Review: AMC TC (Duke Nukem 3D Mod)
Developer: James Stanfield, Mikko Sandt, AMC Community
Genre: First-person shooter, third-person shooter
Released: July 11, 2012 (version 1.32)
The premise behind this standalone total conversion for Duke Nukem 3D is that Duke Nukem is dead, and a team of the baddest baddasses around, from Europe to the depths of Mars, had to be assembled to do his job: defending the world from whatever unspeakable horrors seek to do the earth’s population harm. You get to select your character from one of several in the AMC team, which includes a detective type named Rusty Nails; a cybernetic businessman with his own cult-like following; a former evil warlock who now uses his powers for good, and a Dutch nobleman dressed up in knight’s armour, among others. Quite a varied bunch, and they all have different abilities and weapons to use, catering to different play styles. All come with dodgy original voice acting too.
Alt-fire and secondary firemode are, for the most part, different things in AMC. Some weapons change firemode when you use alt-fire, like Mikko’s assault rifle. Others actually require you to either select the secondary fire mode from the firemode menu or by pressing the appropriate weapon selection key twice – confusing perhaps, but you’ll get the hang of it. Secondary firemode also usually requires that you have the desired ammunition present in your inventory.
There’s a full training level where you will get to grips with the controls and weapons on offer – and there’s a lot of both. This mod takes much of its inspiration from Duke Plus (in fact, DeeperThought aka Dan Gaskill, developer of Duke Plus, appears in the game as a character), and new moves you can execute include a wall jump, similar to Mirror’s Edge, and being able to roll and peak around corners – perhaps lending itself to a more stealth-focused approach, used primarily to assess the situation rather than go in guns blazing, if you so choose. Other new things which are presented here in training are the ability to swap certain weapons on the fly, and load different ammunition in the same weapon by switching firemodes. Temporary weapons that can be swapped include shotguns, sniper rifles, and miniguns that are all found in-game, usually on dispatched enemies. They are all useable by each character on the team and for the most part don’t require reloading, and are different to each character’s unique weapons, which range from semi-automatic shotguns, modified assault rifles, and rapid fire grenade launchers to swords, showering somebody with pixie dust or turning them in to a mop (which you can then use as a weapon – talk about adding insult to injury). Of course in the field if you run out of bullets, you are able to pull off a few melee moves like punches and kicks, and you can even try to wrestle weapons away from certain enemies too. Just don’t lose your head trying it – literally.
You get to tour the AMC base as well, where there’s a hub of sorts where you can visit the gun shop and buy mods for weapons in your arsenal, and then test them out on the shooting range. You can peruse the evidence database to have a look through evidence that has been collected. There’s also a computer or two where you can see character biographies, and achievements that have been unlocked. There’s a laboratory where you can invest money in researching new weapons and upgrades for the base – and the great thing here is that funds accrued during playthroughs are saved, so you don’t start completely from scratch each time you play with a new character. Eventually you’ll make it to the briefing room where the AMC squad discusses plans for their next mission.
There is currently only one episode for AMC TC, and that is “The Men Who Were AMC”. In it there are only a few missions, but are all quite long, and they seem to take inspiration (read: blatant theft) from several commercial games from the 1990’s, including Doom, ROTT, Blood and Quake 2 among others, with the story involving demonic invasions and a satanic cult doing the rounds – even sprites, textures, and sounds from those games are present. If you pay close attention, you might spot some things which are present in more modern titles.
After the initial few missions have been completed with your character of choice, there are some additional missions – still part of the episode – which aren’t really as connected, but let you play as other characters in the squad, and give you a bit of backstory on them, other than what you already know from the introduction at the beginning of the game, and let you see how some characters ended up becoming part of AMC.
Other characters that aren’t really explored much here have been covered in other TCs made by James Stanfield, such as Imagination World, or Brave New World by Mikko Sandt, and Oblivion by Zaxtor. These TCs would be “required playing” before touching AMC, as they are all prequels to the events in this game.
I have to say that I was quite impressed with what was achieved technically. You can fire a fixed machine gun, and walk around in a mech! There are mini-games, such as being able to hack in to computers, and enter a sort of virtual reality, which feels quite like System Shock. There are tons of weapons, several of them possessing alt-fire, and most can be upgraded through the use of weapon mods which can be bought in-mission. The attention to detail on most firearms is astounding; most have reload animations and you can visibly see empty magazines being discarded, and bullet casings lining the ground after a firefight – this you don’t even find in most commercially released games today. In some missions you will receive the help of several squad mates – they aren’t extremely accurate in most cases, but have unlimited ammunition so they don’t have to be! There are also several new effects introduced in AMC, most of which are showcased in a demo level, such as debris following explosions.
Once you have finished the main campaign, there are also specially developed deathmatch versions of certain maps for multiplayer, invasion style maps against hordes of AI that function quite similarly to Nacht Der Untoten out of Call of Duty: World at War (and practically every other Treyarch-developed COD title over the past five years), and to top it all off there are dozens of classic, slightly reworked Duke 3D maps, and even some new ones developed for AMC, which can all be played with bonus characters, that have all been included as part of the overall package.
AMC greatly impressed me on some levels, although it is still sort of mindless and clichéd. It’s still the same old find the key or keycard, go here, press this, do that, only adding in some more advanced elements such as saving civilians/scientists, collecting evidence, and getting credits to put towards upgrades and funds towards research, which really stems from recycling a lot of ideas from other games. Chances are if you’ve played Deus Ex, then you’ve basically already played AMC. This isn’t surprising at all when you consider that James Stanfield’s other Duke 3D TC, Imagination World, also has a Deus Ex feel to it.
I will say that a few light RPG elements like amulets that increase maximum health, character selection, and a PDA complete with inventory are quite nifty. In some ways it’s a mishmash of old school and new school; a retro shooter of sorts, bringing the best of old games (like the insane difficulty levels and a proper soundtrack) and new together. When playing as some of the more conventional characters like James or John Mason, I can’t help but think: “This is kind of like Duke 3D meets Call Of Duty”, especially when you factor in that some levels are cutscene-heavy. Call of Dukey, maybe?
+ Plenty of characters to choose from
+ Some replayability
+ Lots of new kickass weapons
+ Astounding use of technology
- A lot of copied, unoriginal content
- Sucky voice acting
There are some other gripes I have with AMC TC, and one that is that the controls aren’t very well implemented. This was admitted in the game’s manual, where it is stated that some controls don’t work the first time you try to use them. I would recommend that you rebind keys – not necessarily to something different (although you can if you wish), but just rebind them to the same key so that the alternate key binding is deleted, and after that they stand a better chance of working. I also bind certain functions to the mouse too. The more advanced controls take some time getting used to and take expert precision in order to pull off, such as a sprinting jump, or a slide manoeuvre – but it’s well worth the effort it takes to learn them.
There’s also this terrible lag that kicks in from time to time – although that might just be my system, and there are some issues in the game such as texture warping, clipping, and the occasional weapon switch bug, where when you pick up a weapon, the RPG from Duke 3D appears, only to then disappear and leave you with no weapon at all, and you end up getting slaughtered as a result. The solution: switch off the option to switch to a new weapon on pick up and just switch manually.
Reflex scopes on say the AK103 or M4 work well enough and actually visibly increase accuracy as your grouping is tighter when using it by pressing alt-fire, but sniper rifle scopes are practically useless because when you use them, the texture warping is incredibly bad and you can’t actually see anything – sort of like using a real scope actually, until you get your eye in.
But despite these few issues, I quite liked this TC. The main campaign is a bit on the short side, and it’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it is a lot of fun, in a weird and wacky sort of way, and I think that’s something that’s missing from a lot of games nowadays.
Episode 2 is out now!
In late March 2015, episode 2 of the AMC TC was released. It features a lengthier campaign (almost to the point of dragging on a bit), better level design, new characters (including most notably Micky, the engineer), and even better voice acting.
All of the above are things I took issue with in the first episode of AMC TC, and most of them seem to have been addressed.
Where the first episode took “inspiration” (read: blatant copying, at least in several cases) from the likes of Blood, Duke 3D and Doom, this episode seems to feature some elements that will be more familiar to fans of Shadow Warrior, Red Faction and others, even with smaller nods to Redneck Rampage. Cult films like Total Recall serve as heavy inspiration to the TC as well.
Even though I would rank this episode as better than the last, the story still seems a bit confusing or hard to grasp. If feels as though it’s all over the place.
Best levels in AMC TC 2: Ghost Ship, Mars Zeta Base
What do you think of AMC TC?
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