Hands-on with Duke Nukem 3D XBLA: Screenshots, Footage of the New Replay Feature

These days, there are probably a lot of gamers out there that haven't played Duke Nukem 3D. Now that 3D Realms' classic shooter is hitting Xbox Live Arcade, they might wonder what all the fuss is about, like a "movie fan" who loves The Sopranos and still hasn't seen Goodfellas.

But after giving Duke another spin, trading in keyboard and mouse for trigger and analog stick, I was relieved to see how well it's held up. It's still an enjoyable FPS, an innovative game that even today is worth playing for the first time. To have it ported to the smoothest multiplayer platform in the business, and updated with new features and bonus content, will be a real treat for Duke virgins and veterans alike.

The port's new replay feature will go a long way toward justifying this purchase for the latter group. Simply stated, Duke 3D XBLA is always recording as you play, saving every second of your current run.

Duke 3D XBLA's Replay Mode in Action
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When you die, a timeline appears on screen, allowing you to scroll back and forth through the recording to choose a precise moment to continue playing from. The game chooses a default of about 15 seconds or so, providing a nice standard checkpoint for you to painlessly respawn at.

Things get really interesting when you return to the main menu. Not only can you view your saved replays, but you can also jump back in and play from any point on the timeline. You can upload these clips to share with friends, or simply use them as evidence to compete with other online players: an entire section of the leaderboards is devoted to Time Trials, and the top spots will be accompanied by video proof. This is a dream scenario for speedrun fans.

Considering that Duke 3D never had an ubiquitous online matchmaking system, Xbox Live should provide fans with the best multiplayer experience in the game's history. Up to eight players can play at once over co-op or competitive modes, either online or over system link. Matchmaking or custom matches are supported, with ranked or un-ranked options. Monster frequency, frag and time limits, and respawn markers allow for some variety within matches.

But how does the game play on a console? Though aiming with a gamepad is undoubtedly more clumsy than a mouse, it's a minor nuisance at best, and every button can be remapped at any time. About as annoying is the lack of a true widescreen view--the game simply displays the 4:3 gameplay overtop a widescreen background image.

As for the game itself, it's Duke Nukem 3D. On the surface, it's all about babes, explosions, and catchphrases. But beneath that superficial crust is some excellent weapon and level design, with environment interaction that set the FPS standard in 1996.

Kicking away at Pig-cops with Duke's "Mighty Foot," blowing up walls to find secret pathways that lead not to treasure chests, but strippers--Duke at its best is still a unique experience, the game that moved us past Doom and much closer to the modern era of interactive shooters.

With online play, speed run replays, achievements and concept art unlocks, Duke 3D XBLA is the best kind of port. At the very least, it's worth a trial--to see what you've missed, or have been missing.

Duke Nukem 3D will be released on Xbox Live Arcade in September. The downloadable game has not yet been priced. BOOM video 830