Saturday, August 13, 2016

MDK Review - This is top!

    April 30, 1997 (Worldwde)
Platform(s): Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation 
Genre(s): Third-person shooter
Developer(s): Shiny Entertainment

    PIE (North America)
    Interplay Entertainment (Europe)
Player(s): 1


Ah, yes... MDK, the abbreviated title of Max Doctor Kurt... or Murder Death Kill... or.. whatever, no one knows but one thing is known is the developers behind the game- the now defunct Shiny Entertainment has a history of making unique and difficult games that are beloved by pretty much everyone who's played them (aside from a few lackluster movie tie-ins), like Earthworm Jim. The revolutionary third-person shooter one of those such games. But does it hold up today? Let's find out...


MDK is a third-person shooter like no other. The movement controls is similar to that of Doom.... the arrow keys/directional buttons allow you to move up/down and turn left/right while pressing the shoulder buttons/left and right arrow keys in junction with X allows you to strafe. One thing that really sets MDK apart from the average third-person shooter is Kurt Hectic, the character that you play as, uses an unlimited ammo chain gun that is attached to his coil suit as his main weapon and this gun can be used even when you're moving Kurt around. You can also find other weapons scattered throughout levels such as the grenade (which come 3 a piece) which deals great damage (a lot more than the chain gun) and breaks glass walls instantly, a super chain gun which evidently is a more powerful version of the built-in chain gun but it equipped automatically and only lasts for 200 rounds (why this is a weakness I'll explain later), and the Dummy Decoy to keep the dim enemies away from attacking you by attacking you for a considerable amount time... along with less common weapons such as The World's Smallest Nuclear Bomb which destroys anything within it's radius but it only appears to be using them to bust through otherwise indestructible doors (kinda a waste if you ask me), a Tornado which bit-by-bit attacks all enemies across the field, and The Very Large Hamester Hammer which springs left and right shaking the ground while destroying anything that the hammer bashes on. The game also combines third-person shooting action with platforming and with that Kurt also has the movement of a shooter along with the mobility of a platformer like Crash Bandicoot, the controls are tight and fluid on top of this. Kurt also comes equipped with a reusable ribbon parachute (usable from holding the jump button while in the air) that either slow down your landing which is convenient when landing from dangerous heights or reach to greater heights while under an air vent. 

And finally, the most stand out feature of all in MDK is Kurt's Sniper Mode. In this mode, your fixed into position with a dead-center aim and you can zoom in or out from your aim. It also comes with an unlimited ammo shooter although not as easily flexible as the chain gun it does more damage and if you aim at a non-boss enemy's vitals it's an instant kill... you can also find different types of sniper bullets such as Homing Bullets and Sniper Grenades (you can even have Max assist you) but those have a limit so it's best to use them only against stronger enemies. Your movement during Sniper Mode is limited so use it with caution... with that said this Sniper Mode adds a nice stealth element to the game.

Now with these vast amount of weaponry and flexibility you would figure the game would be easy... it is not. In fact, the game can be quite brutal in it's difficulty. Enemies come at large numbers and they take quite a bit of brute force to bring down even with the Super Chaingun. The most common you face in the whole game are generically called Grunts, who spend just as much time messing around and cowering as they would attack you but there are others enemies who are stronger, more aggressive, and use more tactics against you. The bosses are evidently the hardest as they require completely different approaches to be defeated and this is where the game really takes advantage of the whole Sniper Mode feature. Fortunately, you can often find food for health scattered throughout each level though they kinda scarce... there's even a I Feel Top supplements which brings your health all the way up to 150 pts (in contrast to your base of 100pts) and can last throughout the whole level but you can't maintain it. Puzzle-solving in this game also prove to be rather tricky... while in other games, the puzzles given to you are fairly straightforward but MDK forces you to think outside the box and solve things completely on your own. 

Once you get past the steep difficulty curve you'll find MDK is a game that in encourages player inituition and creativity as well as knowing when/how to attack or when/how to move.


You either have the option to start a new save data or load up an already saved data... not only had you can save at any point of the game by pressing F2 or holding the select button while the game is paused. There is a total of 6 levels of which you will be graded by your performance after each level and while the levels themselves are vast in size and are fairly diverse, the game only clocks in at 6 hours tops. There is no extra unlockables, no backtracking, and you don't even get much of a conclusion after beating the game. Sure, you would get an amusing Music video by French singer BZK (Billy Ze Kick) doing a cover for the French 1973 anti-war pop song Non Non Rien N'a Chang√© (No No Nothing Has Changed) but certain rereleases of the game doesn't have it like the Playstation version.... otherwise you just get Kurt climbing on top of the MDK logo like in the Title Menu and the credits roll. 


Although this is a tricky section to review since this game is almost 2 decades old I still think this is a fine-looking game regardless. The level are all very nicely detailed and all very diverse... same goes for the character models. The rich design of the game is also accompanied by a consistently smooth framerate of no lower than 30 fps across all computer system as the game's graphics uses software rendering rather than relying on a special graphics processing unit. The game's graphical accomplishments and visual appeal helps masks it datedness whatnot with the low polygon count (especially the Playstation version) and Kurt's animation is rather choppy (there are actually a few times I messed up a jump due to Kurt's awkward jump animation). One thing I do have to complain about in the game is that in order to maintain it's frame rate performance, many parts of the environments are simply left untextured leaving a bunch of black in certain areas without reason. 


There isn't much voice acting within MDK but when there is, it's usually the enemies making weird and sometimes funny noises. The game also has some really nice sound effects as there's always a sound when you pick up an item that represents said item including some really amusing ones such as the Gunta food making walrus sounds or those weird cow things making moo noises... the gun fires and explosions are also really lethargic. The whole strong point here is with the soundtrack as it's done by a composer who's a fairly big name in the industry, Tommy Tallarcio. All the tracks for MDK are combination of rock, orchestras, and synthesizers which is fitting as the game's story is pretty much about war and it's very sequence-based, keeping silent while running through corridors but comes blazing when something's about to go down. All the tracks work so well it's really hard to point to a specific example of how well it works but regardless, it's good stuff. 


I'll say this once and many who's played the game would agree, MDK is one of the most aesthetically-pleasing games I've ever played. The whole game carries a post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk atmosphere right from the menus to the gameplay while the same time very comical. On top of the silly sound effects, there's several other oddities such as the I Feel Top supplement suddenly sprouting legs trying to run away from you making screeching monkey sounds. The enemies are also odd-looking and grotesque while the same time showing such odd-ball behavior (like the Grunts acting like jackasses and Gunta jigging around) that you can't help but laugh at times. My only complain however is the story almost isn't there... all the story that you're given is aliens invade *insert city, state/province, country here* and it's up to Kurt Hectic to bring down the aliens' minecrawlers. You never even really get to know any of the main characters.... almost all of the story details are within the game's instruction manual as told from Doctor Fluke Hawkins' Journal. 


Despite being nearly 20 years old this game still holds up very strong as being one of the greatest and most significant third-part shooters of all time. Once you get past the short length and the dated visuals (or even immerse them into the experience), MDK is a fun yet challenging and unique game that is worth the time/money for any hardcore gamer. 

I give this game a 8.5 out of 10.

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