January 29, 1996. The same year classics such as Resident Evil, Super Mario 64, and Crash Bandicoot released. It’s also the same year I got a 32x for my Genesis to play Doom from my father, and an original Playstation from my mother, for my fifth birthday. I didn’t know it then, but a game came out on this day that would redefine the first person shooter genre that, at that time, was largely dominated by Doom.
Me in 1996. Presumably about to throw leaves at a copy of Metallica’s Load album.
Duke Nukem 3D etched a place in history along with the greats. It’s original release (and subsequent episodic releases), have been ported endlessly to consoles like the Playstation, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn and even iOS. In its day, it was praised as “perfect in every way”, and hailed for its performance on low-end machines. Taking the ideas put forth by Wolfenstein 3D, and expanding onto them, proved a good move for the developer studio 3D Realms. But the development cycle for the follow-up game Duke Nukem Forever was marred with company restructuring and was in “development hell” for almost 15 years. The game was panned critically, and a lot of people lost faith in anything more being done with the IP.
All of that changed at the turn of 2016. Gearbox had fully acquired development rights for the IP, and started to take down official downloads of Duke 3D on current platforms. People speculated that a simple re-release would coincide with the game’s 20th anniversary, including myself. What we got instead was a full upscaling of the game, with new content, some original developers on board, and new voice-overs by the original voice actor for Duke. After years of tweaking Duke 3D to work on newer operating systems, and years of frustration from modding updated textures into the original game and having them be just slightly off, all of those days are behind us; we finally have a true remaster with plenty of content to make up for the 20-year wait. But with a $20 price tag, is this a case of a developer knowing that it’s the right price to charge, or them knowing the port is so bad it’s not worth more than that? That is the objective of this review, to determine if the wait was worth it, the game meets current standards, and if the fan service is just fan service, or if it’s to make up for a bad experience
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour
System(s): PS4/Xbox One/PC
Developer(s): Gearbox Software/Nerve Software
Publish Date: October 11th, 2016
The Aesthetic Differences
This game is a full remaster. All textures were redone to fit modern resolutions, and nothing is lost in translation like textures would be if the game was simply upscaled to 1920×1080. Trust me, I know this. The textures look exactly the same as they did in the original game, which is nice considering some developers and modders like to take creative freedom with retexturing. The games’ options allow you to toggle “True 3D Rendering”. What this does is add things that OpenGL on PC would add to the game, like dynamic lighting effects on things that generally emit light (rockets, lamps, etc), and shadows. This effect can also be triggered by pressing the down button on the d-pad on consoles. It’s a nice touch, but it is something the original didn’t have, and if I hadn’t have spent years playing this game with mods I would have been thrown off. Subtle lighting does a lot for the game and it is a feature I welcome but isn’t needed for the core experience.
Apart from this, there isn’t really anything that looks different. But the options menu of this game is worth mentioning. The menu is broken up into 5 sections: Game Settings, Sound Settings, Video Settings, Control Settings, and Credits. Here you can do things like disabling mature content, toggle on developer commentary for a lot of the levels in the game, change the HUD, and so much more. There’s even a secret cheats menu that isn’t mentioned in the game at all but only in the trophy/achievement section. This gives God mode, all weapons, and even the ability to turn off clipping (walk through walls)! A quick Google search should be able to point you towards the input to bring up the menu.
The original 4 episodes are included, with a brand new episode added, created specifically for this game. The levels were designed by an original level designer for Duke 3D, and they follow the name of the title itself; the levels are in different locations around the world.
I found myself running through the new episode as fast as I could, only finding one secret level. Some of the levels were really confusing. Although fitting the locations correctly, there wasn’t always a clear path to finish the level. And while this has really always been the point of games like this, in the modern age of games holding your hand or at least make paths clear, this was really frustrating to deal with.
A new weapon was added to coincide with the new episode, along with a new enemy type that uses the weapon too. Called the Incinerator, it is essentially a flamethrower and is pretty fun to mess around with. The new enemy is called the Firefly. It looks like a taller version of the basic alien, but it can shrink on its’ own and fly around. It emits a sparkle while it’s doing this, and is frustratingly difficult to kill in this form. It makes a nice addition to the game.
If you do not have cheats enabled, the game features a replay feature when you die. You are able to basically rewind the game to any point in your gameplay up to the point where you died. To me, it is a feature that is absolutely needed in a game without checkpoints built in.
Lastly, the voice over work of Jon St. John was reprised for the game. New lines for pretty much everything in the original, and new lines related to the new episode. The humor of the game is, dated, to say the least. But the new “duke talk” doesn’t sound like bad in any respect. Sounds just like he did 20 years ago, except that some of the reaction lines sound really weird compared to the original, like when Duke takes a big fall or a rocket.Thankfully, the option is there to toggle all the original voice over, in case the new reactions bother you like they did to me.
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is a great game that has done a faithful recreation of its source material. Apart from minor gripes, as a fan of the original, I can honestly say that is what I have been waiting for. The PS3/360/Steam Megaton Edition pales in comparison to this. A constant frame rate of 59-60fps, face-lifted visuals, and huge fan service for die hard fans, I can strongly recommend this title to original fans and newcomers alike. For $20, I couldn’t be happier.
Final Grade: 95%
- Everything that made the original so good
- Constant stable 60fps
- 1080p (1920×1080)
- Comprehensive options list
- Developer Commentary
- Some new VO lines sound odd
- One or two levels in the new episode are confusing