I’ve played a few versions of “Duke Nukem 3D” over the years (on the PC, The Playstation and the Gameboy Advance) but, despite having a Nintendo 64 when I was younger, I’ve never had a chance to play the N64 version of “Duke 3D”. So, imagine my delight when I recently discovered the “Duke Nukem 64 Mod” on ModDB.
This is, as you might imagine, a mod that converts the PC version of “Duke 3D” into something resembling the N64 version. Since I’ve never played the original N64 game, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the mod – but it looks fairly similar to screenshots and footage I’ve seen of “Duke Nukem 64”.
The mod is fairly easy to install – all you have to do is to unzip the file you’ve downloaded and then copy the “Duke 3d.grp” file from your full copy of the PC version of “Duke 3D” into the folder. Once you’ve done this, just click on the “eDuke32” icon and you are, to quote the man himself, ready for action!
Although this mod allows you to select which episode you want to start on (like in the PC version), I don’t believe that the original N64 version of the game allowed you to do this.
But, if you start the mod normally, then the game will progress without asking you to select episodes after every few levels and I actually quite liked the fact that this was a much more streamlined version of “Duke 3D” than the original game.
Most of the levels from “Duke 3D” are included in this mod and I didn’t really notice any glaring omissions (although a couple of the less interesting levels, like the “Derelict” level from episode four, are thankfully missing).
One interesting change is that a couple of the secret levels from “Duke 3D” are included as “ordinary” levels and the three boss segments from the original game are now all separate levels. Even so, one or two of the secret levels (eg: the “Freeway” level) are still well-hidden.
Plus, several of the levels now feature various changes and the occasional additional area too. Most of these changes are fairly good and they breathe new life into a familiar game but a couple of the changes aren’t so good – more on that later…..
In addition to all of this, the final boss is now rendered in genuine 3D too. Unfortunately, this is mid-late 90s 3D and it shows – call me old fashioned, but the cycloid emperor looked a lot cooler when he was a good old fashioned 2D sprite like the other bosses.
Another thing you will notice about this mod is that the weapons look different and, as you progress through the game, you’ll notice a few other changes to the weapons too.
Some of these changes work quite well, for example, the new pistol sounds and looks a lot more powerful than the old one and the chaingun has been replaced by a rather cool-looking pair of SMGs.
But, other changes – like replacing the RPG with a grenade launcher and replacing the Devastator (one of the best weapons in “Duke 3D”) with an ordinary rocket launcher – don’t work so well. However, all of the explosions in the game are now in genuine 3D, so these weapons look slightly cooler when you use them.
Not only that, the freezethrower has been replaced with some kind of energy weapon which I only used about three times during my playthrough of the mod – it’s a powerful weapon (which can disintegrate enemies) but it takes a while to charge up and it guzzles ammo at a prodigious rate.
In addition to this, you can find alternate ammo types for three of the weapons too. These are dum dum bullets for the pistol (which make it as powerful as the shotgun), exploding shells for the shotgun and some rather ineffective heat-seeking missiles for the rocket launcher.
This is a rather cool feature but, as you might expect, these alternate ammo types are in fairly short supply – so, use them carefully.
Unfortunately, being based on a 1990s Nintendo game – there is pointless censorship in this mod. A lot of it. In fact, the only thing from the original game which thankfully hasn’t been censored are all of the ludicrous gibs and copious quantities of blood.
Surprisingly, this was the only part of the game that Nintendo’s puritanical American censors didn’t have a problem with.
In fact, the censorship in the game gives us an absolutely hilarious glimpse into the conservative American psyche. The adult bookstore in the second level has been replaced with a gun shop (with private viewing booths for 1980s action movies in the back, no less!) and the strip club from the same level has been replaced by a “Duke Burger” restaurant.
I don’t know why, but I still find the idea that deadly weapons and fast food are more “wholesome” than anything even remotely sexual to be absolutely hilarious.
As well as all of this, the risque posters have also been changed into cheesy parodies of 70s/80s movie posters, the Blues Brothers have replaced the dancers in the first level of episode three and – most bizarrely of all – the chapel is missing from the “Death Row” level.
Whilst I applaud Nintendo’s old stance on keeping religion well and truly out of videogames (even though they did it for the wrong reasons), this change ruins the level slightly and the replacement for the chapel is a rather boring hallway with a fairly lazy “Silence Of The Lambs” reference in it.
In fact, the only part of the censorship that is even vaguely sensible is the fact that, whenever Duke encounters one of the many women who has been captured by the aliens, he can actually rescue her.
This is much more fitting with Duke’s stereotypical heroic character and it’s a hell of a lot less depressing than in the original PC game (and, surprisingly, the similar “rescuing” mechanic in “Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project” too).
However, one of these NPC sprites in “Duke 64” has been replaced with a rather grisly altered version of the original sprite. It’s kind of creepy that, to a conservative American censor, an eviscerated character is somehow more “wholesome” than a nude character. I mean, clothes were added to the other sprites in the N64 version, so I don’t see why they couldn’t have just done this with that sprite too.
On the plus side, the (heavily censored) versions of the dancing “babe” NPCs throughout the game are all completely invincible too – which means you don’t have to worry about accidentally shooting them or blowing them up when you’re fighting the monsters that are often nearby.
The voice acting in this game isn’t quite as good as it is in the original “Duke 3D”. Although Jon St. Jon returns to voice Duke Nukem, he sounds very slightly different in this mod – it’s hard to describe, but Duke’s voice isn’t quite as gravelly as it should be.
One change in the voice acting I liked was that Duke now says all of the old things he used to say at the start of a level in “Duke 3D” whenever he picks up a weapon – this meant that I got to hear my favourite line (“ready for action!”) a lot more than I did when I played the original “Duke 3D”.
But, on the downside, Nintendo’s bizarre censorship means that Duke’s dialogue is all pretty PG-rated in this version. However, they have at least made some effort to replace a couple of Duke’s lines – with limited success.
The best dialogue replacement is probably Duke’s line after defeating a mini battlelord – in the original game, he says something like “Die, you son of a bitch!” but in the N64 mod, he now says “You’re the disease… and I’m the cure!“, which is actually a much funnier line.
All in all, I’m not quite sure what to make of this version of “Duke 3D”. Although the censorship removes a lot of what made the original game so funny and a couple of the new weapons are fairly crappy, there’s still a lot of good stuff here and a few of the changes actually improve the game.
Not only that, the gameplay is still as fun and as action-packed as you would expect it to be. If you’re a fan of the PC version of “Duke 3D”, then it’s certainly worth downloading this mod and giving it a go.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, then it would get a four.