By: Brian Gunn
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is the latest repackaging of the most highly regarded entry in the Duke Nukem franchise. The game has been released in many different versions, including as recently as 2013 in the Megaton Edition. Is this newest release worth a look, or it as dated as its lead character?
It should come to no surprise that an adaptation of a well-regarded classic does not falter in the control scheme. Things are simple; you largely just point and shoot, though you can also use a boot to the face if the mood strikes you. Gamepad controls feel a little slow, as the enemy placement and level design is clearly designed around mouse aim, but it’s still enjoyable enough.
There’s also no surprise that the visuals of Duke Nukem 3D have not necessarily stood the test of time. Released in 1996, the chunky pixilated art has a certain charm, but it won’t bring anyone new to the table that refuses to play older shooters because of their appearance.
There’s a new rendering method that makes 3D objects actually appear 3D rather than 2D, and a few modern tweaks like dynamic lighting round things out. For purists though, it has an option to toggle between the new and old modes.
Corny one-liners and hard rock associated with the series remain intact and evoke some of the more stereotypical images of gaming in the ’90s. The main theme is still incredibly catchy, and Duke‘s voice actor John St. John is back to record some new hammy takes.
Duke Nukem 3D cast players in the titular role, who is like every ’80s action star amped up on steroids. There’s not much story other than aliens are attacking and Duke doesn’t much like that. And that’s fine for a game like this that’s more concerned with action and silly jokes than telling a story.
The 20th Anniversary World Tour‘s actual content is somewhat of a mixed bag. It includes the main game, as well as a brand new set of levels designed by the game’s original staff, with new voice acting. However these levels typically aren’t nearly as good as the rest of the game, and feel a bit like a pale imitation when compared to the Megaton Edition, which had a bunch of extras like the many expansions that had been developed for the game.
This version was not available on PS4 or Xbox One, so there is still some value in this new package, but it’s a little disappointing to see so much content missing.
Still, it’s hard to argue against owning at least one of the modern updates of the game. The action is still fast and furious, and there’s clever level design. I loved using a security camera to spot an ambush waiting for me, for instance.
Duke’s signature humor is going to vary by player. I found him to be kind of a corny relic of his time, but others will love the irreverent tone. Movie lovers in particular can find value here, as it includes many pop culture references, with even some levels seemingly inspired by movies.
Duke Nukem 3D is smartly paced, frequently giving players a new weapon just as things tend to feel tedious. There’s also a rewind feature present that lets players simply go back in time to before they kicked that barrel of explosives rather than needing to reload upon a life lost, for those that find old school difficulty off-putting. Things do drag a bit when it comes to level design as you have to deal with locating the classic colored keys to progress.
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is a solid throwback for fans of ’90s shooters. It’s not without its warts, including dated design and questionable value compared to previous versions, especially for PC gamers. For those on console though, it’s well worth adding Duke to your collection.