Reviews From The Backroom: Duke Nukem - Manhattan Project
The Duke Nukem games have explored just about every aspect of the action genre available. From the side-scrolling platformers of the 1990's to the almost legendary FPS Duke Nukem 3D, and crossing several smaller games in recent years all leading up to the "Modern" Duke Nukem Forever, they've used just about every trick, mechanic, or trope in their designs and gameplay. Unfortunately, the results are very mixed, with the most recent releases being among the least acclaimed in the series.
One of the more recent titles was Duke Nukem - Manhattan Project, a 2.5D shooter that attempted to merge the gameplay of the old DN titles with the story-line continuity of the more recent titles in 2002.
The story revolves around Duke trying to hunt down Dr. Morphix, a mad scientist who's using an army of mutated creatures created from radioactive G.L.O.P.P. to try and take over Manhattan.
While several characters are seemingly recognizable from previous titles, such as Dr. Morphix appearing to be Dr. Proton from the original titles and Pig Cops from Duke 3D, Manhattan Project is considered a stand-alone title in the franchise in an attempt by 3D Realms to prevent story-line clashes with Duke Nukem Forever.
The game takes Duke through several key areas of New York, such as the skyline and Chinatown, and while the first several levels feature detailed environments with large, beautiful backdrops, the rest of the game devolves into several iterations of sewer levels or industrial areas, taking any semblance of variety and replacing it with gray/brown copy-pasted environments. This also leads us to the main issue with DN:MP, the overall design.
While the first several areas spanning the New York Skyline and the streets of Chinatown are seemingly reminiscent of the original Duke Nukem titles, with interesting platforming puzzles and challenges, this good track of level design doesn't last long. With the limited movement options provided by the 2.5D side-scrolling scheme, level variety quickly reaches its peak in DN:MP; with later levels featuring loads of back-tracking, door/babe/key hunting, over-used combat, frustratingly over-used platform challenges, and pathetic puzzles.
But Duke Nukem isn't just about the puzzles and platforming, it's all about Guns! Blood! Explosions! Babes!
You're still going to be disappointed.
The guns available in other Duke titles were imaginative and fun. From alien rifles that could shoot fire and rockets, shrink-rays, 4-barrel shotguns; all of them were a blast to use. In Manhattan Project, you get 7 very formulaic guns: a pistol, a shotgun, a machine-gun, pipe-bombs, a rocket launcher, and a couple of useless energy weapons.
Even using these weapons is a task to be done. While enemies are unable to take damage while they are off-screen, they can still attack OR get ready to attack. By the time you get close enough for them to be in view so they can take damage, they've already attacked you. While the health (or Ego) counter goes up every time you kill an enemy, their attacks deal far more damage, making each level in essence an endurance challenge rather than a challenge of the player's skill. This is compounded by the fact that, rather than have enemies with interesting attacks or variety, they are instead given insane amounts of health and are spammed throughout every level.
The only time you see any difference in the enemy is when you encounter the boss at the end of each specific area. While there are two or three truly unique bosses, the majority of them are just attack-spamming enemies with boosted health. The few that ARE unique have such a hard set pattern to them that they could be defeated while asleep.
Duke Nukem - Manhattan Project is another one of those games that looks good on paper, but ultimately fails in execution. Yes, it could have been great, but with lazy design, poor angles on challenge, and poor combat, it's nothing but a large grind that just frustrates more than it entertains.
Save your money.
"Let's Play" Extra!
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