Duke Nukem has already made a cameo appearance on the Switch via Bulletstorm, but this 20th Anniversary Edition of his finest hour is his first proper showing on the console.
A port of 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D, this Anniversary Edition is already four years old – making it technically a 24th Anniversary Edition. But let’s not split hairs, as fans of old-school first person shooter bombast will be very happy to learn that the game still holds up pretty well. For the most part.
Developed in the now archaic Build engine, it’s hard to underestimate how much Duke Nukem changed the first person shooter landscape in the mid-nineties. Although it boasted flat 2D enemies it had something its rivals didn’t – personality.
Gone were the dark, foreboding, yet often identikit corridors of Doom and Quake – and in their place were porno cinemas, space stations, and film sets. Although basic by today’s standards, the level of interaction in the environments was a massive step forward.
At its best Duke Nukem levels pack in more incident and intrigue than many a po-faced modern shooter. One early level for instance sees you break out of death row, dodge rooms full of lasers, venture through a sewer, and finally escape in a sub.
Even the new chapter added for this edition isn’t a disgrace compared to the four existing ones, with some engaging new locations. The only major downside is the addition of the Firefly Trooper, who is so incredibly frustrating and jarring when compared to the rest of the enemy roster it almost feels like nobody tested the annoying blighter before putting him into the game.
Frustration is definitely cooled thanks to the rewind feature though, which allows you to skip back however much you want once you’ve been killed. Although it feels a little bit like cheating on occasion, it’s a more than welcome addition that makes the game much more enjoyable overall. Especially as you find yourself gunned down by another hit-scan enemy you couldn’t see.
Other than this, the addition of gyroscope aiming is welcome for this Switch iteration. It’s a shame that the Megaton edition – with the inclusion of a lot more Duke DLC – couldn’t be ported across due to licensing issues, but this version is certainly the best we’ll get for now.
We noticed no performance issues while playing the game while in handheld or docked mode either. So although elements of Duke Nukem 3D haven’t aged gracefully, the sheer sense of fun and often inspired level design it possesses shines through. This is a well put together and smartly priced piece of gaming history. To misquote Duke – go get some.