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REVIEW: Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour

The Duke is back, baby. Celebrating Duke Nukem 3D’s 20th anniversary, Gearbox Software has decided to release the original four episodes, alongside a brand-new episode, brought to you by original level designers Richard Gray and Allen H. Blum III. A worthy collection for anyone.

Note: this review is based on the PS4 release.

No matter how many times I replay Duke Nukem 3D (DN3D), I’m never disappointed. Even 20 years later, the original four episodes hold up superbly well, whether it be the level design, often chaotic battles with alien scum, or that crude 90’s humour Duke is so well known for.

What got me the most excited about replaying the game was the ability to now activate developer commentary at certain spots in the game. As a longtime fan of Duke, getting an insight into how particular parts of the game were made is such a great thing – something fans of the game will appreciate greatly, I’d assume.

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Activate these audio clips to hear developer commentaries. Very cool feature.

DN3D offers a wide range of weaponry, including the pistol, shotgun, chaingun cannon, and the RPG, among many others. More… interesting weapons include the likes of the shrinker, capable of shrinking down enemies, enabling you to simply step and crush them. The freezethrower can freeze those who stand in your way, turning them into a massive ice pop – a quick kick will shatter them. There are plenty more weapons, but I’ll let you find them yourself.

The controls have been altered to suit current-gen consoles and they feel perfect. If you’re playing this game for the first time ever and are worried the controls may be outdated, don’t worry – everything feels incredibly natural. You can also switch between the original/updated graphics at the press of a button, which is a great little feature – you’ll notice differences in the lighting effects especially.

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Original: left | Updated: right

I think what made DN3D stand out when it first released is the ability to use a range of different items throughout the game, something which was never really an option in many old-school FPS games. These include the always useful Jetpack, which if used in certain places, can skip large parts of a level, but we’ll leave that for the speedrunners out there. Steroids enable you to move really really fast, whereas the Hologram can trick enemies into shooting a fake Duke instead of yourself – always useful in sticky situations when surrounded by a ton of enemies. There’s a few more, but again – I’ll let you discover them yourself.

Each enemy has a sense of uniqueness about them – the Assault Captain’s ability to teleport as you’re trying to blast it down can be annoying, but keeps you on your toes. Then there’s the infamous Pig Cop – a slow, but tough enemy that makes a habit of blasting you with its trusty shotgun. Another pain in the ass is the Assault Commander – this guy likes to float around, constantly shooting rockets at you. Never fun, but oh so satisfying when you finally manage to kill it. Plenty more foes will stand in your way, making you think fast in terms of what weapon you should be using, whether you need to find cover, and so forth.

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Mmmmm, explosions.

You are able to access the cheat menu whenever you wish throughout the game, which I wouldn’t recommend if you want to have a challenging rewarding experience. However, there’s a few times I turned the no clip mode on just for fun – this enables you to literally walk/fly through the environment. Why? Why not.

The new episode, titled ‘Alien World Order’, is essentially why I personally bought this game. Yes, it’s fantastic to replay the original four episodes, but I’ve done that a million times. I was really hoping this new episode wouldn’t disappoint, and I’m glad to say it doesn’t one bit…

This time around, Duke is traveling the world to rid of the alien invasion as they try to create a new world order. Okay, I’m not 100% on the storyline but that’s the kind of impression I got when playing. You’ll visit places such as Amsterdam, London, Egypt, Paris, and Moscow, among others. Each location has a unique level, whether it be the cannabis cafe’s of Amsterdam or the Pyramids of Egypt.

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Alien World Order adds much more detail than previously seen in DN3D.

A brand new enemy known as the Firefly Trooper has been added – this guy can be incredibly annoying as its capable of setting you ablaze with its Incinerator (a new weapon which you can also obtain eventually). It can also make itself small and fly around using its jetpack, making it often hard to hit, but when you do it’ll die pretty quick as it has a low amount of health.

The Incinerator, when in your hands, can be extremely helpful when you come across a horde of enemies bunched together, but be careful as those flames can easily hurt you too. I believe a flamethrower was originally planned during the development of the game 20 years ago, so this could definitely be a resurrection of that initial idea.

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Those flames will deplete your health at a rapid pace, so best to stand back and kill Firefly Troopers from a reasonable distance. Fiery little buggers.

I think what particularly stood out whilst playing this new episode was the fact nothing was toned down just because it’s been 20 years – the crude humour, challenging gameplay, and puzzles all feel the same. Most of the new levels are quite large and expansive, promoting exploration to find all that extra ammo, items, and secrets, as well as large-scale battles against those alien scumbags.

You’ll often find yourself in huge firefights with hordes of enemies, which feels truly awesome. There’s nothing more satisfying than an army of enemies fighting their way towards you, disposing of them using your colourful arsenal, and leaving behind a bloody mess in your path. You might not have much ammo left, but that’s what it’s for, right?

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When in situations like this, explosive weapons are usually your best bet.

What’s interesting is all the bosses from the original four episodes make appearances throughout the new episode, but instead of being bosses, they come across as regular (very difficult) enemies. This certainly adds a new challenge, but a welcomed one at that. It’s just strange fighting a Battlelord in the middle of Paris.

Overall, this nice collection is a must-have for newcomers and veterans alike. The game has aged really well and still manages to provide plenty of fun throughout. The fact the new episode was created by original level designers makes this feel like a “thank you” to everyone who’s ever played DN3D. Come get some!

Rating: 8.5/10

Available On: Windows PC / Xbox One / PS4




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