Retro review grudge-match: Duke Nukem 3D vs Blood

During the mid nineties, 3D Realms put out Duke Nukem 3D. During that time the developer was hard at work with Blood alongside Monolith Studios. Months before Blood’s release, 3D Realms sold off the game and all the rights to Monolith Studios so that they could concentrate on finishing up Shadow Warrior. As such, these two titles are inextricably tied together through shared development teams, the Build Engine and genres. So what better way to pay homage to two of the most loved FPS games of the nineties than to pit them against each other in a fight to the death! Get ready to kick ass and… live agaaaain, I guess.

In this corner…

[quote] Weighing in at an installed size of 59.5 megabytes is the unremitting, one-liner spitting Duke Nukem. His job is to kick all types of alien ass and hit on hot chicks at the same time. When he’s not dishing out justice with his size fourteen boots, he’s bicep curling 60kg dumbbells and smoking one of Cuba’s finest. Pig Cops don’t stand a chance against his double-barrelled Devastator and its mini missiles of sweet, barraging ass-kickery.

And in this corner…

[quote2] Weighing in at a whopping 405 megabytes is the cultist killing, occult, blood-spilling Caleb! With his lust for vengeance and passion for torching all manner of undead fiend, he’s the kind of sociopath you have on speed-dial when ridding the world of unholy abominations. When he’s not perforating Bloated Butchers with his pitch fork, he’s perfecting the time it takes him to make a voodoo doll out of silly putty, a bobbie pin and three shots of battery acid.

"This is the last time I ask for extra bacon."

Round 1: Their missions

For Duke, the world needs chicks; and not just any chicks, but busty, scantily clad chicks who take their clothes off for money. What the world doesn’t need is a new, alien dominion that threatens the very existence of those busty, scantily clad chicks who take their clothes off for money! So when aliens try taking over Earth, and busty, scantily clad chicks who take their clothes off for money start disappearing, Duke takes matters into his own hands: “Nobody steals our chicks, and lives!” Damn right Duke, damn right.

Caleb, on the other hand, has less humanitarian motives at heart. He’s out for that one thing that all games are made instantly awesome by: vengeance. Sadly, the dark god Tchernobog (who also happens to be the recipient of the title “Best Name in a Computer Game Ever!”) grew tired of Caleb and the other leaders of The Cabal cult. Being a dark god, Tchernobog killed them all and the game starts years later as Caleb rises from the dead to stick a pitchfork in his old master’s face. There’s also some half-hearted attempt at romance thrown into the mix because Caleb’s love was also killed by the same dark god blah blah blah – who cares? There’s vengeance and a boss called TCHERNOBOG for crying out loud. What more do you need to convince you that the plotline of Blood is Pulitzer Prize material?

Round 2: Their weapons

Things start heating up in this round as the weapons across both games are suitably offbeat and extremely twisted. While Duke has access to all sorts of ordinary firepower, he will also stumble across top-secret and high-tech military weapons. Everything from shotguns to pistols, pipe bombs to shrink rays, make an appearance in Duke Nukem 3D. The best out of the lot has to be the Devastator. This twin missile launcher is capable of spitting dozens of mini stinger missiles at enemies at a rapid rate. Guts and eyeballs will rain.

Who said American football was dull?

With the whole cult and dark god vibe going in Blood, you can expect some pretty warped weaponry in the game as well. The always available melee weapon is a pitchfork and to date I cannot think of a more bloodthirsty last resort weapon in an FPS game. The usual fare makes an appearance as well: sawed-off shotguns, Tommy guns and bundles of dynamite. The best options when faced by legions of cultists and undead? Caleb would always say Voodoo dolls, aerosol cans with Zippo lighters, and a trusty flare gun to get those late-night, flesh-roasting bonfires really going. Mmmm, I can smell the zombie brains already.

Round 3: Their enemies

This is where the two games differ quite radically. Duke Nukem 3D has a collection of enemies that wouldn’t be out of place in a Saturday morning kids cartoon. There are aliens, raptor-like creatures that spit acid at Duke and try to perforate him with triple-barrel machine guns, pig cops with shotguns and giant alien octopus brains that make horrific noises and vomit dissipating energy balls all over the place. There’s a mix of science fiction and eighties cheese found throughout the enemies Duke will encounter.

Blood, on the other hand, incorporates a lot of horror elements into the enemy designs. There are axe-wielding zombies, gargoyles, cultists and, by far the most terrifying, severed hands that only want to “swallow your soul”. Fear the crawling hands – those little bastards will end you faster than you can scream “oh my God it’s an Evil Dead reference!”

Final verdict

Both of these games are still remarkably good considering their age. The similarities between the two are obvious and you’d be excused for struggling to choose a favourite. Duke Nukem 3D definitely appealed to a larger audience at the time, which is possibly because of its refusal to take itself seriously at all. Blood, while rather funny at times, is definitely the darker and gorier of the two.

What struck me the most is just how much FPS games have changed over the years. You know you’re playing an old-school FPS when you are able to collect eight out of the ten possible weapons in the first level of the game. Furthermore, these games are ridiculously unforgiving. Either I was much better at shooters when I originally played these, or the gradual decline of difficulty levels in games has dulled my skills over the years. Whatever the case may be, you will die hundreds of times during your playthrough of either title. It’s alright to choose the easiest skill level – it’ll be our secret ok?

One final point worth mentioning is that the editions available on are the expanded editions. This means that Duke Nukem 3D is the Atomic Edition and includes a fourth episode, while Blood is the One Unit Whole Blood edition which has an extra two episodes.

I’m reluctant to put a score on either of these because they’re both so similar as far as gameplay is concerned. If one were to score higher than the other, it would do little more than reveal my personal preference. Both are quite deserving of 80% and upwards, but if I had to choose a favourite it would be Duke Nukem 3D. That, however, is largely due to my own nostalgia – I’m sure many of you would choose Blood for similar reasons.

"You've got something in your teeth. Let me get that for you."

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