In Depth Review: Duke Nukem Advance [GBA]
No wait, maybe I got that wrong. It's been so long since I've played the original Duke Nukem 3D, and I forgot exactly how dear old Duke's lines go. That's why, as adamant as I've been against console and portable FPS (they generally stink, nyah), I went out and hunted down Duke Nukem Advance for the GBA.
And who woulda thunk it -- it's actually pretty decent.
After sampling Doom, Dark Arena and Ecks vs. Sever, I must say that this is, by far, the best first-person shooter game on the GBA yet, knocking Ecks and Sever off their pedestals. The graphics are sharper than all of the above, including Ecks vs. Sever, and move at a very respectable clip (probably between 24 and 30 frames/sec).
Something that I liked about Ecks vs. Sever, when I sampled it, is the sheer satisfaction of pumping someone full of ammunition, whether it be shotgun buckshot or slugs from an SMG. This satisfaction returns in spades with Duke. Furthermore, developer Torus Games incorporated the run-n-gun, blow-up-$hit gameplay style of the original as best they could. While there are rarely more than 3 or 4 enemies assailing you at once, it still manages to capture the frenetic pace of the PC original. What do you expect when you've got upright pigs and fat nasty aliens with BIG @$$ guns?
The weapons all pack a PC punch, even on the tiny screen. They are as faithful to the PC version as they can be after being shrunken to portable size. Making their appearances are the Desert Eagle handgun, Shotgun, Super Shotgun, MP5 SMG, Pipe Bombs, Rocket Launcher, Freeze Ray and Shrink Ray. Oh, and before I forget, the big old Boot.
Some features of Duke Nukem Advance end up being a pleasant surprise. Duke is more mobile, thanks to his ability to jump, but thankfully the game never nails you with a Turok-style platform-hopping nightmare. Also, Duke can look up and down by holding L and R, and pressing Up or Down on the control pad. It's actually cheaply done, as the screen merely pans up and down as if looking up and down a flat picture. But the illusion is done well enough so that you can take aim at something above or below you and not have to rely on the CPU to auto-target for you.
In general, the combination of the graphics engine and the overall gameplay design make Duke Nukem "comfortable" to play. It's more fluid than I would expect for a Gameboy Advance FPS, and definitely more fun. I can only imagine what will happen when AGB Games finalizes their Quake engine.
The sound, on the other hand, isn't anything to write home about. There's like... almost no sound. No music except for the recognizable theme at the menu screen. There are your generic footsteps, explosions and gun sounds. In fact the only cool sounds in the game come in the form of great Duke saying, and even those are limited. But I truly enjoyed the rare "B!tchin'!!!" after I laid waste to an alien.
One of my major problems with Duke Nukem Advance doesn't really surface until later, and that's because it doesn't surface until you've absorbed much of the game: all of the gameplay, levels and missions start to get indistinct from each other. I often found myself forgetting what the goal of the mission was after not playing the game for a few days, because the level looked just like the one before it; either that or I was hopelessly lost in a Halo-ish indoor maze. The same enemies kept resurfacing level after level, and let's face it -- collecting keycards gets real old.
But nonetheless I was impressed with this portable first-person shooter. It's one thing to grab keycards over and over again sitting in front of your TV or your PC monitor. But it's different when you go portable -- being able to blast minions and chew bubble gum while on the subway or the porto-potty, or during lunch break under your desk at your cubicle, is rewarding enough to allow those boring old-time FPS staples slide.
My bottom line is I probably wouldn't get a game like this on a console or PC, due to the lack of thoughtful level design and its ultimately tedious nature. But when I was on the go, I really did have fun. If you guys ever get Duke Nukem forever finished, don't create tedium dammit!