We live in somewhat of a golden era of videogaming if you think about it.
Sure there are the mandatory sub-par moments such as Aliens: Colonial Marines but on the whole, we have it pretty good from an accessibility point of view and I don’t mean in the “dumbing down” sense. This generation has seen a wealth of classic videogames reborn onto modern consoles and personal computers allowing us to revisit or in some cases be introduced to some classic titles which peers may have recommended to you but is it for the best?
Ultimately, regardless of quality it’s for the best of everyone to have these retro videogames available to us as it allows us to compare and contrast to what is available today and for most, it allows us to metaphorically travel back in time and experience those games which we spent most of our time, the teenage years. Services such as GOG.com, Steam, XBLA, PSN and the Virtual Console all house many of your childhood favourites with extra content, graphical “updates” (which usually mean blurring those lovely pixels), have fun achievements tied to them and of course, feel extra nice with the current set of controllers in our hands. Most recently I have been playing Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition from Devolver Digital which is essentially the ultimate collection of content you could want from the 3D Realms classic. It not only features the Megaton Edition of the original game which includes a working, playable and stable version of the BUILD engine on todays machines but also a the classic version on there just to make you realise how much work has gone into it.
Alongside these, for better or for worse, are the add-on packs which I never ever managed to play back in the day due to the console counterparts not even hinting at the fact they existed and whilst they were probably fun and novel at the time it’s quite surprising just how poor they feel in comparison to the main game that was created way back in 1996. They remind me of user created Counter-Strike maps, very rough round the edges with little to no gameplay content other than shooting things and flicking a few switches. The genius behind Duke Nukem 3D’s main campaign lies beyond the in-your-face strippers, soft pornography and crude swears but in its level design which for the time stepped in brave new directions that the genre wasn’t normally doing at the time for example, verticality. Despite existing in a primitive form in 1992, looking up and down wasn’t even a serious factor until Dark Forces came out in 1995 but even then, the game wasn’t thinking of verticality in its level design but instead just allowing the players to look up and aim at the stormtroopers which were undoubtebly shooting them with their overly identifiable blasters. Duke Nukem 3D took this upon its shoulders and ran with it, much faster and harder than Quake which arrived soon after in June 1996. Duke Nukem 3D allowed you to fully explore every sandbox style level to its extreme with the existance of the jetpack, a feature you rarely see nowadays due to the sheer amount of extra work it requires to work around.
It’s not all fun and games, sadly. Replaying old shooters like Duke 3D, Doom and Quake it’s easy to forget just how punishing these games are, even with the remastering of modern days tools and textures. Death not only means lost progress but if you forgot to save during that level, you were left at the start with nothing but the pistol leaving it almost impossible for those playing on a difficulty above “Let’s Rock”. That’s right, no checkpointing or autosaves here which can really put you off playing when you’ve lost about fiften to twenty minutes of game time. Whilst Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition offers a perfect rendition of the classic campaign and its add-on missions it’s hard not to wince when you realise there’s no DukeMatch to be seen, one of my favourite modes from the console versions and whilst most PC owners may shrug at the lack of gamepad support it really feels odd after playing the superior XBLA version.
Duke Nukem 3D Megaton Edition is great for those who want to relive all the content from Dukes glory years but ultimately if you were to step down into memory lane with these modernised classic First Person Shooters and you have the option of playing them on XBLA then turn on your Xbox 360, kick back and slam the mighty boot into your foes there.