Babes, blood and bodies along with a lot of tasteful dialogue, Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project feels more like a Duke Nukem game than Duke Nukem: Forever. Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project is a platform game developed by Sunstorm Interactive, produced by 3D Realms that was released on May 14, 2002. It was quite well received by critics when it released and got generally positive reviews in the 7-8 range out of 10. But the question is does the game still hold up and should you play it?
Let’s start off with the gameplay of the game which is fairly simple. Jump, run and shoot your way to find a woman that has been strapped to a GLOPP bomb and to find a key that opens the exit. That’s the premise of every level of the game and you might think it gets repetitive but after playing through the game I don’t think that holds true. Every stage has 3 levels that always end with a Boss Fight. And every stage has a different setting from the NYC skyline to the Subway System to Space. Yes, Space. The level design in itself is linear but with multiple paths sometimes, riddled with hostiles and can be quite challenging. However, there were times when I was lost because I had no idea how to get to a certain area that I needed to get to so that I could proceed. Spent 40min on a level before I realized I had to drop from a platform to reach that area.
There’s a variety of weapons to choose from ranging from Duke’s iconic Golden Desert Eagle to a shotgun and, RPG along with Pipe Bombs as throwable projectiles. The weapons feel different from one another but are really fun to use. You also have to ability to kick enemies and to stomp cockroaches and rats to stop them from turning into enemies. The other mechanics to traverse a level are by crouching and jumping. You have the ability to double jump but I had quite a bit of trouble double jumping to certain ledges and platforms throughout the whole game because it wouldn’t register the second input for some odd reason. This led to a lot of death and frustration because I was unable to access areas that I should’ve been able to.
The story is pretty straightforward and is very well known trope by now. A Mad scientist tries to take over the world and it is your job to be mankind’s saviour. There’s not a lot of twists or crazy reveals as the game relies on Duke’s monologues to carry it. But let’s talk about Duke himself. He is essentially THE male power fantasy. He’s shredded, famous, rich and has women going crazy for him. The thing is that he’s a chauvinistic sexist and the women in this game are all unrealistically modelled and are very dumb. This is something that will really put a lot of people off from playing this game as the game itself will feel very sexist and as if it were objectifying women. However, this isn’t something new in terms of the Duke Nukem series, the games have always been like this and this one isn’t very different from its predecessors.
The graphics are alright for a game that came out in 2002. The max resolution support in the game launched is 1024×768 but you can set it to your resolution from the file so that it appears sharp and not jagged. Textures have nothing extraordinarily good or horrendously bad about them. The levels have their own theme going so there’s a lot of variety to be seen in enemies and environments throughout the game.
The audio is also decent with a rock and synth based soundtrack for ambiance that plays throughout. The weapons sound good and so do all of the explosions. The enemies have their own noises that they are identifiable with and squishing cockroaches has a very satisfying squishiness to it.
Duke Nukem Manhattan Project is at its core a good platforming game that has elements of its predecessors present in it which includes plenty of shooting, explosions and one-liners. If you can get past the sexist nature of Duke, you should give this game a try as it is fun, runs on almost all systems today and doesn’t require a lot of time to be invested. It’s a fun game to play with a podcast on or listening to some music to just chill.