Duke Nukem was one of the most iconic figures of the last fifteen years in gaming. A homage to the action movie stars of the day, with a love of shooting and fondling up some busty beauties, it seemed his legacy would continue for years to come. However, Duke’s now pretty infamous for being the star of a game which may never see the light of day, despite being in development for ten years. Before disappearing into obscurity he appeared on the PC in Manhattan Project, a game which has now been released on XBLA.
Manhattan Project is a side scrolling action title, fixed onto a 2D plane with 3D levels and characters. You take control of Duke as he tries to save New York from the mad scientist, Mech Morphix and each level is split into three short chapters. Each one has exactly the same goal; collect a keycard and defuse a bomb (fortunately attached to a babe in distress) before moving on. At the end of each level Duke must vanquish a stereotypical boss.
This repetitive layout is the first hurdle which Duke careens into. The levels are bland and offer little to no variation. All you do is look for the key and defuse the bomb, before finding the exit. After the first few stages this gets very boring and the prospect of doing it again and again for another twenty levels can be pretty soul destroying.
While it’s important to remember that this is a port of a ten year old game, quite frankly it shows. The graphics have received little reworking and haven’t aged well at all. The character models suffer the most with the female hostages looking pretty horrendous, while the controls can also be incredibly frustrating. In this day and age the ability to shoot at a 45-degree angle is expected, but its absence in Manhattan Project just makes the game feel even more dated.
One of the main problems with Duke Nukem is the protagonist himself; a chauvinistic meathead with clichéd sexual innuendos that are lacking in humour and repeated far too many times. Like the game, Duke really hasn’t aged well and it’s unlikely that nowadays even a ten year old would snigger when he asks a rescued babe “How do you like my gun?”.
Sadly Duke Nukem lost his appeal many years ago and this release reinforces that fact. Ultimately it’s not fun, quickly becomes boring and it’s questionable as to why it was ever released after such a long time. Things have moved on since Duke’s heyday and there are so many better games out on XBLA, but in a way it’s quite reassuring to be reminded how far gaming has come in a relatively short space of time.