In a month which has given us our first real glimpse into the forthcoming console generation and a generation-defining title in The Last of Us Part II, you’d be forgiven for missing the Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour port on the Nintendo Switch.
But that doesn’t mean that it should be overlooked!
Originally released in 2016 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, the game is a remaster of the 1996 game Duke Nukem 3D. It includes a complete collection of content from Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition whilst adding new levels, enemies, a weapon, and more bonus content like developer commentary.
A force to be reckoned with
The all-new fifth episode, titled Alien World Order, was designed by the 1996 version’s original level designers, which gives it authenticity. Jon St John also returns, having re-recorded many of Duke’s infamous one-liners.
It speaks to the level of care that’s been put into the remaster. This is a project of passion, which should delight fans of the series. You can play online, with up to eight players able to participate in the full campaign co-operatively. And for all the care that’s been poured into the game, the Duke treats his enemies with disdain.
The game feels fantastic to play, with fluid movement and functional shooting mechanics. The addition of gyro aiming is a welcome one, granting granular precision in tense shootouts. Even then, if you’re not finding it useful, it can be disabled.
The addition of a rewind feature is particularly generous. If you die, you can rewind through the level, moment to moment, deciding where to respawn. It’s a forgiving mechanic that alleviates some of the pressure, allowing you to enjoy the experience more. That said, it doesn’t detract from the intensity of a fight. Instead, it adds an extra tactical layer to the combat.
Frankenstein’s misogynist monster
So, as we stand on the next-gen precipice, is there room for Duke Nukem? It’s an interesting dichotomy. Video game protagonists are now three dimensional in character, as well as graphically. However, the Duke has a ways to go in the former.
If the franchise was to resurface once more for a new entry, they need only look to Mad Max: Fury Road for inspiration in how to complicate action hero masculinity that was pieced together with ’80s male power fantasy tropes like Frankenstein’s misogynist monster. There’s nothing wrong with liking beer, smoking, and women, but the Duke has aged poorly – so much so that it is verging on poorly-written satire.
Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour earns my respect with fluid combat and intricate level design. It’s a fantastic port and a timely reminder of the industry’s past. It showcases the foundations which have propped up the industry for decades, how far we’ve traveled since the post-80s action hero games, and which of the design principles remain useful today.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.