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 Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project Reviewed by Christian 'Fraust' Wilson 

Developer:
Publisher:
Release Date: 5/29/02


Click for larger imageRemember the good old days of PC gaming? Days when some of the most popular games were written out of your neighbor's basement in his spare time? Days when action games had you running left and right on your screen blasting anything that moved? I remember those days like they were yesterday. Among some of the best games of that time were id Software's Commander Keen series and Apogee's Duke Nukem games. Most people are probably most familiar with Duke's third adventure in Duke Nukem 3D. The game recieved great praise and put you in the first person view of Duke as he blasted his way through aliens and saved the world once again. However, those of us who are old schoolers remember Duke most for his first two games. These were side scrollers that proved to be a lot of fun in their day and I'm sure I'm not the only one wishing there were more games like them today. Well, our prayers were finally answered as Arush Games has released Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. Duke:MP brings players back to the side scroller style gameplay, but still uses today's 3D technology to make it look up to date. How well does Duke make the transition back to a side scroller?


 Storyline

Click for larger imageThe storyline is pretty simple, but effective. Mech Morphix has created a radioactive sludge known as GLOPP that mutates living creatures in nightmarish beasts. After a successful test on his own minions, he releases his slime onto New York. Morphix intends to use it to take over the world, just like any good super villian! Thankfully, GLOPP can be also used to stop the menace with the use of special weapons. Who can save the city, and the rest of the world, from Mech Morphix? Yes, that's right, Duke Nukem (how did you guess)!

Duke will travel through eight episodes, each with three levels a piece. He'll use a variety of weapons, some familiar, some new. While trying to take out Mech Morphix, Duke will need to diffuse some GLOPP bombs throughout the city. Morphix went one step further by strapping a poor, helpless babe to each bomb. You must save these babes in each level in order to continue on. Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project truly sets the feeling of a classic 2D sidescroller.


 Graphics

Click for larger imageWhen first hearing about Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, I had to wonder how this game was going to look. Side scrollers like this haven't been done in quite some time and I was curious, as well as worried, to see how it would turn out. The screenshots looked promising, and when I got the game installed, I was happy with the results. Characters aren't extremely detailed like today's high budget, headlining games, but they aren't horrible either. The lighting effects are good and add lots of color to the environment. The game moves at a brisk pace as far as framerate goes. The game rarely breaks down in framerate, and when it does, it's barely noticable.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project looks like a great mix of 2D style gameplay in a 3D world. The levels may keep Duke on a side scrolling plane, but that does not mean he's limited to walking in a completely straight line. The levels have walkways that curve, different hallways off from the beaten path, and twists into different directions all together. It really mixes things up a bit, and eliminates the problem of walking back and forth constantly. The levels look good, but a bit plain. Don't get me wrong, it is not bad looking at all, it's just that there seems to be a lack of detail in the environment. In the first episode, for example, you are jumping across buildings and it all looks the same. I suppose there's not a whole lot you could do for an instance like that as many buildings in the city look similar to begin with, but even still, focusing on a small part of the game world, it would have been nice to see some more details or decorations in the maps. However, most of the time you'll be concentrating more on blowing pig cops to pieces with your pipe bombs and guns, so it's not that big of a big deal.


 Sound

Click for larger imageDuke's looking good this time around, but how does he sound? Well, you'll be more than happy to know that the Duke quotes are back in full force here. I found myself laughing at several of the comments. Many of the comments are corny, or just old, but maybe I'm just a sucker for those kinds of comments. I still crack up when I save a babe and Duke goes "Hey, I know this fancy place where you put quarters into the bed" in exchange for saving her. Duke actually talks a lot more in this game than I remember previously. It seems that Duke just can't keep his mouth shut these days. I think it's a good thing, it seems the game light hearted, though I'm sure it would begin to annoy some people.

If there's anything about this game I don't like, it's the music. It's not bad, per say, but it could have been much better. I felt the music was rather boring, and most of the time, just ignored it was even there. I did take notice of the music one time and said to myself "Hey, I think I've heard this before". After listening to it closer, it seemed very close to a POD song that I always hear on the radio. The only song from the game I really enjoyed was the Duke theme song, now done in a hard rock sound. It's not the version that Megadeth played on the Duke Nukem soundtrack a few years back, however, it is just as blood pumping and fun to listen to.


 Gameplay

Click for larger imageI'll be blunt. The gameplay in Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project is very straight forward and it's not something many people will come back for after they've finished the game. This is a tribute of sorts to the original Duke titles, and it carries similar game styles. Personally though, I was highly entertained while playing the game, and really, that's all that matters. This game is fun! Running through these levels taking out anything that moves, collecting the key and finding the exit has been done so many times, but it still does the job just fine. In a day where game tend to be very complex, it's nice to play a game that lets you relax and just worry about finishing the level. Duke picks up health and ammo just like previous games in the series, however, there's a great new twist. Duke's health is measured as his EGO. It goes down when Duke takes more damage, but he actually will gain more EGO when he kills his enemies, saves a babe, etc. I found that taking enemies out with the mighty boot gets you more EGO than killing the enemy with a gun, so it gave me more reason to kick the monsters to death.

Click for larger imageWhen you finish this game, is there much to come back for? Not really. You'll keep playing for some arcade action, but there's not a whole lot to look forward to playing it over and over. There's no multiplayer mode, but I didn't expect one anyway. To put it simply, how much fun would you have in a Dukematch where you are confined to sidescroller environments? I think that would take away from the experience, if anything. I suppose a cooperative mode would be possible, but lets face it, there's only one Duke, and he always works alone. The game does include a level editor, however. I tinkered with it, but I'm pretty rusty when it comes to making 3D maps. It doesn't look too difficult, but it does look very powerful. I'm sure you'll be able to download homemade maps and probably even user mods. This would definitely make the Duke experience much longer.

How is the control in Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, you ask? Actually, it's quite good! Controls are pretty basic and you'll have them mastered in no time at all. I only had a little difficulty with the pipe bombs, but once I figured it out, it was not a problem. I first played this game with my old trusty Microsoft Sidewinder Gamepad. I was a bit disappointed in the control at first. It felt unresponsive and I was hoping things would be better with the keyboard. Luckily, I was right. The keyboards controls were dead on, and was still easy to play. I did not have another gamepad to try out, but I think my gamepad problems were the cause of the pad itself, not the game.


 Final Thoughts

Click for larger imageDuke Nukem: Manhattan Project is a great nod to the old school side scrollers. It plays like a classic game, it looks like the new games, and it's just plain old fun all around. At a price tag of $24.99, you really can't go wrong. We are still waiting for Duke Nukem Forever, but this is a nice game to hold us off at least a little longer. I would have liked some more detail in the levels, and some better music, but the pure fun, the funny Duke comments, and the great control are enough to balance it all out. Now get out there and help Duke save the world, yet again!






Pros:
  • Great graphics on top of a sidescrolling environment.
  • Excellent controls.
  • Includes a level editor.
  • Low price tag.
  • It's a Duke Nukem game!
Cons:
  • Levels could use some more detail.
  • Music is sub-par overall.
  • Gameplay may be too simple to keep some people entertained.
Overall:

Graphics:
Storyline:
Gameplay:
Sound:
Value:
Total: 7.9


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