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Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Gearbox Software
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour'

by Brian Dumlao on Dec. 2, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour contains the 1996 classic Duke Nukem 3D in its full glory, along with extra, never-before-seen content.

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

Of the many games that attempted to popularize the first-person shooter, Duke Nukem 3D is certainly one of the more prolific ones. Remembered more than the two side-scrolling adventure games that came before it and more loved than the often-delayed Duke Nukem Forever, 3D has maintained its popularity as it was ported from one platform to another over the years, while the PC version has enjoyed a plethora of mods and level packs since its initial 1996 release. To celebrate this milestone, the new owners of the IP Gearbox have released Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour, a version that excites in some areas and disappoints in others.

The first thing people will wonder about are the graphics. Like many re-releases in this console generation, there's been some work done on the graphics, but if you're expecting a huge leap forward, prepare for some disappointment. Everything from the original game is intact, from the original sprites that have been up-rezzed for 1080p to the flat bodies of enemies and items. Foes always face you no matter where you go, making them look thin when viewed from above. Thanks to the free-look system of modern games, spinning around in open environments and looking around vertically can look very odd. Tap down on the d-pad, though, and you'll switch to the newer engine, which makes this look normal while retaining the look of the original title. It also adds in some enhanced lighting effects, so while the overall look isn't much better, it does look slightly touched-up.

The audio has also been enhanced in very weird ways. Duke's lines have been re-recorded with the original actor, so the classic lines sound amazing in their newfound clarity. The effects, on the other hand, lack their expected punch since they sound more muffled. There's a weird dissonance because of it, as you'll get used to the low-quality effects before being thrown off by the high-quality voice. As for the music, it is barely audible, so you'll be forgiven for thinking it doesn't exist at all.

The game still sports the original three episodes from the first release, alongside the fourth episode from the Plutonium Pak that was released later that year. For those unfamiliar with the story, there's not much to it, as the alien forces that Duke fought against for so long have decided to invade Earth. With his spacecraft blown up, Duke vows vengeance starting from Los Angeles, going to space, and returning to L.A. to fight them all.

It may be an old title, but lots of elements still feel solid today, and it has things that many other games that tout immersion tend to ignore. Some aspects are simple, like actually using a toilet for more than flushing. Drinking water, reacting to looking at a mirror, and even messing with the pool table are nice touches that make the world feel alive, even if you see no one else but aliens. The gameplay is just as relevant today as it was when it first released. Thanks to the recent versions of Doom and Shadow Warrior, there's still an audience that's hungry for the old first-person shooter style, and this was one of the better offerings back in the day. As a result, playing it today feels as exciting as it did back then, even if the tech has aged quite a bit.

Other elements can be divisive, depending on your viewpoint. The rewind feature that first appeared in the Xbox 360 iteration is back, so you can restart from the point where you died. The feature is pretty accurate, as you can pinpoint where you want to restart. The game also employs the old saving methods, so there's no auto-saving. If you forget to save before death and choose not to use the rewind feature, you're going to lose a heap of progress. Then again, the game also has every level in every episode open to you from the beginning, so you can easily jump between any stage as long as you don't mind losing your health and weapon accumulation in the process.

Though the levels will be overly familiar with fans by now, Gearbox added something new in the form of developer commentary. Scattered throughout each stage, there are spots that can be activated to hear the developers provide some contextual information. Some of that may be the revelation of what inspired certain signs or an anecdote about Easter eggs. Others reveal some technical tricks the team had to do to maintain frame rate or keep everything within memory constraints. They're fascinating if you love behind-the-scenes material, but they're spread out unevenly; the first two stages of every episode gets commentary, while the rest of it is devoid of it.

For many fans of the series, the enticing part of this release is the game's fifth episode. Titled "Alien World Order," the episode sends Duke all over the world to take down the lingering alien threat. From Amsterdam to Egypt to London, you'll go to new locales before finally making it back to L.A. for a final showdown with the alien forces. Aside from the new locales, the treat is that these levels were designed by the designers for the original game with composer Lee Jackson, who's back to do the score, and Jon St. John, who's back to record new lines for the titular hero.

The good news is that the new levels feel like they originally belonged in the first release as opposed to something new. All of the expected tricks are there, like tons of secret rooms and monster closets. Every gunfight feels perilous, as you either face powerful foes or are overwhelmed by the numbers game. The humor in some of the references is pretty juvenile, but this game wasn't a source of highbrow laughs in the first place. The stages feel long and meaty, so you'll spend quite a bit of time with the episode's levels the first time out. As a bonus, you even get a new weapon: a flamethrower.

Where the new episode falters is in its bestiary. You only get to fight one new foe in the form of the Firefly, which shoots at you with a flamethrower and shrinks when not attacking you. Otherwise, the enemies and bosses will be ones you've encountered before, which is disappointing since the final one you meet is simply a recoloring of an old one — with flames.

The additions are welcome, but if you're familiar with the Megaton Edition that was released on the PC, PS3 and Vita, you'll notice that this version is missing the episodes Duke it Out in D.C., Nuclear Winter, and Life's a Beach. All three were authorized add-ons, but you get the feeling that this package wanted to focus on the efforts by the original creators. Leaving out these three pieces makes the package feel lighter, especially since the last official console release included them.

The other part of the game that will feel unloved is the multiplayer. Only an online version of this exists, but the maps and almost all of the modes are present, even if the population is not. Whether searching for a lobby or creating one, we couldn't get anyone to jump in for any match. While it's available on the menu, there is no multiplayer audience for the game.

In spite of some omissions and technical issues, Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour remains a classic. The original game design is tough, fun and interactive. For those who weren't around when this was first released, the engine change is less jarring than the old design and the new episode is quite good. At its current asking price of $20, it is tough to recommend no matter how big of a fan you are, and those who missed out on the Megaton Edition on PS3 and Vita or those who simply want it on PS4 would be better served waiting for a sale.

Score: 7.5/10

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