Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour Review (PS4/X1/PC): “Come Get Some”

In 1996, Duke Nukem 3D splashed onto the scene of PC and console gaming like a megaton. The brash, X-rated humor was breaking down the walls of traditional gaming narratives. Duke was in a class of his own with dialogue and gameplay that blasted through the standards of yesterday. Twenty years later, Gearbox Software has decided to release Duke’s best known adventure once again. The epic Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour is intended to appeal to both new comers of 3D Realms’ hero from the 90’s, as well as fans of old. Originally when it was released back in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D was one of the most significant titles in the FPS genre’s history. Its intricate level designs set it apart from its contemporaries back in 1996. What exactly makes the 20th Anniversary Edition worth trying out? Let’s dive in to find out!The great thing about this anniversary edition is that the original designers, Allen Blum III and Richard “Levelord” Gray, have returned to craft eight brand new levels for Duke Nukem 3D. The new episode takes Duke everywhere from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, to Moscow, and finally to Hollywood for a final boss battle. However, rather than use current design technology, the pair decided to design each of these levels the exact way they would have done in ‘96. The result is amazing, playing these levels feels like they were always part of the original game. Nerve Software’s team understood what made the levels of the original game so entertaining. While these levels are not as large as the true original levels, they are still pretty large considering. Duke 3D famously had huge maze-like levels and made you want to explore each section of the map.

The gameplay holds up pretty well considering it has now been 20 years since its original launch. I feel part of the magic that kept this game’s gameplay current and not dated was its simplicity. 3D Realms created such a well put-together shooter that 20 years could not dilute it. I recently got to co-op a sizeable chunk of the game with Marcello (which can be viewed here for some good laughs). We were both reminded of how detailed and labyrinth-like the levels were. These twisty, but carefully crafted stages are not found often in today’s gaming. Too many modern day games simply create big levels, but overlook that larger does not necessarily equal a better level.

In addition to the single-player campaign, this release also features some good multiplayer action. You can face-off with others online in a mode called Dukematch, or you can team up with some friends to engage in online co-op. Much like the single-player campaign, these selections feel like a remnant from the old days of gaming mode choices. Duke’s simplistic gameplay is fun for playing single player, and is just as pleasing on the multiplayer side. The idea of playing 8-player co-op online with friends from a game released over 20 years ago is neat, and certainly adds longevity.

For the Anniversary Edition, Gearbox has given the original Duke Nukem 3D a minor restoration. Gearbox created a True3D Rendering mode specifically for Duke. The title still runs on the same game engine from ’96, however several visual aspects have been improved. The lighting has been considerably upgraded, and textures are just cleaner to look at now with my 2016 eyes. Instead of looking like a game from 1996, it can maybe pass for a game a few years newer. A feature that I love is the ability to toggle between the original’s visuals and the remastered’s visuals. Videophiles who want the original visuals can switch between the two modes with a press of a button.

The audio factor of the game also received several tweaks. Gearbox has brought the original voice actor of Duke, Jon St. John, to re-record his original dialogue, as well as record some new lines too. Even if the series of famous one-liners begin to dull after a while, St. John’s distinct voice is seamlessly right for the character of Duke. There is new music composed by Lee Jackson, which fits the heavy action that is constantly happening around you.

Another great feature added into this edition is developer commentary that has been placed in various points throughout the game. Several members of the Duke team recorded their views on it. It’s pretty interesting to hear some of their thoughts two decades later with a retrospect from the people who actually created Duke and launched him into gaming history. You will find some funny stories in these commentaries as well. Whether they’re discussing the making of it or the game’s impact, these little bits of commentary are fascinating. For those looking for a lengthy commentary spanning the entire single player adventure, you will be disappointed. Unfortunately, these audio logs are only found in a few levels. I am by no means expecting all the levels to have commentary, but it would have been great to have more great stories from the developing pioneers of 90’s gaming to listen to.

While today’s gamers may be turned off by the very basic gameplay Duke provides, they need to remember that this title is part of the forces that ushered in today’s modern day shooters. Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour is a nostalgia trip that recalls many memories for gamers that were around when this hit the stores. The fast-paced, crazy shooting is as strong as ever, and the extensive level design is still exceptional. For those that have never experienced the classy charm-filled Duke “sarcasm”, this is a tour worth experiencing.

Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10

A special thank you to the publisher for providing us a review copy for Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour! Copy reviewed on PS4.

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