You are currently viewing an archival version of GF!

Click here to return to the current GamesFirst! website.


GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004


star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)

by Shiny Entertainment
What the game is about:
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 . . .

The Review:
Forget plots, forget detailed character development and forget that date you have tonight—MDK is here. Don’t worry, you can go back to all that other stuff tomorrow. Until then (it only takes an evening to win the game), MDK will have you in its clutches.

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 nature—precise 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 Pete’s sake! They hold bullseyes in front of their faces and taunt you. They fall for cheap tricks like the World’s Most Interesting Bomb—a weapon that aliens gather around to look at until it opens and delivers its deadly payload. MDK isn’t 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.

That’s 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 won’t like) is that the aliens don’t 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 won’t get far doing it, but it’s nice to be able to dish out some serious pain during a last-ditch assault.

For an action game, MDK doesn’t 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 he’s standing too close to the explosion. Other weapons range from the devastating Super Chain Gun to more far-out contraptions like the World’s 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 Kurt’s six-legged dog (you’ll have to find out for yourself . . .).

Although it can’t be listed as a weapon, Kurt’s suit also contains a mighty defensive tool—a 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 you’re floating from place to place.

Oh yeah, and then there’s 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 MDK’s 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
You are probably wondering right now if there was anything I didn’t like about MDK, aside from its short length. I grudgingly concede that there were a few faults. The sound effects and music were excellent, but they must have been recorded at a low sampling rate because they all sounded scratchy. Some of the graphics were also a little rough around the edges, but I wasn’t playing the 3D accelerated version.

I didn’t 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 seen—especially 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 didn’t exactly stimulate my brain cells).

Many people have whined about a lack of multi-player mode, but the game isn’t designed for it. Sniping is almost impossible when the target is moving—a fact that would reduce most deathmatches to toe-to-toe slugfests. There are rumors that multi-player support is in the works, but MDK doesn’t need it to succeed.

Final Summary:
Playing MDK was like watching a well-crafted action movie—sending adrenaline coursing through my system at just the right times and serving up a glorious array of special effects. The beautiful environments slid past so smoothly on my clunky P-100 that I began wondering how many Shiny programmers had to sell their souls to get the 3D engine. The fun ended all too soon but there was an element of replayability as I could go through again using completely different tactics. MDK is also a great "show-off" title that will make you want to invite friends over just so they can see the game’s overwhelming beauty and humorous embellishments. The bottom line: If you enjoyed any of the games it has been compared to, MDK is a treat you won’t want to pass up.

--Tracy Baker