Victorian London, and prevent the aliens from building their weapons.

The space-time continuum is completely messed, several invaders from various time periods cross over. It's time to fight back to clean history... aboard the alien mothership ... and face Zero!!

Each iteration of the world Duke's in while be changing the look of the items, enemies, Duke's clothing and the current weapons available - which is a nice touch. While Duke has access to automatic guns in the present, the Old West's default gun will be revolvers, etc.

This game has fewer places to visit overall, but a lot more stages and bosses, 6 of them! Over 30 levels long.

There's some great one liners once more.

The game also has a 4-player multiplayer mode in FPS view. These can be played in your traditional teamplay and deathmatch modes.

Overall: It's a great game with a fun multiplayer.

This episode's developed by Eurocom. One of the Nintendo 64's biggest cartridges at 32 MB.

A N64 title was a must simply because how popular Duke Nukem 64 was at the time.

Zero Hour could make use of the famous Expansion Pak for slightly better graphics, although it's not recommend as the frame rate would drop down significantly with it on for some reason...

It's probably one of the darker more mature Duke Nukem games out there, and to think that it is on the Nintendo 64 no less!

The game is very fun and looks great for that time.

As you can see it still has much to do with time travel and is not that far from Time to Kill, originally both visiting the same similar places. But it ended up different enough and much better overall.

While the original Duke Nukem 64 felt like a port of a much better PC Game, this time the game's sharper and makes a proper use of the system. Specially after how much censored and edited Duke 64 was, this one's a truer Duke Nukem game in spirit.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

Title: Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes      
From N-Space/GT Interactive/Take-Two Interactive 

On PlayStation
Type 3rd Person Shooter
Year 2000

A direct sequel to the 1998 Time to Kill, Land of the Babes was at the time a long awaited entry in the series... which would only prove itself as disappointing as Forever would years later.

The story begins with Duke in a strip club, finally taking some well reserved rest after his previous adventures.. when suddenly a portal opens in front of our hero!

A babe his calling Duke for his help across time and space! The woman brings him his classic sunglasses back, but is soon followed by a ruthless pig cop who shots her.

It turns out she's part of a future resistance. The plot takes this time Duke Nukem in the far distant dystopian future where our hero meets a woman named Jane.

Jane tells him how the world came to be attacked by a full-on invasion on a huge scale, and all men on Earth were whipped out and killed around the globe while women were captured by the invaders.

At the head of this force is Silverback, a pigcop/ape hybrid and one of the alien leaders.

Duke joines the United Babe Resistance (UBR).

The game begins by escaping from underground headquarters, shooting down the Silverback's main spaceship. After that Duke needs to find a scientist named Houston in the city ruins. An underwater levels takes Duke and Jane to the entrance of an alien base through sewers.

After killing Silverback Duke goes to take on a factory building killer robots to replace UBR women! Later Duke arrives in the alien space station headed to destroy Earth on impact. Duke rescues some more women, dukin' it out with the alien "Gauntlet".

Finally the final confrontation will be killing the alien overlord.

Duke is left the only living male in the end... sole man present to help repopulate Earth...!

The story is a bit nonsensical but perhaps lacking a bit of the fun over-the-top from past games...

It plays exactly like Time to Kill, only weapons have been really added/changed between titles.

There's also a fun Dukematch multiplayer mode for 2 players, where the main goal is scoring "frags".

Overall: It's a pretty straightforward and simple 3rd person Duke Nukem. It's still fun and play decently, but it lacks something, some polish both in the visuals and level design.

Without much involvement from 3D Realms this time, I guess it shows.

Even Static X's "Push It" main theme song doesn't help sell this episode.

It's pretty similar to Time to Kill in graphics and gameplay. Most guns from Duke 3D and Time to Kill are back, kind of altered for the worse it seems.

There's also a lot more platforming added, which detracts a bit from the general experience. Plenty of climbing, swimming and more. Despite a similar gameplay, finding keys, etc, it feels like a step downward.

The game is also much easier than previous titles. There's plenty of ways to boost your health around from defeated foes to hidden interactive easter eggs, perhaps too much if you ask me.

It's also not the best looking PSX game I've ever seen, the whole colors and lightning feels duller and darker this time around, specially by early 2000s standards.

Duke is back but not on top of his form, a sign of changing times... as Duke Nukem Forver would only confirm a decade later...

It's not that terribly bad, mind you. But certainly a step back from the previous two titles in every possible way.

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score!

And that's it for Duke Nukem's 3rd person iterations!

After the underwhelming reception of that third game, the Duke would be put to rest... that is after a little deserved anniversary comeback for Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, a co-production between 3D Realms and Sunstorm Interactive, already responsible for the Duke it out in D.C. and Duke Caribbean expansion packs.

The partnership with GT Interactive would end after the above three titles.

Will Duke Nukem ever be back in these sort of games after the disappointing results of Forever and Duke with the FPS genre currently?... Only time will tell...

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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