Reviewed: May 19, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

ARUSH Entertainment

Sunstorm Interactive
3D Realms

Released: May 15, 2002
Genre: Action/RPG
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature


System Requirements

  • Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
  • Pentium II 350 or faster
  • 64mb RAM (128mb Win2k/XP)
  • DirectX 8.1
  • 3D accelerator w/ 8mb
  • DirectX compatible sound card
  • 300 MB hard disk space

    Recommended System

  • Pentium II 500 or faster
  • 3D accelerator w/ 32mb
  • Joystick or Game Controller
  • Force feedback support

  • Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project not only resurrects Duke and everything we loved about him; it does so in a classic 2D-style that harkens to the very roots of the Duke Nukem legacy. But this isn’t your father’s 2D shooter – oh no! The Manhattan Project uses a powerful 3D engine to render its quasi-2D world, giving you and the designers virtually unlimited presentation capabilities.

    Manhattan Project takes us on a violent rampage through various parts of New York where you will encounter plenty of mutant creatures, sexy strippers, hidden Nukes, and plenty of secret areas and other surprises. And who better to tackle this mutant invasion than our hero, Duke Nukem, who comes complete with true Duke Nukem action and attitude, great weapons, and sarcastic one-liners.

    Your trip through the Big Apple will take you from the dizzying heights of the Manhattan skyline to dark and dripping depths of the Chinatown sewers. You’ll ride on the subway – not necessarily in a car - visit a warehouse, lay waste to a tanker, and so much more.

    Don’t let all the fancy 3D graphics fool you. Duke still plays like any other side-scrolling shooter. Duke moves with the four directional keys and you can configure the rest of his commands such as jump, fire, and kick to any keys you like. The game also supports game pads and joysticks and even force feedback. This was the first game in a long time that I could actually use my ThrustMaster Firestorm and appreciate the powerful force feedback effects. Even though the keyboard works well, I highly recommend using a game pad if you have one.

    Level design is pretty straightforward with few surprises for the veteran platform gamer. There are some nice additions such as the use of a jetpack to traverse the rooftops in the early levels and reach some high hovering Nukes. There’s plenty of jumping puzzles that include fire escapes, storefront awnings, moving window washer platforms, and crumbling windowsills. You even get to dodge deadly New York traffic at a few busy intersections.

    Pick-ups are a big part of any platform game and even though you aren’t required to collect thousands of coins, gems, or other random items, there are ten Nukes you need to get in each mission. You can finish the mission with less but who’s gonna respect you if you do? There are other pick-ups such as ammo and health and many of these are hidden in boxes you need to smash open.

    Morphix has also captured several of Manhattan’s finest strippers and encased them in G.L.O.P.P – green goop that you will become very familiar with by the end of the game. Being the gentleman he is, it’s Duke civic duty to locate and free these girls; a task not as easy as you might think, as these girls are hidden quite well and often in secret areas. Listen for their cries of help to assist you in the search. You’ll be rewarded with gratuitous jiggling.

    There are plenty of secret areas and unlike other games where secret areas often house extra weapons and ammo, the secret areas in this game have Keycards, Nukes, and strippers – oh my! While most secret areas aren’t terribly difficult to find – just look for cracked walls or pavement – others might require a leap of faith into an unknown area outside of your visual range.

    Duke can interact with his environment to a limited degree. There are switches and video monitors you can operate and vending machine that offer health. You can even use the pay phones to hear humorous conversations; although nothing quite as funny as the hilarious signs and billboards scattered around the city.

    What would a shooter be without something to shoot? Manhattan Project offers a variety of mutant creatures to gib with a diverse arsenal. The head of the bad guys is Mech Morphix, but before you get to fight him you will have to wade through eight huge levels filled with opponents like the famous Pigcops, the sexy whip wielding leather clad dominatrix, giant lizards with Uzi’s, giant insects, and many more.

    Duke has nine powerful weapons at his disposal along with a witty repertoire of one-liners that would make Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger envious. As with any game of this type, knowing when and where to use each weapon is crucial to the completion of the game, and saving those powerful guns and pipe bombs for the boss battles wouldn’t hurt either. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the boss battles didn’t rely solely on firepower, but more on timing, memorization, strategy, and quick reflexes.

    This game definitely has a unique look to it, mainly due to the use of a 3D engine to create a 2D game. Manhattan Project requires some 3D hardware and a decent system to run it on, but nothing that anyone who plays games today shouldn’t already have.

    As you move around this unconventional side scrolling shooter the camera will pan or tilt to give you the best view of the action. Sometimes the entire perspective will shift as the background rotates 45 degrees and you find yourself playing in an isometric view.

    Sunstorm has done an amazing job with the 3D camera in this game. It follows Duke from just the right distance and pans around in 3D space to give you some unique camera angles of the action. You can scan areas off the current screen by using the look button combined with the directional keys to look up, down, or all around. And if you aren’t happy with the current camera distance you can even zoom in for a closer look – handy when rescuing those strippers.

    The 3D level design allows for limited exploration in the Z-plane. In certain locations (indicated by green arrows and footprints) you can walk into the background or toward the surface of your monitor. Sometimes this will load a new level and other times you can simply explore a previously unseen area.

    The graphics are excellent with great colors, detailed textures, and amazing attention to detail in every aspect of the game. The animation is fluid for Duke and all the other characters – something you wouldn’t expect from a platform shooter. The special effects are great and feature brilliant explosions, smoke, and great lighting effects from lasers and the glowing green G.L.O.P.P.

    The sound and music are perfect. The thumping rock soundtrack is back with familiar riffs from the original game. The in-game music is high energy and keeps your momentum up as you traverse the levels blasting bad guys into various sized giblets.

    Of course it wouldn’t be a Duke game without Duke’s dry wit and classic one-liners. Sunstorm even took advantage of the game’s M-rating to include some saltier language than previous Duke veterans may be used to. I was mildly disappointed that they opted to “bleep” some of the words that were in my pre-release preview copy, but it certainly doesn’t impact the enjoyment of the game.

    If perfection isn’t your thing then you can probably blaze through Manhattan Project in 8-12 hours on the normal difficulty. Cranking up the difficulty will add significant challenge and length to the game, but the real challenge is locating all those secrets and finding all the Nukes.

    Perfection will almost always require you to replay several of the levels. Some of the secrets and enemies are extremely well hidden and you won’t even realize you’ve missed them until the mission ends and you get the tally screen.

    You have infinite lives, and the game checkpoints frequently, so you never have to replay too much if you die, and it never gets frustrating. Plus, Duke is just plain fun, and like any good arcade game you will want to go back and play it over and over again. It’s a great way to kill 15 minutes or even a couple of hours.

    While the rest of the world patiently waits and waits and waits...and waits for 3D Realms to finally release Duke Nukem Forever, Sunstorm has slipped us this amazing little title to remind us that Duke is still around and he is as cool as ever.

    Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project doesn’t try to compete with any other game or genre. Even so, it has quickly become one of my favorite games this year, and anyone who loves a good shooter with great graphics, witty dialog, and pulse pounding action needs to check this game out.