Duke Nukem Critical Mass review

Review of the Duke Nukem Critical Mass video game for the Nintendo DS rated 4 out of 10
Tagged with:
Reviewed on by

Does Duke Nukem really need an introduction? Doesn’t everyone know who he is already? If you do happen to be one of the few people not to have had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting Duke in the past, here’s all you need to know about him.

Duke Nukem is the possibly the world’s ultimate action hero; just imagine for the moment the likes of Arnie Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme and Bruce Willis all rolled into the body of one man. Duke has not only battled the worst Alien scum to protect the Earth for the past twenty years, he’s also said to have bedded more women than any other guy. Why, well he happens to also be irresistible to women. He’s a tough talking, wise cracking, gun touting, trigger happy, womanizing tough guy - and he has a big weapon too.

Duke Nukem Critical Mass is the latest game in the series and has just hit the Nintendo DS, unlike the upcoming title Duke Nukem Forever - this game comes from Apogee, the original developers of the franchise. Critical Mass takes Mr Nukem back to his old-school 2D side-scrolling roots and his arch nemesis Dr Proton returns into the fold. Thankfully the story is just as ridiculous as ever;

“Concerned that no recon mission has returned from the future, the Earth Defense Force is sending their best man, Duke Nukem to find out what is going on and to bring the team home. Duke arrives in the future only to find aliens now rule the world with an iron fist, and worst of all they are conducting experiments on earth’s most valuable resource - women! Duke is hell bent on saving the babes and completing his mission and in the process discovers he is the reason why earth was invaded.”

Basically that means you will be controlling Duke Nukem in a side-scrolling shoot’em up that feels like a cross between Turrican and a bad science fiction B-Movie. Your goal is to first find and locate the missing soldiers because it’s possible that they have more info on the threat and can assist you in the battle. When that’s done you’re then sent on a worldwide trek to find fusion cells, the special power source behind Dr Proton’s massive bosses.

As previously mentioned, most of the game is a typical 2D shooter requiring you to run from the left hand side of the screen to the right, stopping only to climb ladders, jump ravines, shoot baddies and of course, rescue the babes. What’s unusual here is that the levels themselves have a 3D feel to them, or at least - a couple of layers of depth. If you’ve played LittleBigPlanet then you may recall that Sackboy can move inward and outward between three layers on the screen; the middle being the most primarily used. However if must be said the effect is no way near as pronounced and only works in a few locations per level, but at least it’s there and the camera can be panned left and right to aid visibility a little.

What is more pronounced is the much talked about ‘Multi-Mode’ game play experience, to spice things up you aren’t just going from left to right in the same boring fashion. Critical Mass introduces four other game modes throughout the levels:

  • Cover Fire mode is just what you’d expect from Gears of War, when in a suitable location Duke can hide behind crates and walls moving left and right to take pot shots at enemies while they’re reloading. A little fiddly but works ok.
  • Sniper Mode takes you into a first person viewpoint whenever you come across a sniper rifle sitting around. It’s very basic and once you’ve killed the four or five enemies hidden around, you’re sent straight back to 2D mode.
  • Jet Pack mode transports Duke up into the sky ready to blast enemies in a classic Xevious and Ikaruga bottom-to-top style. In short this mode is rubbish, difficult to control and boring.
  • Boss Battle mode as the name suggests is just reserved for boss battles. Here you jump into a third person viewpoint behind Duke allowing you to move about in a 3D environment, think Tomb Raider. Sadly all of the boss battles are nearly all in square parking lot sized areas with just a few bits of scenery to take cover.

It’s certainly an interesting idea to mix in some totally different styles into the game at key sequences, sadly most of these feel tacked on and they’re all damn difficult to control. The worst thing about the Sniping Mode for example is that instead of giving you the whole touchscreen to control your sights - you instead get a small circle with cross-hair in the middle. Way too small and I was accidentally hitting the buttons to change weapons when my stylus left the zone.

When I think about it, all of the Duke Nukem games I’ve played have been pretty bad. They’re not really about groundbreaking gameplay, what’s made them popular over the years has been the over the top story, humour, innuendos and the great voice talent of Jon St John as Duke. Sometimes It doesn’t matter how bad the game is when a macho voice says things like “Damn I’m Good”, “Who wants some?” and “Your face your ass, what’s the difference?”

So what’s good about Duke Nukem Critical Mass? Sadly, not very much. The game is very generic and the levels are drab, dark and almost the same. Sometimes it’s just too dark to see what you’re shooting at and the default camera, it’s too close to Duke to see oncoming enemies. In practice you’ll constantly be shooting ahead picking off enemies before they even appear on your screen - you wouldn’t know they were there if it wasn’t for the dropped ammo and health kits. There’s a great selection of guns but most of the time you’ll only find ammo for a couple of them, leaving you with a big selection of useless guns.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I enjoy Duke’s one liners when he rescues the babes I think I’d have given up, instead I played through the whole game and wasn’t too impressed. Graphically the game isn’t too hot either, even considering the age of the DS hardware I still think this is a poor looking Playstation One era title. All of the colours, character models and environments are drab looking and pixilated - don’t get me started on the ‘cut scenes’, ugh!

At least the audio kicks ass, rocking tunes and enough Duke voice acting to satisfy - if anything the game could have done with more Duke and less everything else.

Bad graphics, bad controls, bad level design and quite frankly, a bad game with hardly any redeeming features. At least the game is humorous and isn’t broken, if you can be bothered to play through to the end you can unlock some achievements and the babe gallery.

Supposedly this is part one of a brand new trilogy of portable Nukem games; will we see parts two and three? Maybe, but I hope they’re better than this one. Duke Nukem Critical Mass gets a disappointing 4 out of 10.

Get Duke Nukem Critical Mass now
New: Buy Duke Nukem Critical Mass from Amazon.com

Related: Duke Nukem Forever release date, Duke Nukem

Buy now

Buy Duke Nukem Critical Mass from www.amazon.comDuke Nukem Critical Mass is now available for the DS from www.amazon.com


Leave a comment