Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project

If you’ve ever clicked on my profile here on Ready Up, you’ll have noticed that my favourite games of all time list includes three titles, one of which is Duke Nukem. I’ve loved the Duke since before I was even legally old enough to play his games, and I love him even to this day (legal issues aside). With Manhattan Project flying totally under my radar back in 2002 on PC while I was busy drowning my Playstation 2 in drool, I nearly burst a capillary when I saw a Duke Nukem title I’d never experienced before appear on Xbox Live Arcade. Unlike Forever, it did not disappoint.

Manhattan Project is certainly in a league of it’s own for the Duke Nukem franchise, transforming the gameplay from a “3D” first person shooter to a non-linear 2.5D side scrolling shooter. Your goal is to release all the ‘babes’ from their shielded prisons in typical Duke fashion, kill everything living in sight, and diligently search the level for the keycard which will open the forcefield to the exit. I know it sounds uninspiring, but when I reached my second keycard locked shield and Duke casually quipped “Mother F@#*ing Keycards” I couldn’t help but loose all feelings of mediocrity for the gameplay just because it was a Duke Nukem game.

Duke Nukem is what is selling this game. There are plenty of 2.5D shooters currently out there on the market for anybody to choose instead of Manhattan Project, but they will lack the distinctive style that only Duke Nukem can provide. The pigs in police suits, the over-the-top boss battles, mutating evil rats, crocodiles, and cockroaches, along with the cheesy yet attitude dripping one liners are why people will be drawn to this game. This element is perfect, ignore the fact that the gameplay genre has changed and you’re right back in the 90’s with all the misogyny, swearing, and pixelated blood and guts you could hope for.

You have unlimited continues so you won’t be left foaming at the mouth with anger too much, and with the non-linear approach of the level design it’s much more than holding the analogue stick to the right while occasionally tapping the right trigger to remove obstacles. Even though I did find myself getting rather lost on some of the levels, I never found it frustrating enough to lose ambition to rescue that last poor scantily clothed babe before steam-rolling my way to the exit

If I were to point out any faults in the game (and as this is a review, I probably should), it would be the graphics and the checkpoints. The graphics were acceptable for the original 2002 PC version, but when trying to compete against the current array of XBLA 2.5D games out there it may fall a little too pixelated for some tastes. The checkpoints, too, this is a rather glaring error at times. When you cross a checkpoint your health and ammo are saved, and should you die before the next checkpoint you will go back to that save state with the same health and ammo. This lead to an incredibly difficult boss fight as I was forced to take down a giant mutated cockroach on top of a moving train with my health rating in the red and only the sole of my boot. It’s a niggling point, but I ran through several checkpoints with similar consequences and one time even had to overwrite my previous checkpoint by going through the level select screen.

The faults though, are small, and overall Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project is everything you’d expect from the franchise. If you weren’t part of the Nukem Revolution, you may wish to start on one of the classic FPS games, but for anybody after another dose to slowly erase any trace in their memory that Forever was even announced, or somebody who really hates pigs – I can honestly vouch that you shall not regret it.







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