[NM] Catching Up With Duke Nukem: 20th Anniversary

Duke Nukem 20th Anniversary Edition is the latest re-release of the popular 1996 first person shooter, released by Gearbox Software with a new episode, audio commentary, and a new weapon. If you consider that the game peaked at a whole 320 users on Steam (estimated 15,000 owners total) and immediately plummeted down to just a few dozen in the following month, plus the estimated 140,000 copies sold between the Xbox and Playstation, it’s hard to imagine that Gearbox saw much of a return on their work.

But in considering that the 20th Anniversary Edition replaced the Megaton Edition, making it impossible to buy, and how just about every Duke Nukem related product since Gearbox took over the license (Forever, removing Megaton, pre-order DLC on Bulletstorm) seems to be met with disappointment, I had to have an answer to the question that has plagued me since the game’s launch: Would Gearbox put in the most basic of support and fix the game’s end boss?

The answer is no: They haven’t.

The 20th Anniversary edition of Duke Nukem 3D has numerous issues, but the one that stood out from the rest during my play time was the boss encounter in the new episode. The final boss of the game is the Cycloid Incinerator, who makes use of flamethrowers, spawns firefly troopers, and can shoot napalm that remains on the floor and causes environmental hazards. He’s also completely broken, as the boss is not just only capable of very close to low-distance combat, but he stands still and fires his weapon every time the player shoots him with something.

For all but the least competent or most daring of gamers, you are guaranteed to win the fight without ever taking a single hit. The game also doesn’t play to the boss’ strengths by placing you in a small confined space, but rather gives an open field to fight on, a reminder that this fight is equally poor game design as it is substandard programming. You can run a whole lot faster than the Cycloid boss can, and since he’ll willingly stand still from a hundred feet away and uselessly fire his flamethrower at you, there isn’t any danger at all in the fight. In fact, he’s more of a danger to the flying pig cops who fly into his line of fire and are, in turn, more of an actual threat to the player.

But don’t take my word for it, check out the clip below.

Gearbox has had the Duke Nukem license for seven years, during which they’ve managed to release Duke Nukem Forever, the work on which was mostly completed by 3D Realms, and Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary Edition, a re-release of a game with most of the work done by 3D Realms. The company confirmed in 2015 that a new Duke Nukem title was in development, noting that it was in early concept and may not ever see release.

The Cycloid Incinerator is a direct model rip of the Cycloid Emperor, a color-swapped, lazily programmed, barely functioning recreation of an entity that was mostly the work of 3D Realms, that appears to have been rushed to market with no intent on fixing down the line. In a way, he nearly perfectly represents Gearbox’s handling of the Duke Nukem IP. Perhaps Gearbox should hire this guy, who evidently managed to code a better functioning boss than Duke’s own veteran programmers.

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