Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour Review

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Posted November 14, 2016 by John Clark in Video Games

Developer: Nerve Software

Publisher: Gearbox Software

Release Date: October 11

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Price: $20

 

Duke Nukem has a long and rocky history in the gaming world, in large part due to the infamous delays surrounding Duke Nukem Forever. To some younger gamers, the excitement and confusion around that pending game’s release might have been a little bit shocking – but for those old enough to have played the originals, it was all too easy to understand why the latest entry in the series justified such excitement and attention. Unfortunately, for many, Duke Nukem Forever didn’t quite hit the right notes; it’s a fairly common opinion that to really get the best of Duke, you have to go back to the past. In light of that, it’s little surprise that for the game’s 20th anniversary, publisher Gearbox decided to remaster the most memorable entry in the series, Duke Nukem 3D. With features like advanced resolution support, a new episode, and developer commentary, it’s an appealing upgrade from the 1996 original – but is it worth the asking price?

For those who are still unfamiliar with Duke Nukem, the franchise and character kicked up in the wake of the debut of the FPS genre. A far cry from the extremely gritty, serious ‘DOOM guy’, Duke was playful and silly, characterized more by excessive machismo and snappy one liners. Whether his appeal is childish or liberating is best left to other people to argue, but I’ll admit that I always found him more obnoxious than funny myself. Whether you like or hate his personality will probably affect your enjoyment of the game, as quips by the character – with new voicework by his original actor – are frequent and persistent.

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Gameplay-wise, not much has changed for those familiar with the original game, save for a smoother framerate. You still travel through each episode shooting aliens, seeking out keycards, and solving simple environmental puzzles to make progress. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like the mechanics have aged too well. The hitscan projectiles – meaning that they instantly hit their targets, giving no time to dodge – remove the ability to easily avoid attacks that many old-school shooters built their skill ceilings on, and while serpentining seemed to avoid damage, it also felt rather random. On every difficulty, enemies are pretty much either one-hit-kills or obnoxious meat shields, with little room between, and the environments aren’t particularly interesting, though they definitely are better than most from their era. Ultimately, the gameplay is understandably simple compared to many modern shooters, and I’d argue that there are multiple newer games that do ‘old school’ shooting better even if the likes of traditional FPSes aren’t in your wheelhouse.

The new features vary in quality. A fifth episode extends gametime and provides new content to returning players, which is great, while developer commentary is mostly disappointing. At first I was excited – most of the commentary is insightful, hilarious, or both – but there just isn’t very much of it, with some episodes having four of their five chapters completely lacking it.

Ultimately, there’s not a whole lot to say about whether this remaster is worth your $20. If you’re a fan of the original and would like to play it in HD with some new features, then absolutely. If you love old-school shooters, or just want a slice of nostalgia, then maybe. But otherwise, I have to admit the game didn’t really grip me — and that’s from someone who grew up on the likes of its kind.


About the Author

John Clark