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For my older brother and I, Duke Nukem 3D was a staple of our childhood. Not only was it one of the first FPS games that I became completely enamored with, but it was also quite possibly the first time I saw a pair of tits, virtual or not. With superb gameplay and a script that kept any prepubescent boy laughing for hours, it was sheer genius in our eyes, and as we all know, it has become the stuff that legends are made of.

Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project first released on the PC in 2002, ten years after the original sidescroller first saw the light of day on IBM PCs. Now, after nearly a decade, the King has made his way to the XBLA. Is it hail-worthy after so many years have gone by?

Beginning in very typical fashion of a Duke Nukem game, the entire world is celebrating Duke’s most recent exploits – until, that is, a race of mutants led by Mech Morphix attack Manhattan. Duke must be called to duty once again to eradicate the 25 unique species littered across the city. The plot is fairly straightforward, though it’s definitely nothing to write home about. It tries awfully hard to capture the quirky and funny atmosphere of Duke Nukem 3D, but it fails miserably. Unless you’re a fourteen-year-old who’s late to the puberty party, I’m confident you’ll feel the same way.

Manhattan Project is very much like its early predecessors, as it is a pure run and gun sidescroller that offers a small sense of exploration, but does not include a map, which makes navigating some of the larger levels a bit frustrating. Each stage requires Duke to find a keycard and disarm a GLOPP bomb attached to a buxom babe, while massacring the diverse mutant population across the Manhattan landscape that ranges from Chinatown to space (the REAL NY), as well as 9 other locales.

While Duke’s arsenal is versatile, the weaponry is similar to his 3D days as well as any FPS from the mid to late 1990′s. There’s the GLOPP Ray and “The Mighty Boot Kick,” among others. Being a port from the PC, I didn’t expect anything new, but it would have been a great addition to see some bonus firepower that was more unique than the rocket launcher, pistol, or assault rifle. After 8 years, the gameplay just doesn’t hold up, and with games like Shadow Complex wowing the Xbox Live Arcade community last summer, DN: Manhattan Project is just plain boring in comparison.

Like the weaponry, the rest of the game has not aged well at all. Character models are void of intricate detail, are quite polygonal, and quickly become an eyesore. While the backdrops of each level are much better looking than the rest of the game, each stage in the overarching level looks exactly like the last one, and within ten minutes they become tedious to stare at and eventually forgettable as you move on to the next chapter. To keep DN:MP “fresh,” leaderboards have been added, but that won’t make you want to play any longer than you actually have to, which is a short nine-chapter ordeal to being with. The one saving grace (if you can call it that) is the surprisingly addicting soundtrack that helps to muffle Duke’s obnoxious and unfunny quips throughout the campaign.

With XBLA’s “Summer of Arcade” beginning last week with the marvelous and intuitive LIMBO, I honestly find it hard to recommend spending your hard-earned cash on such a game, one devoid of fun. The script is uninteresting, combat is stale, and Duke is just generally annoying. Stay away, and start spending ‘dem points on the (hopefully) superb games waiting just around the bend, and reap those 400 or 1200 free points from Microsoft.

Rating Category
4.0 Presentation
As stated previously, the game has not aged well, and can be particularly seen through the unflattering character models and boring backgrounds.
How does our scoring system work?
5.0 Gameplay
Eight years ago, Manhattan Project would have been a "refreshing" blast from the past. Now after nearly a decade, not so much.
6.0 Sound
While the music is pretty awesome, Duke's smug remarks get old really quick, and the voice acting is equally as terrible.
4.5 Longevity
The game is short and you'll be lucky to clock in six hours on it, and the leaderboards do little to nothing to help the situation.
4.0 Overall
For it's time, Duke Nukem: Manhattan project was a pretty decent sidescroller. Eight years late, and we have a mess of mediocrity on our hands. Stay away. Very, very far away.

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