Question: Why spend $20 for ten levels when you can get 1,500 levels for the same amount of money?
If you've tried those 1,500-level Duke packs, you know most of those episodes are terrible. Brief, little, uncreative excursions. On the other hand, working your way through the ten huge and cleverly connected locations in Duke It Out in D.C. will take several days and massive quantities of caffeine.
Our affable buddy Duke takes on one task: blasting through a gazillion aliens to rescue the kidnapped President (of course, once you've reached the beleaguered soul, you can take a pass on the final rescue). Along the way you'll visit most of the capital's major tourist stops, from the White House and the Lincoln Memorial to the Smithsonian and the Capitol. Plus you'll head underground into the sewers and subway and work your way to a nuclear submarine base and a nuke-proof (but not Nukem-proof) command bunker. And if you look carefully near an abandoned subway stop, you'll find a crack in a wall that takes you to a humongous, top secret government warehouse full of goodies, including a time machine. (This level was designed by Charlie Wiederhold, who is something of a Duke guru.)
There's a lot to like in this low-priced gem. And you've got to love its behind-the-scenes story. Eight of its ten levels were created by one guy: Robert Travis. He worked for a year at Babbages, and in his spare time he struggled through the frustrating task of creating Doom levels. Then along came Duke, with its much easier level editor, and he began cranking out one good version after another, posting them on the Internet as he went. Meanwhile, a small software start-up in Indiana wanted to get into authorized add-on packs, saw his stuff, and snarfed him up.
Travis managed to create those eight levels in only 16 weeks. Hard to believe, considering their complexity and the quantity of new art, including paintings, flags, and museum exhibits. Each episode takes plenty of time to navigate and some are frustratingly difficult. For instance, in the Smithsonian, you can see a door key card hovering in a fish tank. Getting there requires finding a few hidden passageways, diving into a half-dozen shark-infested tanks, and locating several nearly invisible underwater switches.
D.C. is a little behind the times (one reason may be because they finished D.C. in January but held it for release until now). It has none of the new weapons and monsters from the Plutonium Pak, and there are no new sounds, no new music, and no light switches. You find yourself going a long way down some lengthy tunnels and elevator shafts just to throw a critical switch or find another key card. After that much effort there should be a larger reward. Plus there are too few surprises. The opportunities for humor, irony, and sight gags in this political setting should have been too numerous to pass up. But pass them up they did.
Meanwhile, there are many improvements over the original Duke. This version's nuclear submarine is full-sized and fully functional (even the torpedoes work), not just a means to end a level. The Smithsonian is an amazingly detailed level with aquariums, a space exploration section, and an overview of ancient civilizations. The subway system is well designed and appropriately gritty. There are plenty of wide-open areas with places to duck behind for decent multiplayer matches. Plus, you shouldn't miss the final animation. It's not that spectacular, but if you click any key after defeating the "Boss," you'll skip it
Duke It Out in D.C. misses a few obvious opportunities to improve on the original, but the numerous enhancements that weren't missed, and the low price, make this a worthy investment for anyone looking to prolonging the reign of "the king."