Duke Nukem is back to celebrate the 20th anniversary of it’s foray into 3D with a remaster. Gearbox recently announced Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition World Tour which is due for release on Xbox One, PS4 and PC via Steam on the 11th of October with an appropriate retail price of $19.99. With that mouthful of a title you get the original 1996 game as you remember it with additional content and features.
The original designers of Duke Nukem 3D, Allen Blum III and Richard Grey returned to created eight new additional levels for the game whilst the composer for the original game has returned to create a new soundtrack for the game. The voice actor for Duke was also brought back to record new one liners for the character.
The game will include behinds the scenes developer commentary which presumably, can be activated in the options and will play as you progress through the game. This could be a pretty interesting look into the thought process that went into the game all those years ago. Completing the package is the most compelling reason to purchase the game with a new 3D graphics engine created for the game.
You can switch between the original graphics engine and a new 3D one Gearbox has created specifically for this remaster. Disappointingly, it just looks like a sharper and more detailed version of the original at a higher frame rate. It may be 3D but it retains the old art style with objects and characters looking like 2D sprites within 3D space. It would have been a much more interesting remaster had it brought a modern looking 3D graphics engine to toggle between, not unlike what 343 did with Halo Anniversary.
Being able to see Duke 3D within a fully realised 3D world with new models, animations and little additions like physics and particles that don’t affect gameplay would have made for a really cool edition of the game. The switch between the classic graphics and the new one would have been far more dramatic and made for a much more impressive anniversary edition.
That aside, this is a pretty interesting announcement as it shows Gearbox clearly isn’t ready to let the Duke Nukem IP fade away. It begs the question of what their future plans are and whether this remaster will reignite interest from old fans turned off by the widely panned Duke Nukem Forever.
If so, future games could perhaps be based on a very similar engine as this collection and stick within a retro style to make older gameplay mechanics hold up a bit better. Instead of trying to create a modern style 3D world that holds up to scrutiny, an approach like this could potentially be more charming.
Another question this all brings up though is whether Duke Nukem is even relevant these days. Back when Duke was new, it was pushing boundaries. It was edgy, cool, violent in a way other games weren’t to avoid controversy. It helped that the games played pretty well too and when it moved into the realm of 3D with Duke Nukem 3D, people were blown away. Those one liners, the level design, the combat… they all combined to make one of the all time classics.
After a long absence from gaming however, irregardless of Duke Nukem Forever’s reception, Duke’s appeal of old has vanished. That edge has dulled with time and what was once impressive, cool or boundary pushing is anything but these days. With more recent attempts of the latter in Duke Nukem Forever, it’s just downright tasteless. Duke hasn’t grown up with his audience and has become a middle-aged man that never mentally progressed beyond his late teens. It’s not very appealing.
Duke Nukem 3D’s gameplay still holds up well enough for the time it was released in and the new game will likely satisfy people wanting to play an old style shooter or relive the time when this series was still highly regarded but it’s hard not to wonder whether this series can now ever be anything more than a look into times gone by.
Gearbox seem determined to make a go of the IP but unless Duke grows up and changes with the times, future titles will likely fall flat. Nostalgia is only good for so long.
Whatever the case, the 20th anniversary edition of Duke Nukem 3D will be out next month. It’s an iconic game so hopefully the new coat of paint and additional content will be enough to keep people happy for a while. At the very least, it has the best initials of any game in recent memory with DN3D20AEWT. Just rolls off the tongue.