Duke Nukem: Zero Hour
Everything you'd want in a typical kick-tail Duke Nukem experience is here. The levels are huge and you get lots of them. Ammo is plentiful. Duke's back to his filthy-mouthed self again and dirty jokes abound (watch for posters advertising "louinski's All Natural Clam juice" and "Goldenguy: Agent 069"). But big guns and lewd guffaws aside, this shooter is anything but golden. My main gripe: The levels lack save points, forcing you to save only after you complete a stage. Few things are more frustrating than dying near the end of a level and having to replay that stage from scratch. You've heard me complain about this problem before with a few N64 first-person shooters, but the absence of checkpoints in Duke is especially painful, since the game's levels seemingly sprawl for miles. They are well-designed (the future-shocked Manhattan stage has an Escape from New York meets Terminator feel). Control setups are plentiful, and I had the best luck with the Turok configuration. But jumping is a plain of pain in the ass, no matter which setup you choose. Despite some odd texture choices and slowdown, the graphics are decent and pretty sharp in Expansion Pak-enhanced hi-res mode. Of course, you get the standard four-player modes, including team play, and several well-built deathmatch arenas.
It's official. Duke Nukem is no longer cool. Take a franchise and milk it enough, and it just gets boring. Ask Lara Croft. Duke still says the same stuff, he still does the same stuff, and just because it's a third-person game doesn't mean there's any real innovation when it comes to design. The "edgy'' imagery is a refreshing change, especially in an N64 game, but the gameplay itself is infuriating. Why no firkin' checkpoints in the levels, huh? Huh?
I've never been a fan of first-person shooters, and that's basically what 0N:2H is, only in the third-person view. Those damn aliens that are always shooting' up his ride are back for more, and they haven't changed much. Levels are huge and detailed, but each one's almost too long to be much fun-spending hours without feeling like you're advancing in the overall game can be very frustrating. Great multiplayer action, but as for the rest, it's been there, done that.
Although ZH's one-player game can be a lot of fun, there is one main problem that is so annoying it makes me not want to bother playing it: No save points/checkpoints within the levels. Perhaps if the levels were slightly smaller this wouldn't be a problem. Sadly, playing through ZH's levels becomes a tedious game of memorization. And the choppy frame-rate doesn't help either. In the game's defense, the multiplayer modes are a firkin' blast.
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Cruelty To Pigs
You are Duke Nukem, gun-toting, pig-shooting superstar. Your 21-level mission is to travel through time, blowing away alien scum leaving nothing behind but a dirty great trail of corpses and blood stains. And you're going to really enjoy doing it.
Duke's new third-person view hasn't affected the way the game plays - in fact, it works exactly like a traditional Doom-style blaster. Duke's Lara Croft pretensions are limited to a simple fixed-height jump, and there are no fiddly moves to get in the way of the all-out shooting action. The Dukester's manly figure is only visible on screen for cosmetic purposes, to help distinguish Zero Hour from the official sequel to Duke Nukem on the PC, which is a first-person game.
It works well though, thanks to the excellent camera system. When Duke stands close to a wall the camera zooms in behind his transparent head just like in Mission: Impossible. The view switches to first-person when using the sniper rifle (which makes a disgusting mess on the walls), and there may well be a cheat to let you play the entire game using that view.
Duke's famous sense of humour is present throughout Zero Hour. The post apocalyptic city levels are filled with posters poking fun at various N64 games, some of which may be chopped a little by Nintendo's censors, and Duke can be heard muttering words of wisdom whenever he picks up an item ("Fresh hardware"), shoots a Pig Cop ("Who wants some"), gets hit ("Just a flesh wound"), or whenever he just feels like chatting. We particularly liked the way he muttered "Touch me again and I'll kill you," shortly after blowing a zombie's legs off with a shotgun. A man of action.
Zero Hour's graphics are very impressive, especially when using the memory expansion pak to enable the hi-res mode. The London levels have a realistic smog effect which conceals Pig Cops in top hats and in the rest of the game there's no fogging at all. no pop-up. and a view stretching off into the distance. The monsters are 3D models instead of the original Duke Nukem's cardboard sprites, and it's possible to shoot a wide variety of bits off them using the game's 30-odd weapons. More as we get it.
The four-player deathmatch mode was the best thing about the first Duke Nukem game, and the same thing is true about Zero Hour. The nine levels - including a unique frictionless ice arena - have been specially tweaked to make it easier to find your opponents, so there is a lot less aimless wandering around and a lot more killing. You can play as any of the human-shaped enemies from the game, including all of Duke's snappy outfits and some special secret 'skins'.
This day has been a long time in coming. I have been sitting by waiting for the arrival of my all-time hero and his latest N64 exclusive adventure. It seems like it has been an eternity, but my wait is finally over. I now have the chance to control the world's biggest badass to save humanity in the past, present and future. What a great day this is.
Duke Nukem Zero Hour sends our hero on a mission back in time, through the present day and into the future in an attempt to save humanity and, more importantly, babes. There is plenty of pig blasting, lizard splattering and smart-ass commentary to put this game up there with the best of the pastDuke efforts. Unfortunately, there are some issues that will keep this game from reaching the heights that it should have reached. Most of the pieces were in place, but the missing pieces may keep anyone but die-hard Duke lovers from ever making it through this game.
Up until Duke's last adventure on the PSX, Duke Nukem Time To Kill, Duke has lived in the world of first person shooters. With Time To Kill, Duke lovers were introduced to getting the full Duke form in front of them while playing from the third-person perspective. This third-person perspective must have been popular with the masses because it is back making its first appearance on the N64. While Zero Hour and Time to Kill are different games that follow different story lines, they are pretty similar.
Zero Hour plays a lot like the Tomb Raider games. You control Duke as he walks around looking for keys, switches or hidden items to progress through the levels. You will run, jump, shoot, punch and muscle your way through levels trying to reach the end. The big difference between this game and the Tomb Raider games is the attitude. You just can't match that Duke Nukem attitude.
I guess that since I brought up the attitude, I should explain what I mean to those sorry people who have never experienced Duke. The best way to describe the Duke attitude is to combine Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger with Andrew Dice Clay. He takes no crap from anyone and his mission in life is to save chicks, make smart-ass comments and blow stuff up. What better idol could a person have? Zero Hour keeps this attitude in tack and actually thriving stronger than ever.
As far as the actual gameplay goes, this is a pretty solid game. It is not really revolutionary in any area, but the action and adventure is non-stop. The game does get to be a bit on the repetitive side after a while, but not really to a point where it becomes annoying. They did a great job of throwing in new weapons to rejuvenate things when they need it most. The enemies get a little on the repetitive side as well. There are different classes of enemies, but all the enemies in a class look the same. It would have been nice to have more variety.
One of the best parts of this game was not the actual gameplay, but the surroundings. All I can say is that I suggest you read all the banners, signs, posters and walls that you come across during your adventures. They are an absolute riot and I even wonder how some of the posters made it past Nintendo and their strict censorship policy. I give GT Interactive credit for trying and Nintendo credit for letting them get away with it. I seriously would go out of my way to read all of them. Here is a quick example of what you will find. On the side of a semi-truck, there is a huge graphic that reads "Beaver Trucking: We lick the competition" (or something of this nature). All I can say is that I bet the developers of this game had a great time coming up with witty little sayings, slogans and quotes like this.
Unfortunately all is not well in Duke land. As I mentioned above, only die-hard Duke fans will stick it out on this game. Why, you ask? Because you can't save your freakin' game until the end of a level. This would not be so bad if the levels were short or if there were checkpoints or even if it was difficult to die. But no, the levels are huge, there are no checkpoints and your mission can end on one missed jump. Talk about frustrating! I can't tell you how many times I played through levels over and over again because I'd fight my way halfway through, die, and have to start the entire level over. Battle further than before, die, start the level over. I can't think of any other game that has such harsh consequences for dying after playing for 45 minutes. I have never had such a sinking feeling as when I die in this game. The real tragedy is that this shortcoming really takes away the exploration and adventuring of this game. I would not try things that I otherwise might have tried, for fear that I would die.
The game is full of secrets, but I was afraid to leave the beaten path to explore. I can also guarantee you that this will be frustrating enough to some people that they will just give up.
Lastly, this game has four solid multiplayer games. First, you can play Dukematch, which is a standard Deathmatch. Next, you have Last Man Standing, which gives each player only one life and the object is to be the last person alive. The third mode is King of the Hill, which is pretty cool. One person is designated as the king and if you kill the king, you get five points instead of the standard one point and then you become the king. The person with the most points at the end of the level is the winner. The final mode is the Team Dukematch, which is similar to a deathmatch only you can be on teams. All of these offer up a good time, so if you are a big fan of multiplay in games, you should have a blast with this game.
This is a tough thing to hit on. The graphics on one hand look nice but when the expansion pak is used, the frame rate goes down the drain. You are better off playing without the expansion pak or in medium resolution because high resolution stutters and slows so bad that it actually interferes. Fortunately the low-to-medium resolution graphics are still pretty decent looking. During a lot of the game, the graphics are really dark. I actually had to crank the brightness up on my TV if I wanted to play this game during the daylight hours, otherwise I would not have been able to see anything.
I am the biggest fan of Duke that there is, but even I had trouble getting motivated to play through a level over and over again. I can't begin to explain how ticked off you will get when your 45 minutes of playing is completely lost because you miss a ledge when you jump or if you open a door and get ambushed. The game itself is fun and pretty enjoyable, yet unoriginal in most areas. They did a great job with all the voice samples and little touches scattered across the worlds, but the third or fourth time through a level, you just want to get done and move on so they lose a little of their luster. So if you are a patient person and don't mind playing the same level a few times, then you should be OK with this. If you get frustrated doing the same thing over and over again, you will not be happy with this game.