Sunday, August 28, 2016

MDK2 Review - Murder. Death. Kill (?): The Second Carnage

Release(s): March 31, 2000 (Worldwide)
Platform(s): Dreamcast, Windows, PlayStation 2 
Genre(s): Third-person shooter
Developer(s): BioWare
Publisher(s): Interplay Entertainment 
Player(s): 1


MDK is easily one of the most innovative games but not only that it was a huge commercial success and received critical acclaim (for it's technical accomplishments and unique gameplay) so a sequel just had to be made. However as Interplay confronted Nick Bruty, the man behind the very existence of MDK, was not available for the next game so the license was handed over to the then little-known developer BioWare. Does MDK2 live up to the high standards set by the first game?


If you're familiar with how the first game plays then there's no worries while getting into this game as Kurt controls just the same as he did on MDK (there even references to the first game)... in fact, I'd say he controls a bit tighter here than his already great controls in the first game. Infinite chain gun, sniper mode, ribbon chute, etc. are all here for the coarse but there is a few fundamental changes and additions. Grenades now come 5 a piece and take time to detonate unless it makes direct contact with someone which adds a little strategy while using it, the super chain gun can now be equipped manually and have 500 ammo each, and health is more plentiful this time around. Certain items such as I Feel Top!!!, Tornado, and Hamster Hammer sadly hadn't made the cut but MDK2 makes up for it by adding a bunch of new items such as the Cloak which makes you invisible for a while, Black Hole that literally wipes out anything within range (include YOU), Sniper Shield which prevents you from taking damage while in sniper mode (but it obstructs your view), and Laser Chain gun which is even more powerful than the Super Chain gun but require more accurate aiming and only has 100 ammo. There's also these blue glowing orbs that are placed during the puzzle-solving sections that require you to use sniper mode to dissolve them... these orbs are what keep you from progressing and tend to be hidden where enemies are at bay. At first they're pretty easy to dissolve (just aim and shoot with sniper mode) but in later levels they start to show various patterns like floating up and down the area or bouncing back and forth across the area... so positioning and timing is a critical factor here.

Another thing is that you can now play as Max (Dr. Fluke Hawkins' gutter-mouthed six-legged k-9 unit and pet) and Dr. Hawkins (the eccentric man of science who hired Kurt as a janitor), both offer their own style of gameplay. Kurt is like the middle man between the two... his levels are a mix of stealth, puzzle-solving, and manpower while Max's levels are all about manpower, and Doctor's levels are about inventory and puzzle-solving with very little manpower involved. 

In Max's levels, you can find many types of guns to add to your disposal that you can equip or unequip like Magnums, Uzis, Gatling Guns, or Laser guns though Max always comes strapped with a special Magnum with infinite ammo like Kurt's chain gun but it's pretty weak on it's own so it's not a good idea to rely on it. Max can also equip up to 4 guns at once and he's the strongest of the 3 having 200 health points (which is twice the amount Kurt has) so naturally you encounter the most amount of enemies with Max making his levels the most action-packed. Max doesn't come with a parachute like Kurt but you do find a Jetpack halfway through each of his levels that functions a similar way only you don't have to go under an air vent for it to make you fly into the air... the Jetpack has limited fuel however so always remember to go near a gas pump, which you'll find at certain spots throughout the rest of his levels, when the fuel gauge is low. You do find an Atomic Jetpack in later levels which doesn't go as fast but it refills automatically when not in use.

In Doctor's levels, you can find many common objects of which is either sectioned off to your left hand or right hand to be equitable. Having one item on each hand can do various things... such as being combined to make a new item to use or even be used as a weapon. Like I said earlier Doctor's levels are puzzle-solving heavy featuring parts where you play as Doctor's pet fish Chuckleberry Fin swimming your way through a maze in the crate of the Jim Dandy ship to find the button switch while at the same time avoiding spike bombs and bigger fish will eat you once it gets close to you or hit buttons corresponding to a specific pattern (if or not under a time limit). Doctor isn't nearly as physically capable as Kurt or Max (for obvious reasons) as you only have 60 health points, low jumping height, and can't climb onto ledges so platforming and manpower isn't much his territory but you can hold your own against enemies with the Atomic Toaster which can be used with an strangely unlimited loaf of bread (among other things) to make atomic toast that, while not as easily flexible as Kurt's chain gun, can do great damage and can bounce off the area then stick to it before exploding, or his Leaf Blower.

MDK2 still retains the rough difficulty curve of the first game. Enemies still come large in numbers and take quite a bit of manpower to bring down... though MDK2 introduces a completely new, wider roster of enemies such as the Buttrocks who are the most common enemies and are like bigger version of the Grunts (who fans call "Poopsies") but not as big as pushovers (they can attack at close range and launch grenades similar to Kurt's), Coneheads who are seemingly harmless at first but have psychic attacks that go through walls, Birdbrains who are owl-looking robots that fly around and will hunt you down like a hawk (oohh!!), and the dreaded Bifs with their powerful homing lightning staff attacks and high amount of health, plus puzzle-solving is just as tricky as ever and bosses still require varying alternative strategies. In fact, I feel MDK2 may be quite a bit more difficult than the first game... there's a stronger emphasis on platforming and puzzle-solving this time around, and those sections some of the challenging you'd ever face in any game period. In many parts it's seemingly impossible to get past without going through trial-and-error... Doctor's levels are especially hard for this very reason given his levels mostly revolve around puzzle-solving and there's also his limitations.


Like MDK, you have the option to either create a new game data or load an existing save date but for some reason the console versions of MDK2 don't allow you to save at any point of game like in the PC version, the game will save your data for you once you reach a checkpoint but you can at least revisit a checkpoint to redo a certain part of the save data. MDK2 has a total of 10 levels and each level switches between Kurt, Max, and Doctor in that order except for the last level where you choose one of the 3 you want play to as and as always their approaches are completely different even though you're ultimately doing the same thing with all of them... you will get an alternate ending once you beat the level with each of them. Not only are there more levels in MDK2 but the levels themselves are even bigger and more diverse.... you won't be graded by your performance like in the first game though. After playing through each level you can load your save data to watch the cutscenes from all the levels.


Just like MDK the graphics for MDK2 are quite dated with the muddy textures and low-polygon count on character models (especially for the PS2 port MDK2: Armageddon) but the detailed and cool-looking designs make up for it. Another thing worth mentioning is there aren't as many corners cut with the graphics as the first game (most likely due to better resourceful) as there's no parts of the environments that are simply left black and there seems to be some actual lighting effects employed along much better looking (and less computer-looking) explosions and particle effects. The animation is also a lot better notably with Kurt... his movement is actually natural and smooth-looking not at all jerking like in the first game... so with age aside, MDK2 is a very pretty-looking game.


The sound effects in MDK2 are just as cathartic and hilarious as the first game. Voice acting is more plentiful now that characters have actual dialogue and they add just as much to the experience as the alien grunt noises. MDK2 also goes for a totally different musical approach from the first game... in fact, it's done by completely composers who areJesper Kyd, Albert Olson, and Raymond Watts. While there are some orchestral tracks in the game (mostly during Doctor's levels) but for the most part the music in MDK2 is techno and honestly it's more suiting to the game's cyberpunk influence but not only that it does more to get you pumped up during the heat of battle due riffs find in the faster songs.


MDK2 features the same cyberpunk/post-apocalyptic atmosphere with a dash of unique, off-the-wall humor. Like I said earlier MDK2 has actual dialogue this time around so expect a lot of dialogue-based humor and this game features some of the funniest dialogue in any game (who's my puppy-wubby dingy doggy). MDK2 also fleshes-out the story in comparison to the non-existent story from the first game so we actually get to know the titular characters (nobody knows what it stands so stfu!) and the aliens they face while playing the game... the story is told through cutscenes that appear in the beginning, in the middle of, and towards the end of each level but don't expect it to be super compelling as the story never really takes itself very seriously. It's all told in a pretty tongue-in-check matter with witty banter and subversive humor.


With all that said, MDK2 manages to be even better than it's predecessor despite being handled by a completely different development team. Brutal difficulty aside it took what made the first game great then expanded upon it while at the same time fixing most of the (mostly minor) shortcomings... it's just a shame this game never caught on the same way it's older brother did.

Overall, this game gets a 9.5 out of 10.

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