Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 05.09.2020

Review for Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on Nintendo Switch

Since it first arrive, Duke Nukem 3D has been a staple of first-person shooters. The fast and snappy shooting, mixed with a simple, yet pleasing art style made it so it aged gracefully after all these years. Old timers still love it, and new gamers are discovering it and appreciate its satisfying gameplay. Duke is not a stranger to Nintendo consoles, since there have been ports on Game Boy Advance and Nintendo 64. They were not the raw Duke experience, and made several changes to the visuals and gameplay. Finally, the definitive experience known as Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour has come to Nintendo Switch.

The appeal of Duke Nukem 3D has always been the fast paced action, set in dense levels that are festooned with secrets. Switches and buttons to press that activate changes add a believability to the world, and the amount of interactivity that 3D Realms had put in its game is still some of the best examples. It was always worth going out of the main path to seek out more secrets, since hidden areas would reward Duke with more fire power, or more useful weapons and ammo. The levels themselves are all a blur of pastiche '90s settings inspired by the likes of Escape From L.A., Aliens, and tons of shout outs to things like Army of Darkness, and even Beavis and Butt-head. Duke Nukem 3D couldn't wear its influences more loudly.

From murdering entire swarms of flying brain aliens, to sneaking around in ventilation shafts, Duke Nukem 3D has a lot of action variety. There are puzzle sections, platforming, and sequences where Duke shrinks to the size of an ant to constantly mix things up. There is never a dull moment in the entire package. It helps that Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on Switch is an excellent port, and retains the extremely responsive and twitchy controls. Thankfully, Duke does not have to be pin-point accurate, since this a game made with the build engine. This means that Duke Nukem 3D is not actually 3D.

The build engine's graphics are barely more complex than sketches in Microsoft Paint. The 3D illusion is the engine drawing up images from 2D maps; projecting them in various elevations. This is how Duke Nukem 3D is able to fake three dimensions and pull of tricks that even Doom II was not able to. Flourishes like multi-level stages with varying heights that can move were cutting edge at the time. It may seem quaint by today's standards, but still is impressive to see such ingenious programming pulled off with code that is so simple.

Screenshot for Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on Nintendo Switch

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour comes with two ways to play; classic visuals where the limits of the Build Engine are more apparent, and a remastered version where the 3D is more convincing. Classic mode has a very distinct quirk to how the perspective twists and warps when Duke looks up or down, while remastered draws more believable space and has improved lighting effects. The maps are the same and placement of all assets is identical. The mode can be toggled in real time, showing the best of both worlds. While it is appreciated that both modes are included, the remastered visuals are an improvement. The old visuals' quirk of warped perspective is slightly nauseating.

20th Anniversary World Tour is, and has always has been a celebration of machismo. Even today, Duke's antics would seem "problematic" by the professionally offended when he uses the decapitated corpse of a boss as a toilet. It is all done without irony, and in its earnestness is where the charm lies. Too often game designers are sick with irony-poisoning and the result is insufferable self-aware writing. Duke Nukem 3D is unapologetic, and came from a time when designers were simply nerds who put things they loved in the games they made. This is a lovingly crafted ported of some of the best first-person shooting the '90s had to offer. The added new stages are particularly challenging, boasting more cryptic secrets than ever and are flooded with more enemies than ever. The game's level design does not reach the complexity of Ion Fury, but it is impressive to see new graphic assets created for such an old game.

If there was one thing that this Switch port needed, it would have been an improved weapon selection mechanic. Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour relies on the player having to slowly cycle through every weapon or item individually. This can be a pretty fast game where enemies are quick and plenty, so being able to alternate between jet-pack and health-kit, or machine gun to pipe-bombs can mean life or death. If there was a weapon-wheel where items or weapons could be quickly selected, it would have smoothed out the action more gracefully than to cycle. Not that dying means much anymore, since it seems every retro game re-released these days has too many accessibility features that trivialize the gameplay. Duke's death is quickly undone with the rewind feature that lets anybody go back up to two minutes from dying. Compounded with the limitless quick-saving and reloading, there is almost no penalty for failure.

Screenshot for Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour is an excellent compilation of some of the best Duke moments, and a little bit of something new. The frantic and kinetic energy of the action is as vibrant as ever in an age of so many slow paced, story-driven shooters. The secretive secrets are still tricky to discover, and Duke remains a monolithic man's man to aspire to be. What makes Duke Nukem 3D still so effective is its elegant simplicity. With a few extra features like an improved weapon selection, and if the excessive accessibility was dialled back a bit, this could have become a perfect example of its genre.

Developer

Gearbox Publishing

Publisher

Gearbox Publishing

Genre

First Person Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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