Does Anyone really care what MDK stands for anymore? Thought not. Move on. This is the discerning critic's choice of third-person shooter, so they say. A hybrid of armoury and humour tied together in a rainbow package of inventive features and colourful characters.
Well, yes and no. Bioware does a grand job of updating Shiny's original: mainly with the parachuting, sniperscoping antics of the weapon-headed Kurt. What they put into the other characters isn't quite as successful. The six-armed gung-ho dog is pleasant enough with his mindless shooting, but the doctor, on the other hand, frustrates with his inaccurate controls and lack of involvement. Each level is interspersed with platforming and action puzzles, but only Kurt consistently shines through.
Still, it's a lot better this time round. The first time I reviewed this I mentioned how it's at least one-third brilliant and one-third pretty good. And seeing as how they're selling it off for less than a quarter of its full-price cost, that means it's, urn...well, it's well deserving of some long-time loving. A shame the whole game wasn't based around Kurt, since you realise that getting to play as him makes tolerating the other characters a whole lot easier.
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In the chequered history of computer and video games, Shiny Entertainment's MDK is a strong contender for the title of most-hyped PC release of all time. However, many gamers didn't believe the hype, and the game sold a mildly disappointing 500,000 copies, despite gamering some 55 magazine covers worldwide. Initially rumoured to stand for 'Murder Death Kill', the game's ambiguous title made for much hilarity in the gaming press, with an array of alternatives suggested, including such gems as 'More Dead Kennedys' and 'My Dick's Knobbly'. Even the game's publishers got in on the act, with one advert carrying the legend 'Make Diana King', an unlikely proposition at the time, and clearly an impossibility now.
As for the game itself, MDK was an odd affair, although in retrospect it introduced some revolutionary elements that are now commonplace - the ubiquitous sniping mode, for instance. With nothing like the wave of publicity that preceded the original, MDK2 is almost upon us and the big news is that Shiny is not developing it. That honour has been bestowed upon Canadian outfit BioWare, whose joint CEO, Greg Zeschuk, says: "A lot of people ask us, 'Why is BioWare doing MDK2 instead of Shiny?' The main reason I can think of is that we were available to do it and capable of doing a good job. Interplay owns a significant share in Shiny and they both wanted MDK2 to be made. At the time, Shiny didn't have any development slots open and they weren't averse to us doing it.
And so the deal was done. We've been in contact with Shiny during the development process, but haven't really done too much extensive consultation - we've both been so busy working on our respective games that we haven't had too much of a chance to demo what we're doing."
Alien Invasion Na-Na-Na-Na-Na
The original story was an unlikely affair involving alien invaders arriving on Earth, who then had to be repelled by the lead character Kurt, ably assisted - at least in theory - by trusty sidekicks Doctor Fluke Hawkins and Max, the six-legged robotic dog. Max, Doc and Kurt (M, D and K - do you see?) are back, and the risible tale resumes immediately where the last game left off, with a second wave of 'streamriding' aliens arriving on Earth. However, in a hilarious twist, this time they land in Edmonton, Alberta (home of BioWare), as opposed to Laguna Beach, California (home of Shiny). As in the original, Kurt is sent down from space to stop a mine-crawler from destroying Earth, and rapidly becomes embroiled in all manner of improbable situations.
It soon becomes apparent that the direct intervention of both Max and the Doctor is required to stop the alien invasion, and herein lies the most significant advance from MDK, in that all three characters are player-controlled. However, there's no RPG-style nonsense involved, as the choice of character is simply dictated by the story and the predicament of the other characters. For example, if one of them has been captured by the aliens, and another is stuck in a hyperspace bubble (don't you just hate it when that happens?), it is down to the remaining one to save the day. Based around something of a cliff-hanger structure, practically every level ends with one character being rescued while another gets captured. The game will boast three levels for each, as well as an end level in which the player does actually choose which character to use in finishing the game.
Each of the characters are fairly different, something that should go without saying considering that one is a man with an elongated helmet, one is a mad professor and the other is a six-legged robotic dog. In addition to their disparate physical appearances, each has a different approach to the game. Kurt is old-skool MDK, a stealthy assassin who is most effective when sneaking around using his sniper scope, although he is still fairly handy with a chain gun. As in the original game, Kun retains the implausible ribbon parachute, enabling him to silently glide around like a great big ponce. Conversely, Max is the consummate action hero, capable of holding weapons in each of his four robot-dog arms. And for extra manoeuvrability, he can strap a jet-pack to his canine back. Finally, Doctor Fluke Hawkins brings a puzzle element to the proceedings. Extremely weak when fighting enemies directly, he is best used to set traps, and often relies on trickery to defeat his foes.
Another factor that identified the original MDK was its obscure humour, which manifested itself in surreal details such as The World's Most Interesting Bomb. As seen in the Earthworm Jim games, the folk at Shiny are renowned for their surreal sense of humour, and it remains to be seen whether BioWare can pull it off to the same extent. From what we've seen it appears to be going for a more zany approach, which some more bitter readers may find offensive. As for the game itself, we've had a bit of a dabble and it seems to be shaping up in a competent fashion, with BioWare's so-called Omen engine ably supplying the requisite effects.
Unlike us, you haven't played the game, and will have to wait until the end of May to do so. What's the bet it comes out before Messiah?
MDK 2: sounds like the chemical formula for some illegal party drug that turns kids into wide-eyed loons. Or the name of a violently crap euro-beat pop act - the sort of group that releases those life-unaffirming 'Sex On the Beach'-stylee techno-disco anthems that sunburnt morons bump and grind to in the nightclubs of Laganas. Or a new type of car. Or all three.
It isn't any of the above, of course. That would be madness. No, MDK 2 is the sequel to Shiny Entertainment's three-dimensional weird 'em up, MDK. Now, the original MDK (we never did get to find out what it stood for) was one of those love-it-or-hate-it games. It had an incredibly bizarre premise (you played a guy in a customised rubber suit, wearing a strange hat which turned his face into a sniper rifle), incredibly bizarre graphics (it looked like a cross between 2000 AD and The Muppel Show), and incredibly bizarre gameplay (a peculiar blend of platform game/Quake/sharpshooting simulator). Some people reacted as they might to, say, a mutant frogboy or a bearded lady passing them in the street - with bemusement and a faint tinge of discomfort. Others thought it was the best thing since sliced head. The former outnumbered the latter and the game sold like, well, warmish cakes.
MDK wasn't as big a hit as it was supposed to be, so it's perhaps surprising a sequel's coming out at all. Still, it won't be coded by Shiny. Bioware, the team behind sprawling RPG hit Baldur's Gate are doing the honours this time round, and they're obviously determined to forge a big fat hit. So how are they going to do it?
Milk Dairy Kow
First of all, they're sticking to the unique visual style. This is a good thing. MDK 2, we are assured, will be a triumph of individualism. God be praised. Let joy be unconfined. No, really. There are too many bland, production-line plod-a-thons cluttering the nation's shelves, so any game that dares to stick its neck out deserves to be kissed gently all over -or, at least, given the time of day.
It'll also be full of humour. Ah, yes. Humour. Games and humour have never really mixed well - gaming 'humour' usually refers to unremitting quirkiness instead. You know, people called 'Professor Teapot' and hilarious stuff like that.
The funniest games have always been those in which the 'jokes' occur naturally as a result of the gameplay -you have to play a few hours of Carmageddon 2 or multiplayer Quake if you're after laugh-out-loud moments. Still, MDK was packed full of'humour' (to be fair, blowing the robots' heads off was funny), and MDK 2 promises more of the same.
Misty Does Kangaroos
To this end, they're hoping to get plenty of mileage from the main characters, all three of whom are playable this time. There's Kurt (the rubber-clad hero of the first game). Max (his dog, a cigar-chompin' gung-ho canine), and Dr Fluke Hawkins (the obligatory 'mad scientist' who crops up in every 'zany' game since time immemorial). Each has his own special abilities and range of weapons.
If you're not familiar with MDK numero-uno, perhaps it's worth pointing out that this is a third-person perspective game (think Tomb Raider) with occasional first-person interludes (ie the sniping bits). There's no multiplayer mode (Bioware wanted to concentrate on making the "best single-player experience possible"), and it's coming out on that spingly spangly new Dreamcast console as well. For now, that's about it - but hey, you can always look at the pictures and imagine. While dribbling. Down your shirt.
The original MDK made stacks of friends with its relentless third-person action, trademark Shiny Entertainment cartoon humour and James Bond-style gadgets. Innovation was the name of the game -something new developer Bioware CBaldur's Gate) hope to expand upon.
Forthcoming features to look forward to include bouncing sniper shots (so you can kill enemies around corners), a much bigger play environment based on indoor and outdoor locations, and enhancements to the fantastic Chameleon stealth suit. You also get to play as all three characters, and there are loads more gadgets.
Levels involving Max the Uzi-toting dog tend to degenerate into horrific gunfights, the Kurt levels are more stealth-orientated, and those with the good doctor require more thought. Having said that, in the latest demo we've seen, he manages to turn himself into something resembling the Hulk - and then things get particularly vicious. Something for everyone, as they say. In short, MDK2 has got us drooling like a rabid dog. The sooner this one gets finished, the better.
We've been following the development of MDK2 quite closely for some time now. While not the most spectacularly successful game ever, the original (on PlayStation) was certainly different from your usual run-of-the-mill 3D action games. Blending action and humor, while throwing in lots of cool special effects has been a recipe for success in movies for years, and maybe MDK2 will be able to achieve what its predecessor was unable to.
Certainly a showcase product for the Dreamcast, MDK2 makes use of a lot of the system's features. Sure, the graphics and overall presentation are spectacular, but we were impressed to find that some clever and imaginative uses have been made for the Jump Pack, VMU and Internet capabilities of the system. Joltings and rumblings are pumped through the pad to make some sections of the game more physically challenging, certainly a step above what we're used to in the force-feedback department. VMU support (apart from the obvious use: Saving games) is designed to help communicate tips and tricks easier. Players will be able to save replays to the VMU and then upload these onto the Net (or e-mail them to friends) so that others can see how to effectively beat a boss or complete a puzzle. While a simple concept, this certainly seems to be an idea that we'll no doubt see being 'borrowed' by other game developers in the coming year.
The original MDK was misunderstood--partly because no one knew what MDK actually stood for, but mostly because its dark humor and unusual wit was way over the heads of a lot of people. Great game. Not great sales. Fortunately though, the guys at Interplay knew they were on to a good thing and pushed ahead with a sequel. The premise is the same (it's a 3D, behind-the-dude shooter with added sniping), the story line is almost identical (aliens invade earth, must kill aliens) but this time it looks better, is more involved, and more importantly it's bigger. The main change comes from the fact that you now get to control the three eponymous charac-ters...Max, Dr. Hawkins and Kurt (MDK, geddit?). Max is a psychopathic, six-legged, gun-toting dog, and represents the "mindless shooter" aspects of the game. Dr. Hawkins represents the think-'em-up puzzle-solving sections while the leather-dad, silly-hatted Kurt now provides the stealthy more Metal Gear like portions. The three characters are woven effectively through the ludicrous story very effectively and the actions of each have a tangible effect on what you see and do when playing another role. Think of it as an "intelligent" action game, and then give thanks for the splendid visuals which really are stunning. It's always cool to see something distinctive and unique, and MDK2 wilt probably be the most stylish game in your collection for some time.
The first MDK was pretty innovative in a weird sort of way-if not graphically, then because of its simple yet fun gameplay. Part two has more of the same--and then some. There are simply tons of enjoyable and challenging puzzles and action sequences to work your way through. The game really captures a certain 16-Bit feel, and puts it into 3D (just be wary of the platform jumping bits). Aside from this, the main difference is the graphics. Where the first used the power of the PS to create surreal, almost glitchy-looking environments, the DC offers amazingly colorful, detailed levels that really show off what the system is capable of. It truly is gorgeous.
BioWare has done an excellent job taking the cool parts of the original MDK and expanding upon them. The game boasts some excellent and distinctive visuals, but this is now matched with an involved story line that is both witty and somewhat abstract at the same time. There are some great gameplay mechanics utilized throughout, and I really like the way the three main characters all behave and play differently while still maintaining the basic feel of the game. The humor may be a bit wacky for some, but everyone can appreciate what a damn fine-looking game this is. The bosses especially are truly spectacular.
In MDK2, the Streamriding aliens are ready to re-invade Earth, and it's up to you to stop them. Playing as three characters--Kurt, Max the robotic dog, and Dr. Hawkins--you must utilize each hero's powers and weaponry to outthink and outshoot the evil aliens. MDK's popular sniper mode returns along with Kurts ribbon chute and the dark world that inhabited the original blockbuster title.
MDK2 promises to push the Dreamcast hardware with intense graphics, booming sound effects, and realistic object physics that'll have gamers' trigger-fingers twitching for action. If you're a prospective Sega owner looking for a thrill, MDK2 might be the answer this fall.