|What the game is
MDK combines two parts mass destruction with one part precision assassination to concoct a 3D shooter that manages to be unique. Unlike the more sedate Tomb Raider, which MDK has been compared to, fighting through its six long levels can only be compared to riding a roller coaster through a fun house. Too bad the ride is over so soon . . .
MDK has been compared to many other games but it certainly stands in a league all its own. Imagine the perspective of Tomb Raider, the humor of Duke Nukem and the true 3D environment of Quake blended together. The mental image still cannot do MDK justice. This is because the game breaks so much new ground.
The main element that sets MDK apart from the pack is its sniper mode. See that silver dot on the horizon? Just hit the space bar, point at the little speck and zoom in. Watch in awe as the speck is smoothly enlarged until it becomes an enemy soldier. The beauty of all this is that detail actually improves as you zoom in, so you can see every hair on the head of the creature you are targeting with perfect clarity.
Sniper mode offers another aspect that is normally lacking in a game of this natureprecise targeting. I was able to put the crosshair on the eyeballs of many enemies and blow their heads off with a single shot. Kneecaps and groins are other vulnerable areas that can make an enemy forget about you for awhile after they are hit. The sniper scope also amplifies sounds so you can hear every groan, scream and squish from miles away.
While the above description sounds really grisly, actual gameplay is so light-hearted and cartoonish that even squeamish people should be able to enjoy the game. I mean, the aliens in the game moon you for Petes sake! They hold bullseyes in front of their faces and taunt you. They fall for cheap tricks like the Worlds Most Interesting Bomba weapon that aliens gather around to look at until it opens and delivers its deadly payload. MDK isnt about lost souls or heartless mercenaries lashing out at the player. Instead it is about one guy against a horde of endearing alien buffoons who are sometimes smart enough to shoot back.
Thats not to say the game is easy. Weaker enemies will rush you in droves and some of the aliens are downright lethal all by themselves. Level bosses can be tough when confronted directly but there is usually some underhanded trick you can pull to dispatch them without so much as scratching yourself. One nice touch (which some players wont like) is that the aliens dont have any weapons that can hit you instantaneously. All incoming fire slowly approaches from a distance, making it easy to jump over or sidestep. MDK is the only game of its type where I have been able to hold my own for over five minutes with a just a single health point left. You wont get far doing it, but its nice to be able to dish out some serious pain during a last-ditch assault.
For an action game, MDK doesnt have a lot of weapons. The protagonist (who I assume is male because his name is Kurt) has a wicked little chaingun integrated in his right arm that has unlimited ammo. This effective device will be your bread and butter as you play, and I was able to complete almost the entire game using nothing else. Grenades come in handy but can hurt Kurt if hes standing too close to the explosion. Other weapons range from the devastating Super Chain Gun to more far-out contraptions like the Worlds Smallest Nuclear Explosion and the Thumper, a giant hammer that pounds enemies into pulp. The king of them all, though, is a powerup that allows you to call in an airstrike that is flown by Kurts six-legged dog (youll have to find out for yourself . . .).
Although it cant be listed as a weapon, Kurts suit also contains a mighty defensive toola reusable ribbon parachute. The chute can be used to glide around a level, strafing hapless enemies from above, and Shiny has done a great job of making the physics feel right as youre floating from place to place.
Oh yeah, and then theres the graphics. MDK has a ton of texture maps, and they are all well done. The texture map for Kurt, combined with some very fluid animation, makes him the most life-like hero of recent memory. In fact, the graphics and animation for all of the various denizens of MDKs world are exceptional. It is hard to imagine how Shiny could get it all to run on a normal Pentium rig, but they have pulled it off with aplomb.
Every Bright Light Casts a Shadow
I didnt like the linearity of the levels either. It is impossible to get lost in MDK, and I never found reason to backtrack. This hurts replayability immensely because there are few secret areas to explore.
My final gripe has to do with sniper mode. I loved using it, but it was a rare pleasure because as soon as I hit an enemy, all of his buddies instantly pinpointed my location and never forgot that I was around. The game would have been so much better if I could have picked off enemies without being seenespecially if a head shot was required to remain stealthy. There was just too much reliance on holding down the trigger and running around like a maniac (which was fun, but didnt exactly stimulate my brain cells).
Many people have whined about a lack of multi-player mode, but the game isnt designed for it. Sniping is almost impossible when the target is movinga fact that would reduce most deathmatches to toe-to-toe slugfests. There are rumors that multi-player support is in the works, but MDK doesnt need it to succeed.