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Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Developer: Gearbox Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Duke Nukem 3D is 20 years old now, and it might be time to test the waters a bit. Gearbox has chosen to release Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour for next gen consoles and PC. While the game's solid retro 3D shooter mechanics are bolstered by an infusion of fresh content, it fails to make a compelling case for its high price point.

First, allow me to sing the praises of Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tourís visuals. As is the case with most classic rereleases featuring visual overhauls, a button press is mapped to switch between the old and new visual styles. The improvements are readily apparent, and impressively enough, the new episode is rendered in both the original and improved styles. Everything that lies along the world's Y-Axis has been tweaked to offer a consistent sense of perspective. Remember how disorienting it was to look up and down? You donít have to worry about that anymore. Everything looks far more tangible and present than it ever has. Of course, this guarantees a weird disconnect when youíre blasting away at two-dimensional sprites, but hey, in games like these, itís just plain charming.

Megadethís music is perhaps the only thing I unconditionally liked about Duke Nukem Forever, and I kind of miss it, even though the MIDI soundtrack that accompanied the original 1996 release is essentially timeless. In fact, much of what comes through the speakers is pure nostalgia. This includes the center cut bone-in ham steak voice performance of Jon St. John. Dukeís first language is some wacky pastiche of film reference and brainless 90ís machismo, and given the time in which it was released, it works incredibly well, especially considering the sleazy settings he blasts his way through. The sheer audacious dumbassery of Dukeís one-liners is a pitch perfect accompaniment to the nonstop casual butchery of jetpack-using lizard people and shotgun-wielding pigs in L.A.P.D. uniforms. Arguably, itís funniest when itís at its most dissonant; an accidental detonation of a cocooned naked woman elicits a monotone "Damn." Really, Duke? Really?


Gameplay:

Duke Nukem 3D, like its contemporaries, has little in the way of story. Itís got enough to establish the most basic levels of context for you to go rampaging through self-contained three-dimensional maps, killing nearly everything in sight and exploring to your heartís content (and the best of your creative abilities). Picking up right after the events of Duke Nukem II, Dukeís "car" is shot out of the sky, conveniently enough, right after his wholesale destruction of the villainous Rigelatins. Out of the frying pan, into the fire; aliens have invaded Earth and it's up to the dumb lunk to engage in some good old fashioned extraterrestrial genocide.

Duke Nukem 3D is classic first person shooting at its core; to mess with that formula would be doing it profoundly wrong. Here we have a game from a time when shooters were about blasting every hostile in sight, searching high and low for secrets, and ultimately progressing to the end of each level. Keys and puzzles abound in Duke Nukem 3D, and solutions arenít always obvious. In fact, lots of them are just plain obtuse. However, this game is old enough to the point where getting truly and irrevocably stuck is virtually impossible.

Bring friends. Yes, Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour retains the cooperative and competitive play introduced in the last rerelease of the game. The cooperative play is great fun, as is most everything done with friends. However, the competitive play is almost unworthy of discussion, since it will almost certainly not catch on Ė at least not on Xbox One. The community is dead on arrival. But to hold that against the game as a whole would be unfair, so I won't.


Difficulty:

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, being Duke Nukem 3D with some extra trimmings, is expectedly as difficult as Duke Nukem 3D. That is to say, itís a really nasty piece of work. Enemies are fast, accurate, and devastatingly powerful, and they attack in formations that arenít always fair. Additionally, Dukeís explosive arsenal often poses an equal threat to Duke himself as it does to his enemies. Being careful with those pipe bombs, rockets, and environmental hazards is easier said than done, especially when you find yourself in narrow corridors or confined spaces.

You can save anywhere in the game, and just like in the last rerelease, you have access to a timeline that allows you to rewind to any moment youíve already spent in the current level. The mechanic itself isnít as smooth as the one from Rare Replay, and itís not as fast as quicksaves and quickloads, but on console, you canít really hope for much better.


Game Mechanics:

High speed retro first person shooting: that's Duke Nukem 3D in a nutshell. But what separated it from the likes of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Quake (besides its ridiculous themes) is its special items and abilities. While there's certainly no substitute for a good shotgun or a healthy supply of pipe bombs, the inclusion of more tactical tools is what really makes this game special. Deploying a Holoduke, flanking around, and riddling the hapless aliens with bullets is great fun, as is strapping on a jetpack and engaging in aerial warfare (or finding secret rooms) added a surprising amount of depth to what was an otherwise simple formula. And it's for reasons like these that Duke Nukem 3D's game design has aged more gracefully than its contemporaries have.

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour earns its lengthy name; this isn't just a rerelease; there's some new stuff to partake in, and all of it is merited. Developer commentary and a brand new episode fill out an already complete package even further.

Duke Nukemís place in the modern gaming industry is a massive question mark, and his last outing was perhaps the strongest evidence for that argument. Whether youíre talking about its thematic content or even its game design, it feels like a thing of the past. After the calamitous release of Duke Nukem Forever, itís incredibly difficult for anyone to imagine exactly what Gearbox Software has in mind for this series going forward. I had an interesting conversation with Starscream about this, and it really seems that the only way to handle Duke is to stop treating his cringe ripoff comedy as legitimate and treat the actual character as the joke that two decades of human progress have reduced him to. If Gearbox can manage that and pull off a serious gameplay overhaul, it could very well replicate the success that id Software had earlier this year with the Doom reboot. I would so love to see that happen.

Duke Nukem 3D is quintessentially 90s, and it's impossible to transplant him into the now with a straight face. As far as this release goes, it's still an anarchic blast. But at $19.99, it's overpriced. It ultimately has my recommendation, but I'd wait for a sale.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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