is how you design a level pack
That 3D Realms was able to produce this mission pack while designing another game is either a testament to their tireless productivity or their desire to keep the cash machine oiled and firing on all five cylinders. Considering the high quality of Duke Nukem: Atomic Edition, I wouldn't begrudge them if it was the latter. A good game is a good game no matter why it was made. Add-ons/level packs/expansions for FPS games tend to suck, and I'll admit I was pleasantly surprised by this one.
Duke Nukem: Atomic Edition is the first of several mission packs for Duke Nukem 3D, two official and three unofficial. It contains eleven new levels, more gore, and more retarded humour. Unlike the plot-less mission packs that would follow it you've got a definite goal in this game: aliens have landed (again) and you must eliminate their queen. Your journey takes you through the familiar suburbs of LA, to an amusement park, a top-secret military base, and eventually the alien mother ship.
Like 99% of mission packs, Atomic Edition does absolutely nothing original. That's the whole idea. It's for hardcore Duke fans that want more of what the original game gave them, and on that level Atomic Edition succeeds perfectly. It's obvious there have been some staff changes at 3D Realms (the art style is quite different) but the gameplay and level design is of just a high a standard as the original's. In the Duke Nukem 3D tradition you have to rely on lateral thinking as well as shooting to get past some of the tougher puzzles, and there are enough secrets, easter eggs and other surprises (including one awesome secret level) to make it worth replaying even after you've beaten the game.
There are two new monsters, a pig cop driving a Gatling-equipped ice-cream truck (I swear didn’t make that up) and a not very well disguised rip-off from the Aliens
films who shoots shrink rays. Speaking of shrink rays, your shrink gun has been modified to include a microwave emitter that allows you to expand
enemies instead of just shrinking them. It's all great fun; in a retarded, IQ-damaging way.
And unlike the often-uneven difficulty of Duke Nukem 3D, this level pack is perfectly balanced, with fair, even placement of weapons and powerups (although the game's signature jetpack is conspicuously missing). During the final levels the difficulty really ramps up, but in a satisfying way. The boss fight (it takes place underwater) is easily the best one in the game and showcases 3D Realms' ability to design creative and fun levels.
Things aren't as fresh the second time around, and it's kind of hard to recommend Atomic Edition over one of the other excellent Build games (Blood, Shadow Warrior and Redneck Rampage). Not a criticism, an observation.
Some of the levels feel kind of lame and contrived. Part of Duke Nukem 3D's appeal was how all the levels were themed on wacky and unusual locations, places you wouldn't normally see in an FPS game. But it is possible to go overboard. Amusement park levels are cool. Sushi restaurant levels are cool. Strip club levels are awesome. But levels themed off grocery stores, burger joints, and post offices? It's like playing the FPS version of The Sims.
The Bottom Line
Great FPS action and a worthy instalment in the Duke Nukem canon. Whatever else it does, it makes vanilla Duke Nukem 3D completely redundant.