Duke Nukem 3D Hands-On

We go hands-on with Duke's 3D mobile debut at CES. Hail to the king, baby.

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Duke Nukem, the alien-stomping, cigar-chomping manly man who's blasted his way through multiple gaming platforms over the course of his 15-year lifespan, will soon book a return ticket to your mobile phone. But this time, he's going to be perforating Pigcops in full 3D. MachineWorks Northwest, which has already released 2D and 3D Nukems for mobile and the Zodiac, respectively, is collaborating with SkyZone Mobile to port the first five levels of 2004's Duke Nukem 3D for the Zodiac over to the next generation of 3D-capable phones. At CES, we learned exactly how ambitious this project is shaping up to be. Duke Nukem 3D for mobile isn't just a straight port; this downloadable game will feature entirely new 3D character models and even appeared to outperform the Zodiac version in certain respects.

We had a chance to test-drive Duke Nukem 3D on an LG VX7000, a speedy, modern handset to be sure, but also tested the game on a phone that has been kicked off the cutting edge by 2005's brand-new hardware. Frankly, what we saw will likely constitute the first playable first-person shooter for mobile phones. All the Zodiac version's environments, from the strip club to the mean streets, have been transferred to the 7000's small screen in flawless fashion; in fact, the phone's smaller resolution lends the graphics a sharper quality than those found on the Zodiac. Even better are the game's brand-new 3D character models, which best the previous sprite-based baddies by a mile. The game's producer told us that each of the Pigcops we blasted with our shotgun consisted of 600-odd polygons, which was readily apparent when they keeled over in their smooth death animations, legs twitching. Many of the sound effects have bridged the gap has well, including some of Duke's growling taglines. The game's running speed is more than adequate, although it appears the overall pace of the game has been slowed to suit mobile play.

As you might imagine, keeping Nukem pointed in the right direction using the cell's keypad isn't very intuitive, but the present controls are sufficient to manage the game's simplistic shooting action. Hopefully the developer will consider adding some limited form of auto-aim to the mix to aid less-skilled players before the game's release. Duke Nukem 3D will be serialized in downloadable format, so the first installment will consist of the first five levels of the Zodiac game, complete with a full roster of weaponry. In spite of its great graphics, Duke Nukem 3D's most significant novelty may be its price point, which has been tentatively placed in the $10 to $15 range. Duke Nukem 3D is one of the first of a new generation of next-generation mobile games that will make use of 2005's faster hardware. This shift, which is already under way, will enable much improved production values, more-sophisticated game design, and, of course, higher prices for consumers.

At the time of this writing, Duke Nukem 3D is being readied for an early Q2 release. Stay tuned for more updates.

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