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Duke Nukem 3D, 3D

I’m forever in two minds about projects to graphically update olden games. On the one hand, shiny! On the other, snarling hand, there’s a risk of messing up or losing the originally intended aesthetic effect – you’re replacing the artists’ work with that of someone else. Case in point, the just-released update for the Duke Nukem 3D High Resolution Texture Pack. Decide whether you’d snog, marry or avoid it below.

Here’s our Dukey before and after:

So, on a purely technical level, it looks much better – sharper edges, crisper textures, sprites that don’t simply flip 90 degrees when they turn, and flashier lighting. It’s probably kinder on the eyeballs than blowing DN3D up to crazy-high resolutions too.

But does it look like DN3D? I would argue no – you can recognise the characters, but other than that you mightn’t guess that it was DN3D if you were shown a screenshot on its own. Of course, much of DN3D’s original appearance is down to the technological limitations of the time, so there’s not necessarily much merit in claiming the aesthetic high ground. If I’m honest, were I to replay DN3D now I’d do it with this pack installed, but there’s something about the chunky pixels and indistinct faces of the original that sits much more comfortably with my memory and perception of Duke Nukem.

(On a related tangent, I found this fascinating – an attempt to make old Atari games look more as they did at the time by emulating not simply the technology but also the imprecisions and vagaries of the VDUs at the time. They may have been limited, but they had side-effects that genuinely added to our experience of these games,babies that porting them to a high resolution digital display throws out with the bath water. For instance, the luminescence of the sunset in the restored Enduro screen is strangely and accidental beautiful because of such peccadilloes).

I may be behaving like a puritanical asshat, but DN3DHRTP (gasp) will certainly be more to the tastes of others, however. Plus it’s clearly a labour of love, and a valiant attempt to keep the Duke flame burning even as his creators seem to keep on dousing it by mistake.

Thanks to Earl-Grey for the tip.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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