Monday, April 18, 2011

Duke Nukem: Zero Hour - Zero Patience

File:Duke Nukem Zero Hour box.jpg

As Duke Nukem Forever continued to reside in development hell, 3D Realms released another Duke Nukem game in order to satiate fans. This time working with developer Eurocom, they created Duke Nukem: Zero Hour (written as Zer:0 H:0ur) for the Nintendo 64 (N64). Released in 1999, it is a game said by many to be a great addition to the series. Continuing the third-person shooter (TPS) formula of Time to Kill, Zero Hour makes many improvements to create a better experience. Unfortunately, one thing is required in order to play: Patience, and lots of it.

The game begins with an unskippable cutscene explaining the plot: A Duke Nukem from the past contacts the present one, revealing he is stuck there because aliens destroyed his time machine. It is then up to Duke to travel back in time in order to save the future and prevent the aliens from screwing it up. As I do not own the manual for this game, this is all I have to go by. While it's not original for time travel to be in a Duke Nukem game (Duke Nukem 1 and Time to Kill), I would say that Duke seems to have a better incentive to time travel than in the last game.

The controls are solid and respond perfectly, but can get awkward at times, if only due to the layout of the N64 controller. By itself, however, you must move Duke using the C D-Pad while controlling the camera with the Analog Stick in the center which takes some getting used to. Also, you use the Right Shoulder Button to jump, which is fine, except that the animation to jump is a little slow, making the timing off for jumping out of water. Otherwise, the aiming is much improved over the previous Duke game, since the red icon in the center will always stay where you point it.

Like the previous game, there is plenty of variety in the weaponry, and ammo is dropped with every enemy you kill. Your weaponry changes depending on the time period, which makes plenty of sense for a time-travel game, but you will find a favorite to use in no time. You can also use a variety of items such as Medkits and Gas Masks, the latter of which is especially needed when facing certain Pig Cops. The graphics are actually nice for an N64 game at the time, a notable aspect being that the Pig Cops are this time much less portly than in the last game. Everything is rendered with clear detail, with Duke looking more noticeably masculine than in Time to Kill. When you get a view of the background scenery, the buildings contain a lot of humor alone. The sound quality is also nicely put together, with a great score and Duke seeming to have less-annoying one-liners this time around (again, compared to Time to Kill).

However, there is one big flaw I should mention with this game, so big that it can just as easily cripple the experience as the game can make it: There's no Save feature. Rather, there is one, but it's like in the first game where it can only Save after every level, meaning that you have to start over again after you die. This would be more accepting if the levels were smaller, but they are actually quite large, so you must re-do everything you ever did every single time. What makes this worse is that the game is very scripted, so you'll more often than not die after seeing something unexpected and have to re-do at least 20-30 minutes of progress at a time. Unless you have an ungodly amount of patience and willpower, you are likely to give up rather quickly.

I apologize for this, but this flaw actually caused me to give up after a few hours, without even beating the first level! Without the motivation to keep playing, I looked up the ending on YouTube to see what it was like. I will say that it's better than the last game, but I honestly don't think getting frustrated over replaying a level several times in a row is worth the effort.

Duke Nukem: Zero Hour is fun at first, but that can all change in an instant once you start dying a few times. Because I succumbed to the game's major flaw, I can't exactly say whether or not it's overall good, but I can say this: If you're a big Duke Nukem fan and/or have patience for this kind of Save system, you might get some enjoyment out of this game. However, if you are the type that gets easily frustrated with that kind of system, this probably isn't a game for you.

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