Duke Nukem has had a somewhat turbulent past. Even in the 90s, it was a constant uphill struggle for our chauvinistic protagonist, having to compete with shooter behemoths like Quake and DOOM. In more recent times, he's attained notoriety as being overwhelmingly naff thanks to the awful experience that is Duke Nukem Forever. World Tour celebrates the 20th anniversary of Duke Nukem 3D, but does it help to shake or substantiate people's negative assumptions of this once great gaming icon?
Duke Nukem 3D: World Tour, as the 'World Tour' subtitle might suggest, takes us around the world with Mr Nukem, as he uses and abuses baddies and just about anyone else throughout locales like London, Amsterdam, and even Egypt. World Tour contains the four original episodes of 90s classic Duke Nukem 3D and one brand new episode – containing eight individual levels – which has actually been knocked up by some of the original game designers. The fan service continues with the return of the original composer and the original Duke voice actor – although his heart seems to be in it a little less than the designers!
The hand of the original designers can really be felt, with the new experiences still possessing the kind of attention to detail that popularised the Nukem adventures of old (beyond his bombastic attitude, of course!). There's a heap of interactive elements in almost every area, and the varying degree of pointlessness to each environmental interaction will incite groans and chuckles in equal measure – the occasional interactive loo being a standout.
World Tour has been plunged into the modern gaming era thanks to a bit of work under the hood, mainly an ample engine boost. You'll have the option to toggle a renderer that beefs the surrounding geometry from the original look to a truer 3D feel. This is a really neat addition, as old Duke Nukem just doesn't feel right on modern TVs – often giving us a light dose of motion sickness thanks to the strange tracking and blunt visuals. The new renderer alleviates this, making things look far more up to standard for the PS4's architecture with a smoother look and sleeker tracking.
The addition of a director's commentary helps to provide some semblance of context for some of the more ridiculous situations Nukem finds himself in, and at times provides really interesting titbits of design information, but it's not a feature that will sway your decision when picking this up. More often than not, the statements feel more anecdotal rather than informative and do little to improve your overall experience.
Gameplay is, in a nutshell, very hard (and not in the 'git gud' kind of way before you lynch our inability in the comment section). Be it awfully mean design or simple laziness, enemies seem to spawn in ludicrously challenging patterns, but that's always been part of Nukem's charm, and you can't argue that the overall feel is better than ever in this re-release. A flamethrower has even been added to the combat mix and continues the satisfactory weight Duke Nukem weaponry seems to carry – you've just got to stay alive long enough to enjoy it.
The jokes and mockeries that Nukem became well-known for are so out of place in today's society that they're just odd and unnecessary and do nothing beyond making us feel uncomfortable. Something else that makes us feel uncomfortable is World Tour's price point. Clocking in at a whopping £15.99/$19.99, this release feels like it's priced itself out the market before it's already begun, and makes this version feel less and less like a homage and more like a quick cash grab for developers Gearbox.
If you're a die-hard Duke devotee, then World Tour is probably your holy grail, bringing the original onto new hardware with some gimmicky yet functional additions, delivering the most definitive Nukem romp yet. For the Duke Nukem virgins among you, though, it's probably best putting this back on the shelf to wait for a drastic price drop. Although it's nowhere near the mess that Duke Nukem Forever was, this massive heap of fan service will fail to resonate with those unaccustomed to the breed of shooter found back in the 90s.