There is no gaming icon from the 90s more resilient than Duke Nukem. The venerable shooter that was Duke Nukem 3D showed up in 1996 and improved on the fantastic foundation left behind by Doom. Since then, it has sold perfectly well on its own merits for over twenty years. It's so beloved, fans were even able to forget the horrendous atrocity that was Duke Nukem Forever. The popularity of the series has even changed from blatant adoration for the flat-top sporting ball of hypermasculine machismo to a more quaint nostalgia for gaming's more experimental and blatantly juvenile days. This is the game that featured gratuitous softcore nudity, bathroom humor, and freeze rays after all.
To mark the anniversary of the game's release in 2016, Gearbox released World Tour, a spruced-up edition of Duke 3D with an additional campaign and some quality of life improvements. Now this celebration of Duke has made its way from PC to the Nintendo Switch, packing some extra features along the way. New features that help enhance the experience on the unique hybrid console... for the most part.
First, it cannot be understated that, while the original levels of Duke Nukem 3D are still here, the expansions from the Megaton Edition are still absent. You can't win everything. Thankfully, the same studio that recently helped get the Doom games to run on consoles, Nerve Entertainment, assisted Gearbox and developer Sonka with this port. Everything runs as smoothly as it should, and the default control scheme feels completely natural.
In fact, during my stress tests of the game, Duke Nukem 20th Anniversary World Tour manages to avoid issues that still plague the Switch ports of Doom. Going from docked to portable mode is completely painless with no weird freezes or input delays. The sound mixing is crisp and punchy, save for some iffy quality on Duke's new voice lines. The online multiplayer, which supports up to eight players in both co-op campaign mode and competitive Dukematch also runs really well. There's even offline support with bots and custom button remapping, which are always welcome features in console ports.
My problems with the Switch version of Duke Nukem mostly boils down to how its new features are implemented. The Switch-exclusive HD Rumble, is perfectly fine, but the Switch also brings motion controls on board. Simply put, the sensitivity of the motion controls are just too unwieldy to use right. Coupled with how clunky the Joycon controllers can feel when it comes to FPS gameplay, I wound up shutting off the motion controls within minutes just to save myself a headache.
There are options to reduce the sensitivity to a more comfortable level, but it still just lead to me missing lined up shots on alien monsters half the time. A compliment to PC twitch aiming this is not. On the plus side, a simple flick of the motion controllers does make Duke engage his mighty boot, which works just fine.
The rewind feature is hit and miss. Whenever you die, you can warp backward as far as you like and pick up right where you left off. It can be two seconds before the pig cop shot your head off or all the way back to the very start of the level to grab a secret you missed. It's a great compromise from the old habit of quick saving and quick loading from before, and works well.
However, choosing where you respawn means you're fiddling with a simple time bar like what you might find of a DVD. With basic console controls, you only have so much fidelity on where exactly you can rewind to. This becomes especially frustrating in much longer levels where you can have north of half an hour of play time to flip through.
The only other oddity that sticks out in the Switch version of Duke Nukem 20th Anniversary World Tour is loading screens. Loading up a level can take roughly fifteen seconds to get going, almost twenty on average for online competitive multiplayer. On the surface, that seems absurd considering the hardware the Switch has and how old the engine running Duke Nukem is.
Then again, it's a miracle that the game juggles so many balls as it is. Between the rewind feature and the ability to instantly switch between two different versions of the game, classic and True 3D, it's a testament to just how well the developers really understand their own tech. Once those loading screens are done it's little more than a tiny road bump, a minor hitch you won't notice once the action starts.
All in all, the Switch version of Duke Nukem 20th Anniversary World Tour is a great translation of what has made Duke the alien-blasting, one-liner spouting, supermacho manchild we all know and love. Some of the additions are hit and miss, but in the end you're still saving the world and getting the girls at the end, and that's just the way Duke likes it.
TechRaptor reviewed Duke Nukem 20th Anniversary World Tour on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.