It was 20 years ago that Duke Nukem 3D forever changed the way people thought about games. Despite being faced paced it ran incredibly well on many systems of that time, and although it earned a widespread reputation for being overly sexualized, it did so in a tastefully exaggerated fashion.
Given that remasters are trending recently, Duke Nukem 3D's revival was inevitable. This year it celebrates a special anniversary, giving it an excuse to re-emerge. It brings with it a few new features, but for the most part it represents exactly what it stood for back in 1996: good, awesome fun.
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour immediately greets you with a classically styled main menu and heavy metal music. From the moment you load the game you're transported back to the 90's when games might have had blocky text and visuals, but they delivered fun in a simple manner.
The original experience has been largely preserved. This means that it's still incredibly fluid with strong gameplay mechanics and feedback. This also means that it's a tough game. Even on Piece of Cake (the lowest difficulty) it's common to run out of ammo and die. It's also easy to get lost since there is no tutorial or guidance system. The challenge is a nice change of pace from the exceedingly focus tested games of today that requires you to learn how to take pop shots from around corners to avoid incoming damage and explore environments fully for the next place to go.
To help keep the experience from becoming too frustrating there is a rewind mechanic. When you die, you have the ability to rewind a few seconds at your discretion and approach the obstacle that killed you differently. This plays an important part in making this 10 hour long re-release playable for people who may not know all the ins and outs of Duke Nukem 3D. For veterans, it'll be a reason to try the game on Damn I'm Good (the highest difficulty).
Due to the strict adherence to its original form, Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour can be a slog at times. The recent revival of DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D has shown us that these aged franchises can still be exciting when thoughtfully crafted. Heading back 20 years to a time when we had CRT monitors and ball mice can be enjoyable at times but loses emotion during even moderately long play sessions. This is strictly for nostalgic purposes.
The original Duke Nukem 3D experience is improved in subtle ways that make it less jarring. For one, Duke has been re-recorded in high fidelity, making his quips a highlight of the adventure. The percussion-heavy soundtrack has largely remained the same, which proves advantageous for the motif of the experience.
All four original episodes are here with minor improvements to environmental textures. They are also supported by an all-new fifth episode (with a new weapon) that faces you against ridiculous opposition. You'll be glad you can rewind, let's put it that way. Made better, each of these episodes can be enjoyed in co-op where the outrageous humor can be shared with a friend.
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is a polished trip down memory lane of one gaming's most impactful creations. It's true to the spirit of the original while also layering in a few goodies to improve quality of life. It can be rather emotionless at times due to its age, but it serves its purpose well. Welcome back, Duke.