Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour Review

By Blair Nokes on October 23, 2016

It’s hard to think of First Person Shooters and not think of the grandfathers that held make the genre what it was and shape it to what it currently is. Doom and Wolfenstein were the genre-defining entries that are the pillars of modern first person shooting. Duke Nukem was a very Doom-inspired shooter that debuted in 1996; however it was actually the third installment of a series that started out as a 2D side-scroller in 1991. Apogee Software developed the series before changing their name to 3D Realms in 1996. Duke Nukem 3D was hailed as an instant classic, with great 3D gunplay for its time, a caricature of an Uber-Alpha Male protagonist, and some boundary-shattering moments in video game history. With the popularity of DK3D, fans were wondering where the series would go from there.

Apparently – it was nowhere; in 1997, 3D Realms announced the title Duke Nukem Forever; however there wasn’t much outside of promotion information and official statements back in 2001 would suggest the game would simply be released once it’s done. Flash forward to 2011, after 3D Realms’ legal battles with Take Two Interactive regarding publishing rights for the game, 2K Games and Gearbox Software took what was already completed, and added more to it to resemble some form of a complete game. After 15 years, Duke Nukem went gold, and was panned almost universally. It had a host of technical bugs and performance issues, the levels seemed to have been mashed together, most likely due to the fact that it was handled over a decade between developers, and had a very dated design.

Unsatisfied with what they had stitched together, Gearbox wasn’t quite ready to drop the Duke. During PAX East, they had announced that Duke Nukem 3D would release on the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC via Steam to commemorate its 20th anniversary. The aim of the game was to “touch up” the game as opposed to fully remaking it, so fans could remember how it originally was, just slightly better looking. For the purists, Gearbox also included the original visuals’ filter, so we can appreciate the game in its original view or compare the touch ups done to the World Tour version. Unfortunately, World Tour does not include the officially sanctioned episodes Duke Caribbean: Life’s A Beach, Duke It Out In DC, and Nuclear Winter. I believe it’s mainly due to the fact that these weren’t actually done by the original team, however it would have been nice to include, especially in a set designed for celebrating its 20 years.

The touch ups do not amount to a whole lot; the lighting effects were supposed to draw a lot of attention to what had been done, and while they look nice, there’s really nothing groundbreaking when comparing this version and the Megaton Edition, released in 2015. It does however contain a brand-new 5th Episode to the main campaign. Alien World Order offers 8 original levels created by the original team: designers Allen Blum III and Richard Gray, composer Lee Jackson and of course The Duke himself – Jon St. John. This new mission is simply nothing short of brilliant; it takes you on a romp through Egypt, London, and more satisfyingly well executed settings that genuinely feel like it belongs back with the original release in 1996. They certainly aren’t short missions either, with each averaging about 20 mins a level, and even more if you plan on finding everything hidden.

Duke Nukem 3D, much like its obvious inspirations from Doom and Wolfenstein, relied more on exploration and minor puzzles than shooting galleries. I’m glad to see that is retained in the new levels to the best of the team’s abilities. That’s not to say that Duke Nukem isn’t also known for its over the top action, violence and wacky guns. Alien World Tour also introduces a new weapon known as the Incinerator, which sets enemies ablaze as they run and scream.

I fondly remember playing the original MS-DOS version and the controls were excellent with a keyboard and mouse. The console version may not have the precision and ease of use as PC’s control layout typically is for First Person Shooters; however it does an admirable job. Swapping weapons seems a little more finicky by using L1 and R1 as opposed to using the number keys. It’s a minor gripe, but its noticeable when there’s a slight latency when swapping vs how seamless it is on PC.

Final Thoughts

Duke Nukem 3D World Tour is a great touch-up of a classic First Person Shooter. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does it try to remake the game with modern visuals. Gearbox has definitely seen some of the poorer examples of modern remakes, like Turtles In Time: Reshelled, and figured it’s better to not fix what isn’t broken. Instead, they offer both the original and the retouched versions of DK3D, and even managed to bring on the original designers to offer 8 amazing new levels that are right up there with Lunar Apocalypse or LA Meltdown.

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour was reviewed using a digital copy provided by Gearbox Publishing. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
Alien World Tour offers some insanely designed new levels that feel right at home.
Jon St. John’s still got it. Always bet on the Duke.
The Incinerator is a hilarious new weapon to the roster.
The retouches really don’t amount to much outside of lighting. But it’s nice that they wanted to preserve the original look.
Weapon swapping on consoles is a little more cumbersome.
Omissions of Duke Caribbean: Life’s A Beach, Duke It Out In DC, and Nuclear Winter are unfortunate.
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