If there was a list of things that I never expected to be talking about today, Duke Nukem 3D [$2.99] getting an update would probably be right near the top. But that’s just what has happened as MachineWorks has issued a new update for 3D Realms' classic first-person shooter that looks to address the long-derided virtual controls in the game.

For a quick backstory, Duke Nukem 3D launched in the App Store way back in August of 2009. Id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D [$1.99 / Free] had hit iOS several months earlier and received critical acclaim, mostly centered around how well their controls worked. With a Doom [$4.99] iOS port also on the horizon, having Duke Nukem on my iPhone seemed like the greatest news in history for a long-time FPS fan like me.

However, the initial version of Duke had possibly the worst controls I’ve ever encountered. I mean downright unplayable. To the developer’s credit they quickly issued an update about a month later with a bunch of new control options, but sadly it did little to help. Sure, some people could find a scheme that was workable for them with some heavy tweaking of options, but the controls still felt pretty bad and have remained that way ever since.

Until today that is, closing in on 3 years after the last update to Duke Nukem. Surprising to say the least, but unfortunately it’s also a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that the controls are actually quite decent now, offering an improved (but still lackluster) dual-stick option as well as a very good "drag anywhere to aim" scheme which really nails it. It may have taken a long time (that’s an understatement) but I can finally enjoy Duke Nukem 3D on my iPhone. Also, it appears that the visuals have been cleaned up considerably, and actually look quite good for a 16 year old game.

Now for the bad news. The update is full of bugs, one of which can render your controls unusable. You can avoid causing this by going into the control options before loading or starting a new game and selecting and then deselecting the dual-stick controls, but that will erase whatever custom scheme you might have previously created by dragging the virtual buttons around the screen. Basically, it’s not much of a solution.

In addition, there’s also a bug that silences the sounds from the game which I’ve only been able to fix by saving my game and killing it from the multi-tasking screen and then starting it up again. Also, for some reason the end-level stats screen is upside down and they've disabled the mirror reflection effect in the game. Finally, advertisements have been inserted into Duke Nukem 3D which will pop down when you first start the game and when wake your device from sleep with the game running. Lame.

As delighted as I was to see a surprise update to one of my all-time favorite games, unfortunately this latest update for Duke Nukem 3D is a complete mess. If they can sort out the bugs then I really believe the new controls are a huge improvement, and bring the game more in line with the newer FPS games on the App Store. However, given the lack of attention paid to the game the past few years that seems like a pretty big “if”, especially since the iPad version Duke Nukem 3D SE [$0.99 (HD)] hasn’t been updated at all. Also, I’m not crazy about ads being put into a game that I previously paid for.

At any rate, Duke Nukem 3D is currently free right now, so if you didn’t have it already you might as well grab it just in case they do sort out the bugs. If you could manage just fine with the controls the way they were before, then you’ll probably want to hold out on this update altogether until (and if) they can fix this situation.

  • maniacfive

    I would normally rage about ads in a previously paid for game... but. Who am I kidding, I'm just as pissed about it as Jared, but I'm never gonna play Duke Nukem again on my phone. I picked up forever pre owned. Except it wasn't preowned, they ran out of preowned, gave me a collectors edition new for the same price. The rose tint fell quickly.

    I remember using build to create my own duke levels nd share them with friends when i was in school, 15 years ago. No way any port could ever touch that nostalgia.

  • WonderingIf

    I played the heck out of this game back in the 90's. But it took FOREVER for them to release DN: Forever, and then it wasn't as good as it could have been. Then it comes out on the iPhone and I think, "Yes! Duke on my iPhone!" but controls sucked. Then the update came, and it was riddled with bugs, and the controls weren't much better. Now, FOREVER later (hyperbole intended), an update comes out with dual stick (finally!), but it, too, is infested with bugs...and ads. Immediately, that one treasure hunter from "The Mummy 2" popped in my head, saying, "This game is cursed!" Ah, well. At least I have my memories.

  • http://twitter.com/TheHatch3 Simon Finn

    I think Duke should be laid to rest, whatever platform he is on these days. The modern era has well and truly passed him by. I was intrigued as I picked up Wolfenstein when it was free and been having a blast with that but this just sounds like a complete mess. I think we should just stick to the memories.

  • vic_viper_001

    That's one "Doomed" iPhone game!

    • Oshihiro

      I should have know those alien maggots booby-trapped the app!

      • http://www.facebook.com/dean.keith Dean Keith

        Hmm, don't have time to play with this app.

  • yasw

    I was quite puzzled with this update. Claimed improved controls but no matter what I did, I could only move - not even shoot! Amazing they can turn something from bad to worse like that.

  • farnsworth_pro

    So ... they released an update without even so much as a cursory test? Good times. I was stoked when they released a patch which boasted improved controls as the old controls were near unusable. I thought I could finally get some mobile old school duke going. I booted up the game and the fire button didn't work. Thanks guys! Glad I paid for this one :S

  • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

    I still can't play ANY dual-stick first person shooters.  It just never feels right.  Aiming by dragging your finger around the screen means you have to sacrifice movement, but the whole fun of FPS's on PC's and consoles are the nimble controls. 

    It's not that I don't want to enjoy this type of game on iOS (I've bought several FPS's), but I simply can't get into them.  Granted, I haven't really tried them on the iPad, so maybe that could change my mind?  But, even on the iPad you'll need to sacrifice movement for aiming, right?

  • yasw

    The FPSs on iphone that works best are Doom and Wolfenstein in my opinion. No y-axis probably helps.

  • hoodie-ninja

    I had a blast playing this!!! Never played the original.I didn't notice any bugs after turning the dual stick controls on/off as suggested.

  • BruteOutlawz

    Not sure why some of you can't fire. The control position doesn't stay where you want it to but haven't had any other issues. Controls are better now that's for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=858050374 Stephen Rowley

    Here's some advice to the developers. Stop being idiots and just use the same control scheme as the Doom app. Then optimize your game because it sucks. There is no reason why infinity blade should run 100x better than a game from 1996.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=858050374 Stephen Rowley

    Here's some advice to the developers. Stop being idiots and just use the same control scheme as the Doom app. Then optimize your game because it sucks. There is no reason why infinity blade should run 100x better than a game from 1996.