Duke Nukem is back and bursting onto the Nintendo DS for the very first time. Critical Mass wet’s the appetite for Duke Nukem Forever which has been delayed and who saw that coming… Sure has been a very long time since a new Duke Nukem game to be released, and Critical Mass does a good enough job to keep you playing, regardless of being aimed at a younger audience. The game wouldn’t simply be the same without Jon St John providing the voice for our babe saviour and you can definitely tell that the Duke is back. I, and many others, wants Duke Nukem Forever, and no idea if Critical Mass was still going to happen. This year is Duke Nukem’s year and no one can take that away from him, minus the setback.
Critical Mass will easily bring you back to Manhattan Project. The side-scroller which didn’t captivate the hardcore fans but still was enjoyable game to play. This is Duke’s first adventure on the Nintendo DS and he does do it style as usual. With a loaded gun in one hand, a babe in the other hand and a one liner for every situation, Duke certainly gives his first performance on the DS a solid, balls of steel and shove it up your ass performance.
The plot to the game is very straight forward from the set go. A recon mission which has gone wrong leads the Earth Defence Force to send one man to do the job, Duke Nukem. The goal is to find out what is going on and bring back the recon team. You arrive in the future and the Aliens are in control, and 100% that the Aliens will definitely going to piss Duke off, as they conduct experiments on the babes. With Duke totally pissed off and more determined to save the babes and complete his mission, Critical Mass offers a typical Duke Nukem plot which will entertain you till the very end. The game does have a PEGI 12 rating and it will limit what Duke can say, as we all love his one liners. You will still come across his famous liners such as “Shake it baby!” and more, so not all is lost. Critical Mass does indeed have appeal for the older fans of the game, and with the game coming out on the DS and aimed at a younger audience. It could well hinder your full enjoyment with the game as this game is more toned down than the past Duke Nukem games.
Critical Mass totally works for the Nintendo DS. The controls are easy to pick up and play which at first I thought they may become a barrier for this game. Being a side-scroll platformer with enriched diagonal camera views, it does have some wow factor for the game on the DS. A new feature to the game if you want to compare this to Manhattan Project is the cover mode. The cover mode is inter-graded into regular combat in selected areas. You will know the selected areas as you will come across some Aliens down alleyways, and if you push up on the d-pad, Duke will lean against the wall and be able to perform cover fire. You will be able to move down the alley way but in cover mode only and for more of a accurate shot and to recover dropped items. Another mode to Critical Mass is Sniper mode. You will come across the cover and sniper mode in the first level of the game. Sniper mode goes into a first person perspective in selected areas again like the cover mode. Whilst using the DS stylus pen to aim and zoom, you could always make it easier by using the shoulder buttons and the d-pad to move around to scope in on your enemies.
Jet-pack mode is very well crafted together. Using both screens of the DS it becomes a top down shooter with enhanced close combat fighting. It took some time at first to get use to controlling the jet-pack, which lead to a lot of deaths in the process. Once you combat the controls for the jet-pack segments, they are complete blast and fun isn’t the word to describe them moments. The shoulder buttons rotate Duke left and right in 360 degrees. The d-pad controls the speed and moving up and down in both screens. B and X are the corresponding buttons to fire. Boss battle mode will go into third person perspective and you will come across button press kill sequences. Going into third person shooter mode kind of makes you think why didn’t they make the game in complete third person such as Time To Kill back on the PS1. Its nice that they have all three blends of different gameplay mechanics but some may get you to scratch your head as to why they added them.
The visuals to Critical Mass is pretty good for DS standards but compared to other DS games. It isn’t the best looking game on the DS, but visuals aren’t the selling point as its the gameplay which is the main focus. Critical Mass has hit the gameplay on the head and creates a unique Duke Nukem experience, and well worthy of playing to the end. Throughout the singleplayer of Critical Mass, you will come across familiar territory such as Key cards from Manhattan Project, babes to save and of course power ups. Power ups will consist of; Ammo, Nuke Health, Health packs, Armour and pipe bombs. Also keep your eyes out for D.U.K.E. N.U.K.E.M. letters as they unlock one picture in the babe gallery. If you collect all letters you will unlock a special accomplishment, and they are many more accomplishments to get in Critical Mass. Altogether there is 9 accomplishments to achieve and they will give you awards such as; Untouchable, if you complete any regular combat level other than New York with no damage, you will unlock a bulletproof vest statue. These accomplishments add more incentives to continue playing Critical Mass which gives it a unique edge over the likes of Manhattan Project.
Overall, Critical Mass is a decent Duke Nukem title for the franchise as a whole. The setbacks to the game is the pegi rating which limits what can be said from Duke and of course the deaths as they aren’t any blood splatters, head’s being blown off and all that jazz. Some of the added features to the gameplay may become sour for some people, but they are fun added features. The cover mode can be frustrating when you come to certain bits and you will snap into cover when you don’t want to, but its certainly good in gameplay terms. The game does cater for the new target audience and the old fans of Duke Nukem. You will come across your favourite weapons within Critical Mass but it may just fall short with the hardcore fans simply because of the rating, which will no doubt be the centre of attention. Duke arrives back on the scene like he always does, kicking ass and chewing bubblegum and saving our babes from total annihilation. Critical Mass will blow other side-scrollers out of the water and Duke will sit proudly in his new home, the Nintendo DS.