Review by Old
Bioware Honors a Legacy
When we consider the game development house Bioware, we think of
such titles as the Baldur's Gate series and, more recently,
Neverwinter Nights. What may surprise you, dear reader, is
that in the year 2000 Bioware took on itself the challenge of creating
a wholly different kind of gamenot an RPG, but this time the
new and updated version of a classic action/adventure titleMDK.
It must be an honor, but also a responsibility, to assume the
task of erecting an update to such a highly acclaimed game, unique
for its time (1997), originally created by the inventive folks at
Shiny. Frankly, Bioware is not one of the developers I would have
envisioned for this job. But these creators of Baldur's Gate
have shown a level of inventive and artistic talent, as well
as aptitude for fun, that richly expands not only the legacy of
MDK, but also the depth and breadth of their development
house. These folks have a sense of humor, and it looks like they
had fun making the game!
MDK 2 presents the player with the challenge of stopping
some most peculiar aliens who, for apparent strategic reasons, have
chosen to renew their invasion of Earth in Edmonton, Alberta (perhaps
at that huge shopping mall?). You need to stop them, playing as
not only Kurt, the reluctant janitorial hero of the original, but
also as the eccentric Doc and the ferocious artificial canine, Max
(MDK=Max, Doc, Kurt).
The frenetic pace and intense (sometimes frustrating) challenges
of the 10 levels is absorbing, graphically most satisfying, quite
varied and, most of all, funny. This is one of the three best third-person
action/adventure games of the year 2000the others being Rayman
2: The Great Escape and American
Let's examine some of the game attributes leading to this conclusion.
MDK 2 may give you some installation/loading problems, for
which you'll likely need a patch found at the Interplay site. Interestingly,
I had more difficulty with my Windows 98 system than with my new
XP, with nVidia3 video card. OpenGL is required, which typically
is included on most nVidia cards. Considerable tweaking and individualization
of settings is allowed. The fine manual and readme provide guidance
in this regard, with further useful advice found at Tweak
3D. For my part, I was comfortable with 800x600, 16-bit, on
my older PIII 450, nVidia Ultra system, desiring the best frame
rate. On my new setup, the sky was the limit, moving easily to 1280x1084,
32-bit, with fine and fluid frame rates. This in-house "Omen"
engine of Bioware's is most impressive, not only with what it presents,
but also with its range of optionseven including being one
of the first games to support the enriched T&L aspects of the
GeForce 2, and above, video cards.
The controls are "Quake-like," with mouse-look,
arrow movement keys, and strafing options. Gamepad is an option
but is not needed. Camera placement and movement is among the best
I've ever seen in a third-person perspective game (this is the most
frequent criticism of games like Prince
of Persia 3D and Tomb
Raider). In-game interface is clear, logical and easily
operable through the keyboard. Perhaps the best recommendation I
can give in this area is that interface and controls are intuitiveyou
don't think or worry about them, let alone fight them. They let
you get on with the game. We can't ask for more than that.
As to graphics, Bioware's Omen engine presents vivid colors, detailed
environments, and huge worlds in the later levels. As indicated
earlier, settings are configurable, with 800x600 looking great.
There is a "cartoonish" quality to the game, amplified
by comic-book cut scenes. Earlier levels seem more ordinary, though
still beautiful, with later levels often bordering on astounding.
Ambient and weapon sound is rather ordinary, as is music, but voice
characterizations are excellent. From the cynical, disgusting-sounding
narrator in Doc's "danger kitchen" training session to
the good Doctor himself ("a few more snazzy gizmos and we're
home free!"), the expressions are just right. This is a funny
script, and the voice actors ham it up appropriately.
Of course, gameplay is the heart and soul of any game, with graphics,
sound and controls forming the enabling skeleton, as it were. MDK 2's
heart beats vibrantly and strongly!
"Don't Go in Barking Mad!" Doc
In a departure from the original, MDK 2 allows you
to play as each of the three protagonists in the first nine levels
(three for each), with a choice to be made for level 10. Too bad,
really, that choice wasn't an option for the first nine levels as
well, which would have added to replayability. The characters have
different styles in their approach to solving the mazes, puzzles,
jumps (ugh!) and minor enemies on the way to level "end bosses."
Kurt is a custodian, who dons an outfit allowing his distinctive
weaponsa sniper scope (needed for distant switches, as well
as creatures) and a backpack flying chute (good for gentle falls,
jumps, or using updrafts). His levels have a satisfying mix of stealth,
planning, shooting, and problem solving.
Doc is the "brains" behind it all, and he uses objects
in his environment (toaster, bread, masking tape, etc.) to create
lethal combinations of traps and weapons. As he puts it: "I've
no time now; fun must wait." His levels are the closest to
an "adventuring" style of game. Doc also exclaims, "I
miss my doggie," which brings us to ...
"Duke-Dog" Max. "Brute force and firepower"
is the mantra of this cigar-smoking, two-legged, four-armed killing
machine. At some points wielding four Gatling guns, Max isn't at
all subtle in his progression through levels and solving of problemsif
it moves, shoot it! Of course, some discretion is in order at times,
or as Doc puts it to the dog at one point: "Max, we don't want
to go in barking mad!"
Although I would have preferred the choice of any of the three
characters for each level (as with level 10), this rotating approach
does allow variety and is better than just using Kurt exclusively,
for example. Whichever hero you play, though, the ever-present humorvisually
and auditorilyundergirds your experience. Even a jaded old
guy like myself burst out with laughter more than I can remember
with any recent game (even Stupid
Invaders). It's often like a Monty Python script!
"Enough Jumping Around, Lad" Doc to Kurt
There are a couple of niggles, though. A few of the subgames (especially
"Chuckleberry Finn") are tedious and not fun. The game
overall is tough, with well-hidden doors and precise jumping puzzles.
Thank goodness Bioware included save-anywhere and quick-save/quick-load
keys (with the PC version at least). Also, an auto-help system kicks
in with clues if you spend too much time wandering aimlessly. Still,
jumping is part of the nature of this gameit's supposed to
be thereand this sometimes-detrimental aspect of gameplay
is more than compensated for by the huge and splendid environments,
wonderful humor, and wacky gameplay.
In summary, I've moved in my impressions of MDK 2 from
an initial "B" range, after earlier levels, to an "A"
rating upon completion of the game. Make no mistake, this game can
be characterized as a "shooter," and it is really best
suited for those who enjoy a Tomb Raider kind of romp. So,
pure adventurers, please be warned. Having said that and looking
back at the whole experience, particularly after the brilliant later
levels, I'm led to have nothing but the highest praise for Bioware's
ability to "expand this MDK legacy" with a game
that challenged, amazed and, best of all, made me laugh. Thank youit's
What I Liked the Most
The presence of an underlying, "Python-like,"
humor; splendid graphical color and worlds; ability to play in three
What I Liked the Least
The game is very tough overall; jumping puzzles are sometimes too
precise; a couple of annoying subgames.
Originally released for the PC and Dreamcast, there is also a version
available for the Playstation 2 entitled MDK 2: Armageddon.
From reading the very laudatory reviews, it appears to be the
same game and clearly has the fine graphics, voice acting and humor
Release Date: June 2000
Four Fat Chicks Links
PII 233 (PII 300 recommended)
24 MB RAM (32 MB recommended)
8 MB video card with OpenGL drivers
300 MB free hard drive space
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