Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 05/14/02 | Genre: Action
It might not be the long-awaited Duke Nukem Forever, but Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project turns out to be a slam-bam romp filled with Duke's trademark one-liners and plenty of mayhem. This puppy throws you back to Duke's roots as a side-scroller that has been treated to a modern 3-D overhaul, so there's no flat, boring crap but a full-breasted (yep, there's babes to be saved!), action-packed Duke-fest! If you thought Mr. Nukem was only cool when he was splatting pigcops from the first person, think again.
Honestly, I didn't think that I would enjoy a side-scrolling Duke game. I had played the first two Duke games way back when and wasn't all that impressed by them. Gimme a break, the main man only consisted of about 10 or 12 pixels! Duke3d hit me like Doom on steroids. While Doom had you blasting scores of baddies and collecting key cards to advance to the next level, Duke was doing the same thing with wit, style, and by being so far over the top that you couldn't help but laugh. So you see, I didn't really want to go back to that old, boring puke Duke. Boy, was I ever wrong.
With the price of games climbing obscenely these days, DNMP's 25 buck pricetag is well worth the dough. Sure, it's a little short and doesn't offer lots of replayability, but it offers a familiar experience like slipping into your favorite pair of sneakers with enough enhancements to keep you enthralled for the duration. If you dig around in the "goodies" directory on the CD, you'll find a level editor to help extend your gaming pleasure. If you played Duke3d or FPS games in general, you should feel right at home with the assortment of weapons at your disposal (selectable with the traditional number keys) and get a kick out of their devastating effects. Pipebombs, a staple weapon from D3D, allow you to blow open secret areas marked by cracked walls. The game also sports a different take on one of my favorite features from D3D: the ability to squish shrunken enemies underfoot. Here though mutated creatures get reverted back into their original state (rats and so forth), then you can imprint your clod-hoppers in their spine before they can scurry off.
Being a side-scroller, you run into a lot of the things that you would expect to find: lifts, platforms that require huge leaps, and puzzles. Some of the jumps require perfect judgment and timing, or you'll have to work your way back up to your perch and try again. Extra long jumps can be accomplished with a "double jump" (you can hit jump again while already in the air to boost your leap. If you just miss the jump, Duke can grab onto the edge and pull himself up which proves to be very handy in a number of situations. These types of jumps are almost always incorporated into figuring out the way to one of the key cards, so practice, practice, practice.
The game consists of 24 levels broken into 3 part stages with a nice variety of scenery and baddies to complement the game play. You'll start out in NY leaping from building to building knocking out pigcops and the swatpigs. Other venues for mayhem include Chinatown, an underground compound, and a space station. No real complaints in the graphics department; they may not be ground-breaking, but they blow away anything seen so far in the series. Duke Nukem Forever should steal that crown, but that's another review entirely.
One of the more frustrating parts of the game is the lack of being able to attack diagonally. Up, left, and right are the only options for weapons, making it hard to angle a shot against some of the bosses. You can also kick and of course stomp, but the kick leaves something to be desired. If you are moving when you do a kick, the result is a sliding attack that can help gain access to areas where Duke would otherwise not fit.
I should offer a word of warning that the game is definitely for a mature player. There's lots of flying body parts and rough language, so make certain that the kiddies are safely tucked in before warning the game up. There's a parental filter that can be turned on (which I considered using a couple of times), but you'll have to test that feature yourself. If you manage to trick your parents into buying the game for you, be sure to turn the volume down.
Overall, DNMP is a blast. It has a few problem spots that could be improved on, but the game itself has a polished feel to it that draws the player into the game. It didn't offer the slightest hitch or stray flicker, and the game panned from various camera angles without becoming a distraction to the gameplay. If you are a Duke fan with an extra 25 bucks lying around, pick this one up.