The Last Exterminator might not be an official Duke Nukem 3D sequel, but its crunchy combat, interactive environments, and retro visuals provide a much better alternative to the actual Duke Nukem sequel we got back in 2011.
1996’s Duke Nukem 3D was a fantastic first-person shooter that also happened to include some fun interactive bits—like flushable toilets, working light switches, etc—as well as some risque jokes and movie references. But the massively delayed 2011 sequel, Duke Nukem Forever, launched to thunderous “mehs.” As mentioned in our review, DNF confused “what made Duke Nukem 3D memorable with what made it enjoyable,” resulting in a bad shooter filled with stale ideas and boring minigames. In contrast, the upcoming Steam shooter The Last Exterminator is a game that understands that what made Duke Nukem 3D good wasn’t the gimmicks, but the fast-paced, action-packed combat.
The Last Exterminator isn’t out yet, but a demo for the retro shooter is currently available to play as part of Steam’s ongoing Next Fest event. The demo isn’t super long, showcasing just one level from the opening section of the game’s campaign, but what is here is very good.
The first thing that caught my eye was the look of the game. It’s not trying to mimic the exact style of Duke Nukem 3D or Doom, as it features fully 3D enemies and models. But it also uses a limited color palette and pixelated textures to provide a nice balance between retro aesthetics and modern 3D gaming.
In The Last Exterminator you play the title character. She’s just chilling, living in her van, and enjoying life when suddenly a bunch of giant, humanoid alien cockroaches invade Earth. So she gets to work. It is her job to kill unwanted insects, after all. However, this time around she isn’t using chemicals and poison to murder bugs, but instead guns, guns, and more guns.
A “boomer shooter” lives and dies on how good it feels to shoot shit. Simple as that. No matter how rad your visuals are or how many references you shove into it, if the combat isn’t fun, the game will be a dud. Luckily, Last Exterminator has excellent action, with hard-hitting weapons that feel deadly. The double-barreled shotgun is particularly wonderful at destroying roaches in a single blast and each time I pulled the trigger I felt a tiny smile form.
Last Exterminator also packs a lot of secrets and interactive bits into the one level included in the demo. I was able to play a basic space shooter on an arcade machine, make a prank phone call, blow up a wall to find a new area to explore, and climb a fire escape to reach a secret room. None of this gets in the way of the combat, but as in Duke Nukem 3D, these little touches around the level help make the world feel more fleshed out and give you reasons to poke at every nook and cranny.
Of course, until the full game is released, we won’t know for sure if the rest of The Last Exterminator will be as good as this one demo level. However, if the full game can balance tight combat, rewarding exploration, and silly references to past shooters as well as this first taste does, we’ll be in for a real treat once it launches.
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