Manhattan Project features the humorously chauvinistic action hero Duke Nukem who must save the day once again. This time fighting the evil mad scientist Mech Morphix who is using a radioactive slime called G.L.O.P.P. (Gluon Liquid Omega-Phased Plasma) to mutate creatures into deadly monsters, which are then taking over Manhattan Island, New York City. These creatures include alligators, rats, cockroaches and boars. There are also a number of enemies that have not been mutated from anything, such as the Fem-Mech, a sadistic and agile feminine robot that wields a lethal whip. Levels in the game contain recognizable parts of New York City.
The game is a side-scroller, but it is set in a 3D environment. This allows the path the player takes through the levels to bend and twist somewhat, although the paths are still fixed. It is not a direct sequel to any game, and is instead a stand-alone spin-off game; however, each earlier game in the series featured a completely different story and a new enemy force for Duke to mess up as well, with only the second and third games directly connected chronologically.
The game shares many similarities with the original Duke Nukem game, such as they are both side-scrollers, and both games have a half-robotic mad scientist as the main enemy. In fact, Dr. Proton, the villain of Duke Nukem, was originally intended to be the enemy in this game, but was replaced by Mech Morphix to avoid possible continuity problems with Duke Nukem Forever, in which Dr. Proton was also planned to make an appearance.
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was built using a 3D engine known as Prism3D. The levels and characters are fully three-dimensional, and both the camera and Duke can move along any axis, but movement is restricted to a two dimensional plane. The player can perform all the basic movements one would expect to be able to do: run, crouch, jump (and double jump), kick, slide kick, and grab and pull up on ledges. Due to the game being set in a 3D environment, the camera can be moved around a little and zoomed in or out to get a better view of the surroundings or an enemy approaching. There is a cheat that enables the camera to be moved to any position at all, which is useful for taking screenshots.
The game has 8 chapters, each of which contains 3 parts. In each part, the player must locate and rescue a babe strapped to a G.L.O.P.P. bomb, and locate a keycard to use to unlock the path to the next part.
There are no vehicles in the game, although at some points the player can use a Jetpack to fly over large voids or hazardous ground.
The controls are minimal, with buttons only for jumping, moving sideways, crouching, firing and changing weapons.
The health meter is renamed the EGO meter. EGO acts just like health, in that EGO begins at 100, is lost for being shot, and the level is lost when it reaches 0. There are pick-ups that will increase the player's EGO, and killing an enemy will also boost it. If the EGO is boosted above the maximum, it will slowly decrease until it reaches that maximum. The EGO system was previously used in Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes. The EGO system would later be reused (albeit only name-wise) as a regenerating health bar in Duke Nukem Forever.
There are 10 secret items (Nukes) hidden in each part of each chapter. Collecting all 10 Nukes in the same part will permanently increase the player's maximum EGO level by 2, and also increase the maximum ammo levels.
- Collecting all the Nukes in the game on Easy difficulty will double the strength of the Mighty Boot.
- Collecting all the Nukes in the game on Normal difficulty will halve the damage the player receives, and turns Duke's shirt blue (except for in the end-of-level cutscenes).
- Collecting all the Nukes in the game on Hard difficulty will reward the player with the X-3000, the most powerful weapon in the game.
The game CD includes a level editor named PrismEd, which can be used to create user levels or viewing the original levels in detail and at leisure. However, despite this level-creation activity for the game never reached popularity among the players, there is currently only a small level editing community.
- Mighty Boot - Duke's preferred melee attack. Kicking an enemy inflicts significant damage to it, but leaves the player vulnerable to a counter-attack. Killing an enemy by kicking it or landing on it will double the EGO boost that death provides. It is also used for sliding kicks, and for crushing non-mutated creatures.
- Golden Eagle Pistol - The weapon the player starts the game with. It does less damage per shot than the Mighty Boot, but it can hit enemies at a distance.
- Shotgun - A more powerful gun.
- Assault Rifle - Has a high fire rate, and overall is about as damaging as the Shotgun. Keep an eye on your ammo level, though.
- Pipebomb - A grenade-like explosive, straight from Duke Nukem 3D. It has its own special button for throwing quick Pipebombs without having to change weapons. Very useful for blowing things up.
- GLOPP Ray - This weapon does the opposite of G.L.O.P.P., and restores mutated enemies back to their original forms. Once they are regular creatures again, they can easily be crushed underfoot.
- Pneumatic Rocket-Propelled Grenade Launcher (PRPG) - Fires explosive rockets. Uses Pipebombs as ammo.
- Pulse Cannon - Fires bolts of electricity, and can be charged up to fire a very destructive ball of lightning. Shares ammo with the GLOPP Ray.
- X-3000 - The secret weapon, unlockable by collecting all the Nukes in Hard difficulty. It's a lightning gun that automatically targets all enemies on the screen. Thunder rumbles in the background just when you're holding it, so you know it's a big deal.
All power-ups activate the moment they are picked up, and last for a limited amount of time.
- Double Damage - Duke glows red and does double damage. Upon picking this power-up up, Duke utters the catchphrase: "It´s clobberin' time!"
- Forcefield - Three green objects rotate around Duke, making him invulnerable. Whenever Duke would be damaged while he is holding this power-up, the forcefield sizzles and glows.
- Jetpack - Allows aerial travel.
- Mech Morphix (Note: Morphix is both the 1st and 8th Boss in the game)
- Gator Grunt (2nd Boss)
- Roachoid (3rd Boss)
- Cockroach Queen (4th Boss)
- Ratoid (5th Boss)
- Flyoid (6th Boss)
- Fem-Mech (7th Boss)
- Wozma (Secret Boss)
Xbox Live Arcade
A port of Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was released for the Xbox Live Arcade on June 23, 2010 and is available for 800 Microsoft Points (MSP). The release includes two avatar awards (Jetpack and Duke Nukem logo T-shirt) that can be unlocked in game.
Initial release copies of the game came with a bonus metal keychain. This keychain contained the Duke Nukem logo and Statue of liberty on one side, and a NYC subway token imprint on the other side. Subsequent releases of the game lacked the keychain.
The only exterior difference between these two versions of the game was a sticker on the outside of the box saying "All New Duke: Special Edition Keychain Inside!". Later prints still had the "All New Duke" sticker, but without the keychain language. A further version of the box had no sticker at all.
In 1996, George Broussard was interviewed about future 3D Realms projects: he said that a Duke Nukem side-scroller called Duke Nukem Forever was in production and was supposed to come out by Christmas 1997. The project was later cancelled, with the name Duke Nukem Forever reassigned to the true Duke Nukem 3D sequel. When Manhattan Project was first shown to the public, rumours began to spread about it actually being the cancelled Duke Nukem Forever side-scroller, but this has since been clarified: Manhattan Project is a game original to ARUSH. A port of Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was released to the Xbox Live Arcade on June 23, 2010 for 800 Microsoft Points (MSP). The release includes two avatar awards (Jetpack and Duke Nukem logo T-shirt) that can be unlocked in game.
In 2004 Manhattan Project developer ARUSH Entertainment was bought out by HIP Interactive. Soon afterwards, HIP went bankrupt, and took ARUSH down with them. Because of bankruptcy proceedings, the legal rights to Manhattan Project are now held by a court appointed bankruptcy firm.
3D Realms has inquired about retrieving the rights, but has been unable to do so. This has been detailed a few times online by 3D Realms' webmaster Joe Siegler in their online forums, most recently in June 2006. Of the situation, Siegler said:
- Arush got bought out by a larger company. The parent company went belly up, and took Arush down with 'em. DNMP is now the legal property of a court appointed holding company involved in the bankruptcy proceedings of the parent company whose name I can't remember.
- Scott Miller & I tried to contact them about either getting the rights back so we could sell it ourselves, or just releasing it as freeware. Unfortunately, said company "isn't interested in dealing with us", per Scott.
- So DNMP is in rights hell, unfortunately. I would wager being the folks who "are" Duke Nukem, we could probably fight that and get the rights back, but it wouldn't be worth it, really. A lot of court costs just to release a game as freeware, or sell it when it didn't sell much in the first place.
Sometime after the bankruptcy, the official website for Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project was allowed to lapse and as was registered by a domain squatter. Fortunately, before all the materials were lost, Joe Siegler was able to recover a copy of the contents of the official Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project website from a former ARUSH employee and now hosts the former contents on the 3D Realms Website.
In late February 2009, the online gaming distribution site GOG.com announced some Apogee Software titles as being available in the future for sale on their site. On this list was Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project. The game actually became available again for sale on March 10, 2009 through GOG.com's online store. When queried about this chain of events, Joe Siegler responded with a post on the 3D Realms forums, saying that some legal work was being done in 2008 to unstick the rights to the game. It would appear that these rights have been cleared up, but the exact nature of the issue (or more to the point, the resolution of the legal quagmire) is currently unknown.
Manhattan Project received mostly positive ratings, in the range of 7-8 out of 10. GameSpy gave the game 83%, calling it "A slick platform arcade game at a reasonable price…captures Duke perfectly; great system performance; clever use of 3D. Similarly, Game Over gave the game an 81% score, praising it: "Movement is kept at a brisk pace and there are plenty of monsters to blow away…a refreshing evolutionary step for the platform game without play devolving into a third person behind-the-back affair" GameSpot, with a 7.9 out of 10, was more neutral, saying, "It's straightforward and good-looking…the levels are huge, and most have several paths you can take." IGN awarded it a 7.7 out of 10, citing, "Manhattan Project is a polished, tried, and true title…worthy of a recommendation, especially given its keen price point and familiar antihero."