UGO

Review:

MDK

by Playmates Interactive Entertainment/Shiny Entertainment


Max. Dr. Fluke Hawkins. Kurt. So (supposedly) explains the name of this wonderful third-person 3D action game. You play Kurt, the unlikely action hero of the near future. You, Max, and Dr. Hawkins were away from Earth for five days on an expedition when the aliens came. Upon return, you found that they were strip-mining the Earth and stealing it's resources. Fortunately, the brilliant Dr. Hawkins and his equally brilliant six-armed, artificial dog Max are on your side. Armed with a special suit and equally special weapons, it is your job to parachute into the aliens' gigantic mobile mining cities and put a stop to the invasion. Taking them out means clearing out the aliens and killing the driver, the 'boss' of each mining vehicle. The graphics in this game are truly revolutionary. The levels are made up of 3D areas with strange and interesting textures. Walls, floors and platforms may also be comprised of translucent materials, and much of the environment is interactive. There is quite a bit of clipping of the graphics which make some areas difficult to navigate. At times you can see through parts of walls and ceilings, and enemies sometimes disappear into walls. But for the most part, the environment is stable and never boring to look at. Sound effects are well-done and the music is innovative. Some levels have a type of 'theme', like the James Bond-ish level that is truly action-packed and has theme music (and snow boards) to match. Gameplay is nothing out of the ordinary for those accustomed to 3D action shooters, but here you will find unique levels and level design. At times, the game feels like a platform shooter gone 3D. Many of the traps and designs of platforms are found here, only this time you have a true 3D environment to observe it from. Very innovative indeed. Your main weapon is an arm mounted machine gun that may be attached to the face of your outfit to become a sniper scope. With sniper mode enabled, you can zoom in on the aliens and pick them off surgically, or just spy on them. When they are not aware of your presence, the aliens will go about their daily duties, conversing, hunting, scratching their butts, and just interacting naturally. When they are engaging you, you wil notice that these enemies do not just charge you shooting away, like in many popular 3D games. These aliens will duck, charge, persue kamikaze missions, and even drop to the ground and cower in fear. A refreshing change from the charge and shoot baddies usually found in this type of game. While the AI is better than most, there are a few observations to make. I noticed that certain types of aliens tend to act like the others of their type. For instance, one type of alien performs kamikaze maneuvers. All the aliens of that type act this way. You will get to recognize how each enemy acts and prepare for them accordingly. This is quite different from most games, and a very innovative mechanism. In addition to the chain gun, you will find powerups like the super chain gun, grenades, mortars, and the deadly sniper grenades which allow you to pack a super punch while zooming in close. These are best saved to deal with bosses. There is a powerup that allows you to call in Max with an airstrike. When activated, you will see Max flying off saluting you. The most innovative weapons include the world's smallest nuclear explosion, unfortunately used exclusively to unlock doors, and the world's most interesting bomb, a device which, when thrown, will attract the attention of every enemy in range. They will continue to stare at it until it explodes right in their collective turtle-like faces. At certain times near the beginning of a level, Max can steal an aircraft, allowing you to make a bombing run to clear out much of the level ahead of time. Level design itself is interesting, but way too linear. An average level requires you to move into an arena, kill the enemies or solve a puzzle of sorts, then continue through a tunnel until you get to the next arena. The levels cannot be solved in any manner you like. An arena must be cleared in order for you to move on to the next. Like I said, linear. On the extremely positive side, MDK stresses problem solving over shooting. Many of the arenas have a particulary inventive way to solve them and you must find that rather than just brainlessly blast away with your machine gun. I found this much more fun that the usual 'shoot and kill everything' approach most games of this type involve. Other innovative ideas within the game are utilities like Kurt's ribbon parachute, which may be deployed at any time to make a jump, or to ride the heat from a vent upwards. Heights are not necessarily deadly in this game. At the beginning of each level, you will parachute in, avoiding radar and incoming missles, all the while trying to pick up powerups along the way. Once you land, it's time to blast your way through the level, solve the puzzles, and kill the boss. Once the boss is killed, the level disintegrates, and you are whisked away into what looks like a wormhole. There you will ride it out, avoiding contact with the walls until you chase down the world's most cowardly powerup, a health increasing item that runs away from you. Once this is completed, Max will bungee in and grab you, taking you back home to Dr. Hawkins. Overall, this is an excellent game, truly innovative, with beautiful graphics. The game contains only six levels, while huge, still make the game a bit short. No multiplayer is included, but that is probably just as well considering the linearity of the levels themselves.

Graphics 90%
Sounds 86%
Gameplay 93%
Interface 85%
Overall Impression 92%

Bottom Line: Great game, highly innovative, especially in this day of 'me-too' 3D action games. This one is truly different, and in a good way. Levels are linear, but incredibly beautiful with awe-inspiring effects. Problem solving is a higher priority than killing. The graphics clip quite a bit, getting a bit confusing at times. Only six levels are included... huge, but only six. No multiplayer is available.


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