Hail to the king! Duke is back, although not in the way many of us were anticipating. While Duke Nukem Forever takes it's sweet time to complete it's development, went gold last month to kick ass and chew bubble gum. For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of playing a Duke Nukem game, Duke is a no-nonsense, alien ass-kicker. He carries big guns, and spouts one liners with the best of them. He's also very popular with the ladies. Manhattan Project differs from the last Duke game, in that it's not a first person shooter, but rather an console'ish side scroller. Actually, this is how Duke Nukem started out, and the developers are bring Duke back to his roots.
Developed by Sunstorm Interactive, was kind enough to fire off a copy of Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. Although it's a side scroller, think Mario Bros., the game engine is a 3D one. The plot? Well, it is a Duke Nukem game, so you can be sure there are a lot of baddies to kill, and babes to rescue. There are eight missions in the game, with battles raging on the streets of New York, and in the subways. Here's a snippet from their site...
"Duke battles his way across towering skyscraper rooftops and through gritty subway stations on the hunt for power-hungry villain, Mech Morphix. Mutants of every kind are thrown at Duke as he chases down Morphix through eight huge environments and avoids the green slime called GLOPP that is causing all the chaos."
Installation is straightforward, and right off the bat, you got your options on how to setup the graphics. Let's see a console game do that.
There are some additional settings you can configure, depending on your hardware. I'd imagine the majority of you will have a computer capable of playing the game at it's maximum settings.
Visuals and Game Design
Using the Prism3D engine, the game pulls off some impressive visuals. Textures are nicely done, and character models are above average for a platform shooter. It's not the same level as Jedi Knight 2, but there's a nice "cartooney" feeling to them. The most impressive effects are the weapons though. There's some cool dynamic lighting when you fire off the energy weapons.
On our Athlon XP/GeForce 4 setup, the game ran as smooth as butter with everything on. I tried it out on a Pentium III 733/TNT2, and the game was playable with the maximum settings, but we did encounter some stutter when enemies filled the screen. Playing at 800x600 alieviated these issues.
Being a console-type action game, there isn't anything particularly complex about the level design. The level design varies. For the most part, it's pretty obvious where to go, but there were a few times where it felt like I was going in circles. The game saves itself at certain points, but there's no other way of saving the game as far as I can tell. That means if you busted your ass to get to a certain point, and die, you'll have to continue where the game last saved. Action moves left to right (or vice-versa), and top to bottom. There is a zoom feature available, and occasionally, the camera changes overhead, or angled view, but your path is still linear.
Sound was pretty good. The larger weapons have a nice "oomph" to them, and the rock music totally suits the mood of the game. Fans of the original Duke games will be pleased to know that Jon St. John reprises the role of Duke's voice.
I played the game with my keyboard, and it was a little strange. You can program your keys accordingly, but if you have a gamepad, you're better off using that. Some of the jumps are tricky to do with the traditional WASD setup.
Simply put, it's a blast. Being a Duke Nukem game, don't expect too deep a story. The plot is to stop Morphix from controlling New York City, and along the way, you blow up a bunch of mutants, and save as many babes as you can. Despite the comical feel to the graphics, make no mistake, this IS a Duke game. There's plenty of gore, half naked chicks, and classical Duke humour.
You'll start off with a gold plated Desert Eagle, but along the way, you'll add plenty of artillery to Duke's weapon cache. My favorite weapon is the anti-GLOPP gun, which as in previous Duke games, it reverts the mutants back into their primitive form.
There are plenty of secret areas to uncover, and power-ups to gather. Later on in the game, Duke will even pickup a jetpack, although it lasts only a short while before dissapearing. There are plenty of one-liners in the game, and some of them were hilarious.
Lest we forget, the babes. Whenever Duke rescues a damsel in distress, you're treated to a little dance. No doubt, this will set the women's movement back about 30 years, but that's the way it goes whenever a Duke game comes out.
There are 8 levels in the game, all with various scripted events and end bosses. The end bosses are quite challenging, but battles tend to degrade into "blasting everything you got into them". Every level has a number of scripted sequences, such as cars and trains moving back and forth (which you will have to dodge unless you want to end up in the windshield). As with previous Duke Nukem games, there's plenty of secrets to look for. Most of them require some kind of explosive to reveal, and usually contain powerups, such as invincibility and double damage.
A couple of annoying parts of the game (and it's scattered throughout) are the jumping puzzles, and the key finding. I found these areas slowed down the frantic action a lot, but I suppose without these puzzles, the casual gamer will likely finish the game in a day. This brings us to another point, the game is short. I consider myself an average gamer, but I was able to finish the game in less than 6 hours. Granted, I didn't look for every secret, nor did I try to kill every enemy, but if you're the type who likes to wrap things up quickly, this game won't take long to complete.
For those of you anxiously awaiting Duke Nukem Forever, sorry, this is not it. That shouldn't take away points from Manhattan Project though. There isn't much depth, such as character development, and complex subplots. It's a no-nonsense, 3D action side-scroller, and it should provide plenty of fun for a day or two. With no muliplayer capabilities, this game won't take very long to complete for experienced gamers. There's limited replay value, unless you want to go back to find every little secret level in the game.
Manhattan Project should be available everywhere by now, and should fall into the budget category of 25$. Considering the quality of some games that cost more, you can't really go wrong with this one.
Pros: Addictive, easy to pick up, explosions, guns and babes. Duke's one-liners are worth the price of admission alone.
Cons: Very short, some puzzle elements are uninteresting.
Bottom Line: Console action fans should enjoy this game. PC gamers (I'm one of them) might get frustrated with some of the "console" features such as jumping puzzles, and limited saves. Outside of that, I liked the game a lot, but it will be uninstalled now that I finished it.