Murder: The EDF Conspiracy

Author: UTAF Productions Release Date: August 31th 1998


Duke regains consciousness, head pounding after taking a heavy blow as he surveys his whereabouts. Bullet holes riddle the walls and beneath him, a motionless body lies in a pool of blood. Framed for the murder of an EDF General, Duke is now on the run as SWAT bash at the door. The EDF storm the streets in a furious attempt to track and take down the fugitive saviour of mankind.


I’ve attempted to play through this way back during the early 2000’s but could never recall the exact specifics of that run as to why I stopped, except for having a negative experience getting bored part way through and the music grating my ears. Was it really that bad? Honestly, it wasn’t. Looking back I’d chalk this up to an old bad habit around that time period, feeling obliged to finish entire campaigns during in a single sitting regardless of its length or else fear losing interest continuing it later. This never once panned out well would you believe, usually devolving by slapping in cheat codes and rushing through whatever remained until hitting the ending. Nostalgia bias can often become problematic if you don’t take a moment to look back on something instead of lingering on memories that might be missing a bigger part of the picture. The exact same can be said for the opposite side of that coin as well. What little I could remember no longer aligned with what I later experienced during my revisit. The vivid image of the EDF Officers in my mind looked different and the music sounded fine, probably because of a poor sound setup I had at the time. I’ve always thought over the years about revisiting projects that I don’t remember too fondly due to those earlier mistakes, only now getting around to giving MURDER TC the second chance it deserved.

MURDER TC’s main campaign consists of nine levels primarily designed by Gabriel Crown, each having a new music track composed by Mark Hadley, where Duke is forced to run from his pursuers in order to unravel a conspiracy and putting a stop to the plans being set in motion. You’ll venture through urban streets, desert outskirts, EDF outposts and even take a trip into space. The aliens we’re all used to from the original game take the furthest back-seat, instead being pitted up against the ranks of Earth’s own defence forces. Most weapons find replacements too, some cosmetic while others like the Expander become a heavy machine gun. The Shrinker otherwise finds no place here which cuts out two exotic weapon choices from your arsenal, stuck using a more standard selection of bullet-based weaponry. That only leaves the Freezethrower slot to fulfil that role, handing the reins over to a Radiation Cannon that didn’t leave much of an impression, seemingly having little difference at first glance. Projectiles no longer bounce off walls taking away from one of its unique capabilities, instead causing an additional damaging blast around targets who become “frozen”. This has useful applications during group fights as the collateral effect will shatter any frozen opponent nearby saving the effort doing it yourself. New powerup items have also been introduced that seem like they’ve been plucked straight out of DOOM; a Backpack holding various extra munitions, Shards for a tiny armour bonus and the Red Armour for a bigger boost.

Several new art assets are included for custom texturing, enemy designs and weapon replacements. While individual assets may have varying degrees of quality, care had been taken to integrate all these into the game with proper palette conversions so they don’t appear thrown in, work attributed to both Gabriel Crown and Shawn Harkin. I’ve had issues with poor looking assets in mods hindering the intended visual appeal, for example when playing through The Gate, levels were marred by fullbright pixels that looked terrible from afar. That makes me all the more appreciative given the extra effort to look good here. Weapon art is all brand new, some looking plainer than those from Duke3D like the Machine Gun, while the Devastator attempt a detailed appearance. As a whole package they’re consistent and function well as reskins. It’s amusing how the Assault Rifle is reused with added tilt for the RPG slot to suggest firing its under barrel 40mm grenade launcher. The minigun however caught my attention in particular for taking the time into animating the barrel spin up while firing. I’ve often seen shortcuts applied whenever the Chaingun is replaced using a simple muzzle flash setup while the weapon itself remains static, so a big thumbs up from me considering the age of this release.

SWAT Grunts and their shotguns
The Minigun vs EDF Marines
Robotic Drones outside the Comms Station

Enemy assets come from different sources that at times can be a jarring mix of styles when put side by side, but didn’t bother me too much in the long run. It probably helped that there weren’t any notable blemishes in these sprites distracting me from the experience. Sources range from either being something entirely new such as the Guard Drones or EDF Officer, the latter who looks like one of those cheap action figures that could be bought from some coastal souvenir shop; Terrorists created by editing the original Duke sprite or an edited resource taken from another game such as Doom Marines or reskinned Quake grunts to depict SWAT members, their angular polygonal edges still retained. Regardless of their origin they’ve been cleaned up and tweaked enough to feel part of the world being built up here, members of the EDF all wearing neutral colours from browns and greys suitable for blending in during urban operations. Out of them all I found the EDF Soldiers taken from Lameduke to fit in the best alongside the Terrorists because of their likeness to Duke’s sprite and thus fit snugly into the existing art direction. One minor bug concerns the way in which certain enemies were added into levels without adjusting their x and y repeat values, which results in seeing a larger version of them shrink down instantly to their desired size upon catching sight of Duke. This affects gameplay in situations where foes are placed to catch you off guard from flanks, defeating the whole purpose if you can see their head poking out from behind a crate.

Terrorists loitering inside an EDF Police Station
EDF Officers doing their evening laundry

Impressions playing through the initial levels weren’t entirely unfavourable but I was mixed with how they were presented, visual design having this bare bones and by the numbers approach for its city theming all around. If I were to compare them against the official 3DR levels as a base line, there were just enough components to represent its locales within reason but there wasn’t much else going on beyond that, missing an air of personality and liveliness to fill a void. Texture schemes were mostly monotone thanks to weak lighting contrasts, lacking much needed depth in places that could have benefited from darker sections. The police station interior offers a great example of appearing flat, several floors using the same blue wallpaper without any interesting lighting to break up the repetitiveness. Ambient sounds could have gone a long way to enhancing the mood like police sirens blaring in the background to emphasise the current situation, with a wind blowing through the empty streets. Compositions seemed unfinished, functional at best but nothing too inspiring from an early perspective.

I’ve played and seen worse, so this was barely enough to deter me from pushing forward to see where this all leads, as I would occasionally come across these smaller details that stood out to me tucked within the design. Potential was being built up here, albeit on the slower side, but as MURDER TC progresses It managed to surprise me in more ways than one. Levels might have started off with simple and to the point, it becomes clear during the journey that Crown’s mapping makes improvements from a map by map basis. Their theming grew bolder with moodier lighting and more creative texturing, while maintaining a particular attention to detail that benefits its ongoing narrative. Other features like sector vehicles exist for a reason to help depict a scene taking place or serve as a backdrop detail later context. The SWAT van rolled up outside the apartments with a team ready to assist the forward group, or the space shuttles parked up in hanger bays that Duke will use to reach his next destination off planet. I also adore the helicopters in a later level hovering above the canyon as if they’ve just arrived to Duke’s current position with rocket turrets installed. Care is taken even in minor aspects too such as signage showing which direction elevators move from your current floor, which provide subtle guides for navigating using multiple lifts to maker the experience smoother.

I took a fondness toward the environmental details helping to weave a story in the background, all without forcing several long scrawls of exposition text or shoving plot down your throat every step of the way. Players are respected enough to figure out the broad points by absorbing what’s going on around them from hints left in the world and via custom textures specific to certain levels. This all happens from the moment you slam a magazine inside your assault rifle, beginning at the crime scene with evidence of a murder for all to see. Making his way to an EDF affiliated police station Duke finds it currently overrun by a terrorist faction having recently blown a vault wide open labelled “Orbital Satellite Codes”. I’m sure that won’t be a problem any time soon. Additional prompts along the campaign call back to the status of said satellite up until the inevitable journey leading there. There’s even some news reports about Duke’s case to further discredit his name airing on televisions. Transitions between levels are seamless given the context from hijacking a car to arrive into the next destination or smashing a nuke button causing an escape sequence before the whole place explodes. All these aspects cement MURDER TC’s journey as being far more interesting beyond how these levels look.

The moment to moment gameplay is otherwise the most normal part of all this, not deviating much from key card hunts and switch pulling, which often involves backtracking and other detours to follow up on. Combat on the other hand doesn’t mess around, throwing you into the thick of the situation right from the word go. Teams of SWAT in large groups toting shotguns and EDF Officers with their rapid firing laser pistols are nothing to scoff at. MURDER TC is out for your blood, within reasonable assumption Duke is now a villain that needs to be taken out no different than the aliens whom invaded prior. EDF adversaries will be a dominant sight the whole way through leaving most fights to be up against humanoids and an occasional mechanical drone, driving home how much they’ve expanded in the two years since the end of Duke3D. There’s only one instance of an alien freed of their captivity, playing little role besides being fodder during the grand scheme of things.

Swiping up all the experimental weapons from the EDF laboratories to increase your arsenal, fights from here on will balance themselves out more toward your favour, right up until conquering the orbital satellite to put a stop to one of the terrorists plans. During your return back to Earth however, the remaining stretch of the venture leans into ammo starvation and constant skirmishes to prevent a simple path toward victory. While I did like the frantic and dangerous combat around this point, enemies taking advantage of long ranges and hiding under the cover of darkness forcing care while proceeding, there was an over reliance on using Terrorists as the primary enemy choice. Factoring in how limited supplies are where I’d be resorting to the assault rifle and little other options on hand, repetition was inevitable without variation. It was a blessing whenever I could use anything else. More drones, sentry turrets and perhaps introducing extra varieties of the existing troops exclusive for these levels could have helped a lot with breaking up the monotony here and still encourage being cautious, all while providing ammo for other weapons. It’s also a shame the concluding battle is up against a boss version of a larger drone we’ve already have an encounter with earlier in the campaign, all inside an uninspired square boss arena. It may not be the best ending to conclude on but doesn’t spoil the journey highlights leading up to this point.


Judging something based on hazy memories or the initial poor impressions when starting a session aren’t always enough to make any concrete statements on whether of not certain releases quite meet any self imposed criteria, sometimes being left in the dust and forgotten to time without much chance to redeem themselves. I’m glad to have given MURDER TC another chance and move past some false biases I’ve had about this campaign, pressing onward to find that it surprised me in many ways looking at it from a different lens. Production values for its new additions are consistent and as a whole the project didn’t bury itself under too many crazy ideas, instead kept a reasonable scope that ties everything together via core narrative beats being hinted at during progression. Level design may not have inspired much in me to begin with, but soon course corrects once improvements in that department become evident. Urban scenes may not have been Crown’s strength but other aspects like the environment details kept me engaged with what’s brewing under the surface.

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Individual Levels

M1: Scene of the Crime

Framed for a single murder, it only makes sense to go on a rampage to prove your innocence. The opening scene is a good visual opener, quick to understand what’s going on after reading the story setup, with a heavy SWAT presence to pounce the moment they get a chance. By no means is the first level for MURDER TC going to offer a bad experience but serves as a perfect example for the type of bare bones urban theme that doesn’t inspire much in me, especially taking many of the official levels into account as a comparison point. M1 functions well enough from a design perspective to get its broad points across, including a few building interiors like the initial apartment complex, a nearby restaurant, grocer shop and the EDF police station. Streets are straight and buildings are simple. The parking lot is quiet and there’s an empty courtyard behind the apartments. There isn’t enough here to make anything stand out and lack secondary elements that could add flavour to this district. See the shop as another example, it exists just to exist. High contrast shadows, bolder shape variety and some ambient sound effects would have gone a long way giving this place some liveliness. M1 does a good job at putting into motion some narrative factors to keep in mind for future, with Terrorists raiding an EDF building as if timed too perfectly to be a coincidence. Crown offers a little tongue-in-cheek to lighten the mood. Where do you hide access codes to an orbital weapons platform that were built to protect us from future alien threats? Inside a clearly signposted little vault tucked into an office of course!

M2: Into the Sewers

Seeing the level title I honestly went into this with some dread after some already mild impressions, because sewers are rarely done well and often used as a filler theme for padding, yet turns out it only serves as short transition from one zone into another. M2 otherwise feels like a direct continuation of the previous level, as if it had to be split in two, so most of my thoughts still apply here. There’s a shopping mall at one end of the street which stands out and got me curious to explore the shops inside, while a good step forward the interiors were minimal to a fault.The book store for example is a few rows of books and a checkout counter, missing potential to include unique posters, sale signage or even play around with the shelving arrangement in a less bog standard way, if only to sprinkle in some personality. I do admit I’mbeing harsh on the design only because there’s a good template here had there been a second pass even within the original limitations. Terrorists make another appearance lurking around the sewer access and showing off some of them also carry RPGs, having also rigged up the tunnels with explosives and invisible laser tripbombs. I always find it amusing whenever coming across these, I swear with this being an easy option to change inside USER.CON just tempted every modder under the sun to make changes simply because it existed. Not that I was any different back during my earlier tinkering with modding. Getting passed that small trial eventually leads Duke inside another building with ties to EDF, which I had trouble figuring out if it was supposed to be another part of the prior police station or a separate location entirely. Some of the interior décor shares the same blue wallpaper texture, but is a more focused place with a grand ceremony hall and EDF press office to break up the monotony while the offices showed signs of a fight having taken place between two opposing factions.

M3: EDF Headquarters

Having hijacked a car at the end of the previous level, Duke slams on the pedal beelining towards the EDF Headquarters and is ambushed by a SWAT team as he closes in. I enjoyed my time with this level because Crown chose to focus more on a singular location for setting the stage, which shows where their mapping strengths are compared to how the streets look. City themes may be a common part of DUKE3D but designing them well is difficult to pull off convincingly. Around this point we do see some improvements around places like a dirtier side alleyway and the fancy hotel pool room. Even upon entering the headquarters with its grand front entrance and foyer, office spaces are surrounded by courtyards providing a touch of personality missing up until now. M3 also takes the time to introduce a number of things; Two new enemies include the Guard Drone and EDF Marine, along side grabbing three weapons to complete your arsenal found within the EDF Laboratories.

M4: RUN!

Not all levels needs to conform so rigidly to a conventional structure, which is why levels like this one help to break the mould and work well for a campaign. M4 is a short escape scenario that, while lasting no longer than a couple of minutes, transitions well from the prior level that gives our first Nukebutton ending leading into consequences of that action here. There isn’t much else to do besides running far enough from an explosion ready to go off at a moments notice, like a snappier version of Starship Trooper TC’s opening level and even reminding me of a later DOOM wad called Scythe (MAP28’s Run From It). Only difference from those is that MURDER TC surprisingly isn’t trying to murder you enough here. The resulting blast can be survivable and a ceiling doesn’t collapse until stepping onto a certain trigger. I believe potential was lost that committed to the concept with far more destruction and be less forgiving on slower escapees. We’re even introduced to the EDF Soldier here and had the situation been more dire, dealing with an unknown threat under pressure could have made the moment stand out when forced into the spotlight.

M5: Comm Station

Escaping the EDF Headquarters has Duke venture into a desert landscape during an early morning sunrise for a nice change of scenery, away from the urban streets where he’d been chased throughout the night. This doesn’t last too long as M5 takes place underground for the most part, but what we can explore on the surface showcases some of Crown’s other strengths in creating moodier environments. The upper portion of the Comm Station has been blown to smithereens, a convincing look of destruction with a staircase leading down blocked by debris, a path you can later find from the opposite side to give this place a cohesive layout. The level is otherwise your standard affair with a few note worthy additions, continuing with more subtle storytelling in one of the control rooms and some nice looking aircraft in the outdoor hangers. One of the nastier places to be caught off guard is the crate maze, at least had the EDF Soldiers been sized properly during the mapping phase so we couldn’t see them before they see you. Crates aren’t just for show either, those labelled can be blown open for goodies and one is vital for progression, a neat touch for an otherwise boring design element. A storage manifest can be discovered elsewhere to help point which box contains the blue key card should it be amiss.

M6: EDF Orbital Defense Network

Our journey takes us off planet toward the satellite that has been built up this whole time, no random jump in themes here and another welcome break from the usual settings. Special mention on the music already touching upon those early Lunar Apocalypse vibes. Arriving at the loading bay we’re greeted by a Terrorist just chilling out in one of the control booths above, which shouldn’t be of any surprise based on the clues up until now who we should be expecting further inside. M6 is a short level that flows well, even should the path up until the last section seem redundant. Considering the importance of this place, instead of corridors and crate rooms, I wished that other areas had more significance to its purpose as a weapons platform for our key hunt going through these areas. The main control room is where it really matters and serves as an excellent example what I enjoy about exploring what MURDER TC has to offer. Holograms showing the current status around Earth, an outer view of the large cannons and space ships in the distance, while monitors flash warnings of an incoming threat. Once all is done and dusted with satellite defences restored, we return back to the hanger bay where a robotic drone mini boss spawns. I think they fumbled by adding this new enemy here and should have saved it for the finale as one last surprise, considering the nukebutton is right there waiting to be smashed without much of a struggle.

M7: Cliffs

After a short trip in space we return back on Earth, greeted by the EDF who have already caught wind of Duke’s whereabouts. Only problem for them is this time he’s now the one coming after them. M7 takes you back to the desert outskirts, this time a greener region following a cliff side road that leads toward a robotics facility with smaller outposts along the way. The opening shot is a great way to set up the scene, EDF choppers hovering above a chasm with turrets shooting rockets in your direction. For such a mundane yet straight to the point level name, this is both one of the more fascinating and yet tedious ventures for a number of reasons. Supplies and munitions become less frequent where starvation of these resources becomes a primary ordeal as the level progresses, having little on hand to deal with threats despite checking every corner for scraps. Meanwhile your opponents are throwing every soldier your way to bleed these dry, giving me fewer options to deal with situations and resorting to the assault rifle where ammo is more common. I liked the pressure, but it got a little repetitive. Terrorists dominate this zone leading to similar fights one after the other, quickly turning into a slog.

M8: Robotics Facility

The penultimate level is a direct continuation from the previous stopping point having reached your destination to put an end to this farce. M8 gets rough as ammo remains an issue, few options to change tactics and a lack of enemy variation becomes a notable sore spot. For a robotics facility there sure was a lack of robots to fight against, which could have alleviated some of the tedium. You start from the outer yards and sweep through surrounding buildings one by one, finding a key and then moving into the next as if tunnelling for someone in particular. Combat can have its frantic moments where long distances allow foes to take safe pots shots or the dash for a yellow key card was tricky with only the assault rifle to dish out damage. Highlights for me concern the atmospheric design utilising silhouettes of dark structures against the orange skyline for a memorable composition. Smaller additional details like a steaming hot cup of coffee being painful to the touch, specific usage of textures for maintenance hatches and a metallic looking texture #0 being plastered all over the place.

M9: Final Confrontion

By Gabriel “Wolf” Crown & Matt “WOLF”

The new boss might have left a bigger impact on me had it not already been spoilt during a weaker introduction at the tail end of M6, a massive drone attached with a minigun and rocket launcher. Despite coming into this arena low on munitions, several caches of supplies are spread around to make this a breeze to beat solely with what’s available here. There aren’t any special tactics besides moving and shooting, it’s a simple square storage room with crates and pillars to hide behind during return fire. Some nice glowing lighting effects however. At least the conclusion provides a text epilogue regarding the fate of Duke after this rampage to prove his innocence.