Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition is a special edition re-release of Duke Nukem 3D. For customers who already owned Duke Nukem 3D prior to the re-release, the Plutonium PAK was sold as a patch that would upgrade existing versions of Duke Nukem 3D to the Atomic Edition. The "Atomic Edition" and "Plutonium PAK" titles are often used interchangeably.
The Atomic Edition corresponds to versions 1.4 and 1.5 of Duke Nukem 3D, both of which were released in 1996. The Atomic Edition was eventually followed by the 20th Anniversary Edition in 2016.
The Atomic Edition and Plutonium PAK (both version 1.4) supplanted version 1.3d of Duke Nukem 3D on November 27, 1996. On December 12, 1996, another patch, this one unnamed, was released to upgrade version 1.4 of the game to version 1.5, but this merely fixed bugs and did not introduce any new content. Both versions 1.4 and 1.5 are officially known as the Atomic Edition.
Atomic Edition box art
Plutonium PAK box art
Main Article: The Birth
The Atomic Edition adds a new fourth episode known as The Birth. Levels in the new episode were designed by Allen H. Blum III, Richard "Levelord" Gray, Randy Pitchford, Keith Schuler, and George Broussard. None of these levels were created from scratch. In the 20th Anniversary Edition developer commentary, Schuler explains (and Blum agrees):
"I don’t think I did either [ XXX-Stacy or Critical Mass ] from scratch. I mean, that was how Plutonium PAK worked, right? It was all a bunch of content that either didn’t make it into the original game or, you know, had been started but not finished. And so we just took all those scraps, and we finished them up."
All of the added levels relied heavily on materials from maps that had been partly completed or scrapped. For example, the level Derelict was nearly finished and fully playable in the December 1994 prototype, making it one of the oldest levels in the game.
Levels in The Birth include:
- It's Impossible, designed by Pitchford
- Duke-Burger, designed by Blum
- Shop-N-Bag, designed by Broussard and Gray note
- Babe Land, designed by Blum
- Pigsty, designed by Pitchford and Gray note
- Going Postal, designed by Blum
- XXX-Stacy, designed by Schuler and Gray note
- Critical Mass, designed by Schuler and Gray note
- Derelict, designed by Blum
- The Queen, designed by Pitchford
- Area 51, a secret level designed by Pitchford
In the game's files, three non-episodic maps are included: _SE.MAP, _ST.MAP, and _ZOO.MAP. These maps were meant to demonstrate the capabilities of the Build engine and to showcase new content. The demo maps are only playable when imported as user maps.
Main Article: Enemies in Duke Nukem 3D
The Atomic Edition introduces three new enemies:
- Protector Drones, which can jump, slash, and shrink the player
- Pig Cop Tanks, which are Pig Cops mounted inside miniature tanks
- A new final boss, the Alien Queen
Pig Cop Tank
Main Article: Expander (DN3D)
The Atomic Edition adds a new weapon known as the Expander. The Expander is an extension of the Shrinker and uses the same weapon number slot. When either the Shrinker or Expander are obtained, both weapons are immediately usable. However, neither weapon can be used until the corresponding ammo is obtained. The Expander deals incremental damage to enemies, but once an enemy's health is reduced to zero, the enemy will inflate and explode, dealing damage to nearby enemies as well.
Other new features
Improved CON scripting
The Atomic Edition includes numerous improvements to the CON scripting language used for making mods. For instance, new enemies and items can be created without needing to overwrite the existing ones.
- Authorship of some of the levels in The Birth has been disputed. Richard "Levelord" Gray partially contributed to the episode, but for reasons that are unclear, he was never officially credited for his work on any of the levels. The degree to which the various developers deserve credit for each of the levels remains controversial. (See The Birth#Disputed authorship for more information.)