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Duke Nukem: The Manhattan Project
  • Windows 98/ME/2000/XP with a Pentium 3 500Mhz or greater
  • 64MB RAM, DirectX 8.1 compatible 8MB 2xAGP 3D card or greater
  • DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card or greater
  • Supports joysticks/joypads with force feedback
  • Official website:

It's time to kick-ass and chew bubblegum...

11 years ago marked the birth of possibly the most egotistical video game hero ever: Duke Nukem. His sideways-scrolling platform antics were typical of video games of that era - blocky and basic, with somewhat ear-piercing sound. That didn't stop people from enjoying the game of course, and Duke's popularity spread to the sequel, where he received a revamp and yet another mission to destroy the enemies of mankind (or womankind, to be more specific). It wasn't until the third incarnation of Duke's legacy that things really got going, though.

Duke Nukem 3D set the standard for action shooters, what with his almighty ego matched only by his desire for voluptuous females, the game soared to number one in most player's collections for quite some time. The ability to fight aliens in and above cities while saving the odd babe now and then appealed to most people, including myself!

But, that's all in the past. Duke Nukem 3D has all but disappeared from most shelves, and it can now be found in the bargain bin of most retail outlets. What was needed was a real injection of 'Nukem to get the public back on track of those alien scum. No longer do the babes of the world need fear alien assault, for Duke is back and he's badder than ever!

...and i'm all out of gum.

The fourth game in the series is labelled 'Duke Nukem: The Manhattan Project', and as you might guess, the focus of the game is on New York and the impending disaster that only Duke can prevent. You see, Mech Morphix has perfected GLOPP, a slimy radioactive plasma that morphs living organisms into grotesque beasts, hell-bent on destruction. Naturally he had to unleash it on a large American city, the very same one that Mr. Nukem is currently residing in. After interrupting an award ceremony, Duke foils the attack on the mayor and follows the pigcops (yes, they're back!) to find out just who is behind it all. And this is where the player steps in.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project (abbreviated to DNMP from now on) takes the player through eight episodes consisting of three parts each. Each episode requires Duke to work his way through, rescuing babes and grabbing keycards to clear the path ahead. Yup, that old chesnut of go-here-get-that-bring-it-here returns in the third side-scroller in the Nukem series. It may sound like any other platform adventure, but believe me, I use the term 'platform adventure' in the loosest possible sense. Duke isn't restricted to just two dimensions, his world is totally 3D, and you will begin to realise this when you first see him turn corners, edge along curved walkways and leap over chasms. You see, you don't just run left/right and jump up and down, you can go in and out. Admittedly you can only do it at certain points, but it really feels like you're playing a 3D game.

As you might be aware, platform games are known for their simplicity. They do not need, or have, as many controls as flight simulators, or as advanced AI as the latest 3D deathmatch game. Indeed, the focus of the game is lots of enemies that are relatively easy to kill, in large numbers. The control options in DNMP seem to have been designed quite well, what with the support for keyboard and joystick, and the minimal of keys/buttons required to play. There are eight buttons, two that change weapon, so in reality you don't need a vast array of buttons to find the optimal solution. Just bind your controls, and play! I do however recommend a joypad - I myself use a Playstation-esque pad, and it's perfect. You can even have force-feedback if you so desire, but if you consider Duke's habit of blowing things up, that might not be a good idea!

As for the responsiveness of Duke himself, well it couldn't be better. He has a large array of actions and there's no delay or 'lock' of controls if you issue him several commands quickly. You don't need ninja-like reactions to play the game, but if you do have them, Duke can accomodate. After all, he is a hero.

After getting used to Mr. Nukem's controls, you'll find the next thing you'll pay attention to is the level design. There are a lot of things Duke can interact with - explosive barrels, switches, lifts, doors etc, and there are scripted events on top of that. It's not your ordinary platform game, there are elements of Tomb Raider and even Max Payne in it. Duke is flexible, and you will have to put him through his paces constantly if he is to survive!
Duke's well being is represented by ego, a unique 'health-bar' replacement, which fits perfectly with the theme of the game. Each enemy killed will boost Duke's ego by a small amount, and if it goes through the roof, Duke gains double damage. There are also the obligatory pickups like health, ammunition and the previously mentioned keycards.

Anyway, enough of that, you want to know about Duke's arsenal, don't you? Well, it's suitably beefed for a hero of Nukem's calibre. First on the list is Duke's old favourite - his Golden Eagle pistol. A meaty hand-cannon by no mistake, and the starting weapon on your adventure. Don't underestimate its power though, it remains useful throughout the episodes ahead.

Second comes the shotgun and assault rifle. You might recognise these from Duke Nukem 3D, and yes they're just as effective. Pigcops go down in one blast from the shotgun, and pretty much everything goes down in one salvo from the rifle. Failing that though, you can use my personal favourite weapon: the pipebomb.

In Duke's fourth outing, a larger emphasis has been placed on explosives. You will be introduced to pipebombs quite early on, since they are essential in finding secret areas and dealing massive damage to bosses. You only need one button to use them, and ingenious design that would normally require two buttons in any other game. Press once for one bomb, press again to detonate. Hold down the button to launch multiple bombs, and when you feel like a rumble, press it again and watch the fireworks. The game doesn't skimp on them either, so using them is a fun thing, not a privilege, especially when you hear the encouraging witticisms that Duke has on offer!

But I digress, I love explosives and this game certainly satisfies my requirements. What they look and sound like is just as important as how many you get, and thankfully the designers have thought about this carefully. Duke's world is both attractive and functional, without being over-demanding on the hardware front and overwhelming sound wise. I could easily run it at full settings with a 1.1Ghz Athlon and standard GeForce 3, a near typical setup for a games machines these days (or it will be soon). Even if you don't have a beast of a machine, Duke will operate just as efficiently in lower detail settings, so you should be happy with any recent setup.

As for sound, an aural treat awaits you if you have a decent setup. I have an average 4-speaker setup with a subwoofer, and my god, when the game loaded the menu sequence, the hairs on my neck and arms stood on end, and goosebumps appeared. The impact the game has on you first time round is like a brick in the face - you don't expect it to look as impressive as it does, and that's what I love about it. It's in your face entertainment, no messing.

Incidentally, demo sequences play behind the menu to keep things interesting. A nice feature retained from Duke Nukem 3D, which just adds to the finish.

To summarise the above, DNMP is a solid platform shoot'em-up game with an excellent 3D engine, which gives the sense that you're playing something that has more than two dimensions. The graphics and sound are as good as you could want without disrupting the fun, and the only limit to your skill is your own dexterity, thanks to the very well implemented controls. There are one or two niggling factors, especially if you tire of a theme easily. Duke doesn't like to deviate much, once he has his mind set on something you had better have a good reason to distract him. Hence, it does get a bit repetitive after a while. However, if you get bored of annihilating mutant armies, saving curvaceous damsels in distress and flexing your own virtual ego, your only hope might be to replace Duke yourself.

And he won't like that one bit.


Makin' bacon!