MDKMDK, first released for the PC in 1997, has found a new audience in Mac gamers. Not since the Marathon series have we had so much fun in 3D arenas, strafing and sidestepping to James Bond-style tunes. Many think the phrase "murder, death, kill" inspired the mysterious moniker on the black box, but the acronym probably stands for "Max, Doctor (Fluke), Kurt," the three protagonists of this third-person shooter. No definitive explanation of the title exists.
Your mission, however, is precisely defined. Uncouth extraterrestrials have descended from a rogue planet now orbiting Earth, and they will use their gargantuan Minecrawler to crush our planet. As Kurt Hectic, you must save six cities essential to human civilization. While the story is simple, MDK's innovative game concept compensates for the lack of narrative complexity. Throughout most of the game you run with guns blazing, but getting into and around sprawling cities requires you to parachute, snowboard, and fly a bomber, among other actions. In addition to dexterity, you need guile and stealth to defeat enemies on each level. Moreover, you have but one life, so tread carefully.
Visually, MDK is <I>bellissimo</I>. Our screenshots do little justice to the graphics that animate this game. The beautiful levels feature different themes, including a particularly impressive dreamy, futuristic cityscape, which the mirrored floors and walls reflect with dazzling clarity. Seamless movement and well-drawn enemies—even in Sniper Mode—add to the visual wonderland.
MDK features 60 arenas. They play out rather linearly, so don't expect a high degree of replayability. In fact, hard-core action game veterans will probably zip through the levels. The game offers humorous moments and surprise-filled props to keep you smiling, including the World's Smallest Nuclear Explosion, World's Most Interesting Bomb, Dummy Decoy, Bones Airstrike, and—particularly endearing to Mac gamers—Health in the shape of colored apples. Because you have only one life, you have to pause the game and save it often, which interrupts gameplay. However, you should take the time to do this, because if you don't you'll be dead and have to start over at the beginning of the level.
MDK's most distinctive feature is its Sniper Mode. According to the default settings, you invoke Sniper Mode by pressing the space bar. Sniper Mode's excellence lies in its zoom, which allows you to knock off enemy units and their bosses from over a mile away. Through Sniper Mode's bullet cam, you get the satisfaction of witnessing flying bullets, mortar shells, and other deadly objects as they strike down targets. Sniper Mode appeals to your voyeuristic side, because it allows you to watch an unsuspecting target in a private moment without being seen yourself. If an enemy detects your presence, you still experience the thrill of being discovered and the ensuing danger of getting shot. It's gameplay on the edge.
MDK is a title worthy of action gamers. We tested game performance on both a 225MHz 603e and a 233MHz G3: Frame rates averaged 13 to 16 per second and 22 to 26 per second, respectively. Both machines ran MDK smoothly. Of course, the G3 had the instructions-per-cycle advantage. We found two things about MDK disappointing: It doesn't support hardware 3D acceleration—no 3Dfx for you!—and it doesn't feature a multiplayer option. In today's cutthroat market, a 3D game almost has to include those things to be competitive. Hopefully, we'll get a 3Dfx patch and an expansion for multiplayer games soon.