It’s time to read our review and chew some bubble gum… and we’re all out of gum. Along with DOOM and Wolfenstein, Duke Nukem 3D helped to pioneer the first-person shooter genre, all the while with true 90s tongue-in-cheek quips. However, it begs to question just how well a classic 90s first-person shooter holds up in 2020.
It’s difficult to discuss Duke Nukem 3D‘s gameplay as it is certainly a product of its time. The controls are frantic and fast paced, but this was the encouraged style of play back in the 90s. With the resurgence of DOOM in 2016 and then DOOM Eternal this year, there has been a renewed interest in this style of first person shooter and instead of revitalising the franchise with a new entry, the Switch is graced with the touched up 1996 iteration.
First thing to note is that this game isn’t forgiving. I wouldn’t say that I am a seasoned first-person shooter, but I can hold my own in a round or two online. That being said, I was getting taken down on Easy mode in one of the opening levels, which was certainly a red flag to say that the game isn’t well adjusted. Some gamers may be curious about the name “Duke Nukem” and drop the cash based off of that alone; where we currently live in an era of video games where there are more ways to extend the gameplay than by just simply making the game difficult, Duke Nukem 3D is easy to close in frustration and move onto another game more player-friendly.
With that all being said, Gearbox were clever to add in a rewind feature. When dying, the game allows you to scroll through your entire playthrough of that level and seamlessly drop back in to any previous position. The Switch version also comes complete with gyro aiming, which is perfect for what can be considered an outdated and consequently janky experience if omitted, as well as some superb HD Rumble effects.
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World / Level Design
Each level takes place in more of a sandbox arena that contain a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. There is plenty of room for cover that makes the gameplay a lot more dynamic and strategic, however you will often find yourself exhausting most options quickly and scratching your head for a while wondering what’s next.
When looking at the map, you will only see what you have uncovered, meaning that it doesn’t take away from the game’s exploration. There are plenty of secrets to uncover that lead to special pickups, advantageous viewpoints and fun Easter eggs.
I’m not sure whether it was the trend at the time, but Duke Nukem 3D displays the map only in realtime and shows yourself moving in time with your movements. This was my same gripe that I had with DOOM 64 where I would be looking at the map and trying to find where to go, only to be shot down due to my concentration being on the map and not the gameplay. However, Duke Nukem 3D does allow you to have the option of displaying the map as see-through with simple white outlines, so at least they tried to fix it as best they could.
Story / Personality
While there’s not much of a plot happening here in Duke Nukem 3D, it’s overwhelmingly nostalgic for anyone who grew up in the 90s. Hearing Duke Nukem spout off catch phrases like “Bitchin’!” and “Suck it down!” transports you to a time where the SNES vs Genesis console wars were in full swing and marketing was king.
Graphics / Art Direction
You never truly realise how outdated graphics are until you’re able to compare the remaster with the original at a whim. In Duke Nukem 3D, you are able to press down on the D-pad to switch between the original graphics in 1996 to the touched up version from 2016. The difference is astounding, with the original making me feel nauseous after playing for only five minutes. Not only does the remaster look pretty and make full use of dynamic lighting effects, but 3D depth is much more realised. I tested on the old graphics looking up at the tall buildings and they were flat 2D sprites. These have been retouched to have 3D models which makes a world of difference. Therefore, the remaster does what all remasters do: make it look like how you remembered it looking all those years ago.
Music / Sound Design
The game’s soundtrack doesn’t like to take centre stage, rather it focusses more on the surrounding effects with perhaps a reserved melody to set the scene. It’s a welcomed change compared to many other high octane shooters in the same vein that go for the hardcore metal theme to completely overwork your senses. Also if the music was to be too loud, how would we be able to hear all of Duke’s cheesey one-liners?
Final Score: 64%
I’m pretty sure you know what you’re getting into when you buy Duke Nukem 3D in 2020. It’s a burst of nostalgia for anyone who played PC shooters in the 90s and since its release, fans saw Goldeneye 007 in 1997 and four years after that, Halo. It’s a lot of fun to return to, but only, and I mean only, for the sheer novelty factor.
Thank you for checking out our Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour switch review, thank you to Gearbox Publishing for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
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