Raunchy, politically incorrect, and copious amounts of pixelated gore, all packed in an action hero parody, of course it’s Duke Nukem. Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour Edition to be exact. But can this re-touched re-release pull on those nostalgia heart strings strong enough to compete with contemporary tiles or even its own recent re-releases?
As far as nostalgia goes, this 20th Anniversary Edition nails it. This looks like how you remember Duke Nukem 3D. It’s still pixelated 2D alien sprites – lizardmen, pig cops, flying brain monsters – within a 3D environment, but improved lighting and a crisper resolution gives it a level of modern refinement that doesn’t compromise the original aesthetic. Meanwhile, cleaned up music and sound effects alongside re-recorded Duke one-liners by voice actor Jon St. John, enhance the presentation further. A new fifth episode is also included, Alien World Order, which takes you all over the world through eight levels battling more of the extra-terrestrial baddies, but it’s design and look are in line with the rest of the package.
Otherwise, the 20th Anniversary Edition feels very much like it did back in 1996. The combat is fast paced and intense and takes place though masterfully designed, interconnected levels full to the brim with hidden areas, enemies, hazards and good old fashioned health, ammo, and special item pick-ups. It’s very easy to be pulled back in to the striating, shooting, key card searching grove.
Included in this 20th Anniversary package are the four primary episodes as well as the aforementioned new fifth episode, alongside the full multiplayer competitive and coop experience. It’s a bit of a shame not to see some of the other expansions that were included with the PlayStation 3 and Vita Magaton Edition – Duke It Out in D.C., Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach, and Duke: Nuclear Winter – but there’s still many hours of content here to blast your way through. However, The Magaton Edition’s replay slider save system has transferred over, making the otherwise challenging difficulty far more manageable. This allows you to rewind time when you die and choose when to jump back in on your playthrough of a level. It’s a clever system that’s instantaneous to use, which is marvellous. Developer commentary is also a new option available, providing some extra insight for diehard fans. Unfortunately, it’s a little on the light side, though.
Largely then, the 20th Anniversary Edition is a mildly enhanced version of the Megaton Edition from early last year, and although for Xbox players this may mean you haven’t had the chance to experience the classic Duke Nukem 3D adventure for a while, it’s still disappointingly similar to what came before.
Additionally, whilst the interconnected level design is spectacular, with secret areas leading back to the critical path, and the critical path itself often feeling like a secret area due to the destructible scenery and environment interactivity required to open the way forwards, it’s maze-like structure may be off-putting for some. Trying to find the coloured key cards for doors can be a little tricky and this is certainly an archaic form of level design, despite it being one of the best examples of it.
For fans of the Duke, this is an excellent way to replay Duke Nukem 3D with modern refinements that enhance the nostalgia and aid with the challenge. However, there’s not much new here for those who’ve bought recent re-releases on other systems or console generations.
Thanks to Xbox and Gearbox for supporting TiX