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Article - Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project Xbox Live Arcade Review

by Yatta on Tuesday 29 June 2010

dnmp_360_art.jpgIf you played DNMP back when it came out on PC in 2002, you would remember it as a run and gun side-scrolling classic.  DNMP was probably the best third-party Duke Nukem game ever made, and while Sunstorm Interative went under in 2003 as a result of financial and staffing-related issues, 3D Realms was able to retrieve the rights to the game in order to port it to the Xbox Live Arcade.

The Xbox 360 port of the game is virtually identical to the original game in terms of gameplay and graphics.  Set in New York City, the game features Duke Nukem on top of skyscrapers and inside of subway stations as he battles his way to take down his nemesis, Mech Morphix.  The game features eight large chapters revolving around a radioactive green slime known as "Glopp," which has been unleashed by Morphix to create hostile mutants.

There are 25 different foes, some of which may be familiar to Duke Nukem fans.  The Pig Cops are back, and new enemies have been thrown into the mix.  Duke must save babes, deactivate bombs, and find keycards to pass through every level.  Duke's favorite weapons are back, and there are some new additions as well.  Besides his trusty golden eagle and shotgun, Duke can use pipe bombs, rockets, and a machine gun.  The unique additions to Duke's arsenal are the pulse cannon and the Glopp ray, which turns Morphix's radioactive slime against his own mutant creations.  As always, Duke is also able to use the jetpack.

dnmp2.jpg

Just like other XBLA classics such as Doom and Duke Nukem 3D, DNMP is a retro game.  The historical context of the game must be acknowledged when taking its graphics and gameplay of into consideration.  As far as the price of 800 Microsoft points is concerned--the majority of XBLA releases fall at the $10 range upon release, but you can expect special deals to pop up now and then (as have with Duke3D XBLA) if you don't want to buy the game now.  In addition, George Broussard and Scott Miller have been generous with giving out free activation codes, so check out GB's twitter and Scott's Duke Nukem Facebook page frequently for freebies.

With that said, there are some flaws in this port.  While the controls are great (there's even rumble) and feel native to the game, some advantageous features and aspects of presentation from the PC version are simply missing.  This includes the cool "opening Nuke" intro cinematic the original game had, which 3D Realms has replaced with the same generic "exploding Nuke" cinematic that was used in the XBLA version of Duke Nukem 3D.  The same goes for the menus and fonts--they have been redone to match Duke3D XBLA.  The game runs fast and smooth, but that is to be expected when the same aging graphics were rehashed for this release.  The only real addition to this port is support for time trials, which the original PC version did not have.

Another minor issue is the misleading nature of the Credits page of the game, which might confuse the average gamer into ignoring the vital fact that Sunstorm Entertainment was the sole developer of this game, and that 3D Realms and its staff were only responsible for producing and porting the game.  Towards the middle of the credits, this issue is cleared up when Sunstorm is noted as the "original developer" despite the fact that 3D Realms is displayed as the developer immediately after the credits roll.  Let there be no mistake about the fact that the only development involving 3D Realms in this game was the porting process (besides creative input and branding for the original PC version).


The heads up display seems to be stretched out when compared to the PC version, adding to the doubt that the game is running in true widescreen.  It seems that 3D Realms used a .ini hack to vertically manipulate the aspect ratio, thus giving the player a smaller field of view than what the original developers intended in the regular 4:3 PC version of the game.  Bottom line, this does not look like a true 1080p game despite being advertised as such in the Xbox 360 Marketplace.  While the HUD is in fact stretched, we may be wrong about the fake widescreen given George Broussard recently stated that "16:9 was supported during development."

The manual save option is also missing from the game even though it was available in the original PC version, but this is not really a problem given the abundance of automatic checkpoints at every entrance in the levels.  The only other criticism of the port is its uncreative achievements, which only require players to complete levels as opposed to performing unique tasks.

Despite being underwhelming in the extras department, the game does give you some goodies, albeit they are fairly negligible.  This includes two Xbox Live Avatar T-shirts and one 360 gamerpic (which is a cut out of Duke's face, as seen on the box cover image).


The Xbox 360 Live Arcade port of the game is by no means perfect, but IGN's review of this version is unfairly harsh at best.   All in all, the XBLA version of DNMP is solid.  At its core, it is the same game you may have enjoyed back in 2002, and it is certainly worthy of its original Metacritic score of 78.


 9.5 - 2 votes