“Don’t get your panties in a bunch”
Whilst we all sit and wait with anticipation for Duke Nukem Forever, should it ever come to light, 3D Realms decided to give everyone a taste of classic Duke action in the form of Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. Originally released years ago for the PC, this game has now come to XBLA for a whole new generation of gamers to enjoy Dukes chauvinistic one liners and tough as nails demeanor.
A side scrolling platform action game, players are charged with trudging around each of the levels, looking for keycards and rescuing damsels in distress. These levels are strewn with mutant pig cops, exploding aerial spycams and all manner of other bizarreness with orders to stop our hero. Brandishing his weapon in a manly fashion, Duke can take out these adversaries in a heroic manner.
Amongst the shooting and jumping from platform to platform, there are a few simple puzzles, mostly revolving around finding a route through a given area, or finding a certain item. Nothing too taxing really, although it can be time consuming. This is especially so for finding the keycard required to finish the level. There are parts of the background that can be destroyed, thus opening hidden areas. These are not easy to spot at times and you can be damn sure that the keycard is hidden in the one area that you can’t find. This can lead to a lot of repetition on the levels, as they are not linear and can require a huge amount of exploring.
The boss battles that appear every so often are suitably epic and impressive, at least to look at. Actually playing through them becomes a simple matter of identifying the weak spot and shooting it repeatedly. Once the method of dispatching these bosses becomes apparent, they do not hold much challenge.
Sadly, it seems that Duke is showing his age. To look at the game, it is obviously old. The environments are lacking the polish that we have come to expect from our games and the animations are jerky and unrealistic. Even the “assets” of the young ladies that Duke saves, whilst satisfyingly jiggly, are rather unimpressive.
Much like the oneliners that Duke constantly spouts, expect a certain amount of repetitiveness from the level designs. As I already said, there will be a lot of wandering through the levels, looking for the required items to progress. But the levels themselves lack variety, making the job even harder. There are different themes within the levels, but the basic structure is very similar throughout. Occasionally a jetpack may appear to spice things up a bit, but even that only adds a brief break from the monotony.
I love Duke Nukem and, despite its shortcomings and the fact that it has not aged well, I found myself enjoying the game and even giggling at the corny oneliners. I do think this is due to the nostalgia though, rather than due to this being a good game. The older gamers out there will certainly get some kicks from stepping into the combat boots of Duke again. But gamers who have never experienced the wonderfully sexist world of Duke Nukem may well be left wondering “WTF”