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Duke Nukem 3D is one of my favorite first-person shooters of all time and I remember when Duke Nukem 3D: Reloaded was in development. It was going to be a remake and it looked incredible from the screen shots I saw. Sadly, it never came to fruition and Wikipedia tells me it’s still “on hold”. I also found an article stating Gearbox wouldn’t allow the remake to be released because it would have probably outshined Duke Nukem Forever. And that I believe. Serious Duke 3D is a mod for Serious Sam 3 that attempts to recreate a portion of Duke Nukem 3D. I think it was released in 2018 on the Steam Workshop and is more or less a recreation of the first episode with some noticeable changes. The instructions state that you should play it in Serious Sam Fusion so that’s what I did.
There are several mods you need to subscribe and together they all make up the entirety of Serious Duke 3D. These include maps and network script resources. The campaign includes numerous cut scenes and the voice clips heard during gameplay were taken from actual Duke games. The story of Duke 3D revolves around aliens kidnapping babes, forcing Duke to fight the aliens off. The plot hasn’t changed here as far as I can tell.
Unfortunately, Serious Duke 3D is not a recreation of the entire game. At least not right now. You’ll only get to play through recreations of maps from Episode 1 and they are a bit different than the originals. There is a classic version of the Hollywood Holocaust map available and it’s a more faithful recreation. The Steam Workshop page indicates other classic maps are on the creator’s “todo list”. Hopefully more maps from other episodes are eventually released because what’s on offer already is quite incredible. The mod takes content from other Duke games and basically combines them all together to recreate the maps. A lot of what you’ll see seems to be taken from Duke Nukem Forever. But this actually plays better. But that shouldn’t be surprising since the foundation is Serious Sam 3 which I think is a much better game than Duke Nukem Forever. Regardless, Duke can run, jump, crouch, aim down sights with the pistol, and zoom in with some other weapons. The jumping kind of feels a bit floaty but I didn’t run into any issues during platforming sequences. The mod feels a lot like like Serious Sam 3 which is to be excepted. But it’s got the look, attitude, and atmosphere of Duke 3D.
Duke can kick his foes but he will get his hands on several weapons from both Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem Forever. There’s a powerful Enforcer Shotgun that can obliterate foes at close range, you can mow them down with the minigun, take them out from long range with the sniper rifle or maybe it’s supposed to be the railgun, and pummel them with shots from the laser. The weapons do feel powerful and satisfying thanks mainly to the gore and visual effects. Most weapons do feel useful as in each one is good for specific situations and threats. Health and armor pickups are scattered around the maps and just like in Serious Sam 3, you’ll accumulate points for killing enemies and this score is referred to as Ego in the mod. Sadly, you won’t have access to most of the Duke 3D items minus the Jetpack.
You’ll get to blow away the classic aliens seen in Duke 3D along with some foes from the Serious Sam series but they don’t appear very often. Assault Troopers will fly around using their jetpacks, Assault Captain’s will teleport around, and Assault Commanders prove to be a significant threat. The encounters aren’t one-to-one recreations and most of them have been modified. You’ll have to deal with more enemies. It’s actually a good thing because some of them don’t seem as deadly or accurate as they do in the original game. Overall, I would say the maps aren’t very hard to get through. The increased enemy count helps to balance things because if this was a one-to-one recreation, I think it would be way too easy. The gameplay will often feel like Serious Sam, although the battles aren’t on the same scale and the environments are nowhere near as large. Some encounters include enemies spawning in frequently, you’ll often be surrounded, and most of the lower-tier types like the Assault aliens, Pig Cops, and Octabrains go down pretty easily. Sometimes the Assault types will just stand around and shoot at you, behaving much like the Beheaded Rocketeer’s or Cloned Soldiers from Serious Sam 3. Pig Cops will either rush you, fire at you with shotguns, and sometimes you’ll come up against Pig Cops in tanks. Enforcers and Assault Commanders prove to be the most dangerous because of how much damage they can inflict and take before going down. And the Commanders will often rush you and because they’re so large, they sometimes appear to struggle navigating around small environments, or in other words bump into things frequently.
The maps are great recreations of the originals but there are several noticeable changes whether it be a difference in layout or encounters. In fact, there are some entirely new areas that weren’t present in the original game. Unfortunately, the campaign does not end with a battle against the Cycloid Emperor. But you do get to take on the Battlelord and on the Normal difficulty mode, I found the fight to be ridiculously easy. There are some other boss battles including the Dr. Proton spider thing from The Doctor Who Cloned Me DLC for Duke Nukem Forever. Some maps include neat set pieces and NPC’s that will help you in combat. In the Hollywood Holocaust map, a helicopter will crash and the next thing you know, soldiers are engaging aliens. It’s pretty cool. In the last map, The Abyss, there’s a sequence where you need to fend off enemies and destroy shield generators before you can enter the giant alien ship. Most of the secrets (that I knew of, anyway) are intact and you will have to find key cards and solve some button puzzles to progress. You’ll have to watch out for hazards like explosive canisters, mouse or rat traps, laser trip wires, and lava. There is some platforming here and there, and the most memorable platforming sequence is probably in The Toxic Dump map after Duke gets shrunken down.
Visually, Serious Duke 3D looks great. I think most if not all of the models were taken from Duke Nukem Forever and do look pretty good. I love the lighting, visual effects, and attention to detail. There’s numerous pop-culture references like the dead Doomguy and Ion Fury poster for example. My only issue with the visuals is some noticeably blurry textures here and there but for the most part the texture work is solid. Also, the strippers in the Red Light District map look like they’re not animated fully. They just kind of hang on the poles and don’t move. It’s not a big deal but is somewhat humorous. I love the gore effects. Enemies will often explode into a shower of blood and gibs. You can blow a chunk of an Assault alien’s head off, blow a Pig Cop in half, and just splatter foes all over the environments. Many parts of the maps really do look like modernized versions of the originals and the team behind this did a great job capturing the look, feel, and atmosphere of Duke Nukem 3D. The soundtrack is pretty good with some memorable tunes, including the awesome Duke Nukem theme. The more intense tunes kick in when enemies appear. Duke will often spout classic one-liners during gameplay and the weapons actually sound like they do in the original game. Enemies will make their typical noises heard in Duke 3D as well. For example, the mod retains the sound of the Assault enemies gurgling or choking before they die. And it’s still one of my favorite sound effects for a dying enemy. The credits indicate some audio was borrowed from the games Mass Effect 3, Bombshell, and Ion Fury. On the technical side, some of the cut scenes were a bit choppy and glitchy but the gameplay was mostly solid and the mod ran smoothly. I did see enemies and NPC’s clip through objects and dead bodies get stuck on things in the environments but no major problems.
Serious Duke 3D is an amazing piece of work. I’m only disappointed there’s not more to it. After the first encounter is when I realized the true quality of this mod. It’s not just a Serious Sam 3 reskin with Duke Nukem audio. This is a very well made recreation of Episode 1. Sure, some aspects of Serious Sam 3’s gameplay seep through but this is a mod for that game after all, and quite frankly, Serious Sam 3’s gameplay is a perfect fit for this kind of thing anyway. Even if this was just a reskin with Duke Nukem content, it would still be enjoyable. I appreciate the changes they made to the maps and encounters. I was afraid I would breeze through some areas and, ultimately, I would say the mod is a bit on the easy side even with all the changes so I would recommend bumping up the difficulty. I had a great time with Serious Duke 3D. You can beat it in a few hours or less so it is a bit short. I had a feeling it would be and the more I played, the more I hoped more episodes or maps would be remade or maybe brand new maps inspired by Duke 3D. It just needs more.
Serious Duke 3D is easily one of the best mods for Serious Sam 3 and I would absolutely recommend it. Duke Nukem is a franchise that hasn’t had an incredible game in years and with Duke Nukem Forever being as disappointing as it was, who knows when we’ll see the next Duke game. Mods have kept Duke Nukem 3D alive. But even without them, it’s a fantastic game that is still enjoyable today. I think it’s only natural that fans would try and recreate that experience whether it be a fan-made game or a mod/overhaul to an existing one. Well they chose the latter and the foundation was Serious Sam 3 which turned out to be an excellent choice. Even though some of Serious Sam 3’s gameplay is noticeable, it still feels like a Duke game. If you’re a Duke fan, you owe it to yourself to check this out.