How Duke Nukem 3D flushed all other shooters away

A look back at one of the Duke's finest moments...

Duke Nukem 3D started the first-person shooter's obsession with toilets. It arguably popularised the raunchy sprite animation too, containing as it did no fewer than three crudely animated shaking bums and a lady who takes her bra off to reveal something 1997's child-brains would later identify as 'tassels' - or, confusingly for those from the West Country, 'pasties'.

Duke Nukem is the product of minds puerile enough to giggle at cock doodles and yet, somehow, retain the stoic determination required to develop a standard-setting first-person shooter.

Retitled Duke Nukem: Total Meltdown outside Europe and simply Duke Nukem at home - this was a time of game stars as movie stars, when Tomb Raider had 'Starring Lara Croft' written large on the front - the PSone port adds a fourth episode to the PC's original three, and sees Mr Nukem churn through countless extraterrestrial hordes in a valiant attempt to rescue Earth's women.


Those less impressed with this egotistical, poo-flinging lunk as humanity's last hope immediately pointed to this idea - of women as belongings to be stolen and owned - as the first of many highly questionable attributes.

Duke's fans metaphorically swatted them playfully on the arse and told them to make themselves useful and get the tea on.

The first of Duke's episodes, LA Meltdown, is set in a 21st century Los Angeles and sensitively takes in a strip club, a cinema showing precisely six repeating frames of a dancing lady, and a flooded, ruined city around the San Andreas fault.

Duke's prime directive is the rescue of exclusively pretty ladies who have managed to get themselves kidnapped, stripped naked and imprisoned in slimy green cocoons. Yet it's the stark contrast between teenage boy-appeasing sci-fi grumble fantasies and genuinely intelligent, creative gameplay that makes Duke Nukem stand out among its peers, who were for the most part still mired in old school, corridor shooter sensibilities.

The sequences in which entire chunks of levels are rearranged by cataclysmic earthquakes slows your head-shaking despair as Duke flashes tenners at strippers. A fully functioning pool table distracts you from endless fields of sexy geishas.

Meanwhile, corpses trapped between sliding doors and stretching out like warm, fleshy chewing gum sits slap bang in the middle of the two extremes. Duke Nukem was forward and backward thinking at the same time.

Episode two, Lunar Apocalypse, is inexplicably set in space, while the final episode returns to Los Angeles for a trip through a seedy brothel (is there any other kind?) before at last pitting us against the Cycloid Emperor. This alien overlord has taken up residence in a football stadium, giving us a chance to fight a final boss in a small arena - something else that might seem familiar all these years later.


What might be less familiar is your avatar, triumphant upon winning, tearing off the enemy's head and s***ting down his neck. It's hard to imagine Mass Effect's John Shepard doing that in even his most dickish moment. The game tries so hard to offend that it's difficult not to find the whole thing endearing, though many managed it.

Helping it tread this vanishingly thin line between puerility and genius is an inspired set of weapons. The ice gun freezes enemies, allowing Duke to shatter them with his boot. Pipe bombs can bounce off walls and around corners before being remotely detonated. Laser trip mines create devastating traps, while the shrink ray lets you crush victims under Duke's size 14s.

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