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Developer Shiny Entertainment Options
Distributer Interplay 1 Player
Game Type Shoot-em-up Memory Card
Review Date November 1997 Analog Compatible
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Setting the Scene
MDK is the highly acclaimed PC game that was created by Dave Perry, he of Earthworm Jim fame. It has finally been ported over to the Playstation and this has to be the most ambitious project taken on by a development team so far.

There is so much too say, yet so little time to say it so how about a little background into the game.

Scientist Dr Hawkins, his assistant Kurt and Max the dog have been conducting a secret weapons research program from an orbiting space satellite for the last five years. Suddenly they receive news from Earth that the planet is being invaded by alien forces. Cities are being destroyed on a massive scale, defence forces have been overwhelmed and the invaders are taking control.

Unaware to the aliens below, Dr Hawkins has created an array of high-tech weapons of destruction including the most deadly and accurate gun ever known. Earth has been taken over and they are the final hope for mankind. Plans are drawn up and Kurt slips into his skin-tight black combat suit that has the weirdest shaped helmet to match. He is dropped from the satellite where he hurtles through the atmosphere with his fingers crossed, hoping that his high-tech parachute will slow his descent.

MDK is a delighful, albeit short, third person perspective 3D shoot-em-up from Shiny Entertainment that is set to blow all other rivals away. There are 60 playing areas spread over 6 large levels with each featuring graphical architecture of the highest quality.

The PSX version of MDK was delayed so long due to the extreme challenges the developers had to face in making a port of this game. The sniper-mode requires items in the far, distant background to be visible so as you may zoom-in and pick off targets up to 2 miles away. Anyone that has played various racing or flight games knows this is difficult to pull off on console machines therefore most programmers will use fog or have items pop-up when they get close to keep the graphics rendering fast. MDK uses extremely large, textured polygons. The grounds, walls and ceilings are huge polygons that are heavily textured when the Playstation is better suited at moving lots of smaller polygons around. In my opinion the developers deserve a pat on the back for this excellent PSX translation.

The futuristic level designs are truly jaw dropping. A lot of the excitement generated during gameplay is to complete a level so that you can LOOK AT the next area, never mind play it. Each level begins with Kurt running through a confined tunnel. Occasionally he will slow a little but this is only because the next area is loading. That's correct, no boring loading times as MDK prepares the next area while your character is on the move. At the end of each tunnel is an opening where the fabulously detailed sets unfold before your very eyes. Some of them are a work of art, literally. Apparently there are over 32,000 colors on screen at once, which gives a lot more vibrancy to the look of the game.

Sounds and Effects
The sound effects are tremendous, so full of humor. Enemies curse and scream at you as they attack - 'kill the bugger, kill the bugger'. Explosions and gunfire are accurately represented, while the music.... well suffice to say I would be happy to purchase the CD soundtrack on it's own merits.

Before we get onto the gameplay it is probably worth mentioning the simplified control system. Now in my book shoot-em-ups usually make it or break it on the controller configuration. I detest single strafe buttons and too many dual button functions because in the heat of a battle you simply don't have the time to glance down at your joypad before filling an enemy full of lead. I don't care if your character can perform a backwards flip or your craft can execute a 360° manoeuvre - draw, aim, shoot and avoid incoming fire is all that is needed. Thankfully Shiny have got it right. Two responsive strafe buttons and a weapon select are on the shoulder pad. A fire, jump and use button on the face pad. There is also a rather useless look up/down button which is extremely difficult to use while on the move. It's not essential so just forget it. Your progress can be saved at any time during gameplay.

The player controls the main character Kurt, he of form-fitting suit and bird beak-like helmet, who is viewed from the third person perspective. Now why anyone would dress up in this manner for a battle beats me, however there does appear to be a method in his madness. The strange hooped contraption that unfolds when your character jumps into the air is apparently a parachute. Well I'll be darned. There's no way that I would trust this device to leap from my bed let alone from the edge of a seemingly bottomless pit, but nevertheless it appears to work for Kurt. The peculiar shaped hand gun looks like he has unfortunately trapped his arm inside a traffic cone, while that helmet.... well I'm sure that you've all seen something similar on the Internet porn pages.

Before each level can begin you must guide our hero's parachute past the aliens air defence system while collecting power-ups on your way down to Earth. On reaching the surface Kurt will begin his mission to take out the enemy forces. As you progress Dr Hawkins will parachute down some of the most impressive weapons ever seen in a shoot up, while Max will be at your disposal to disrupt enemy targets that you have selected.

It's 'that helmet' which offers so many interesting possibilities. On entering a new terrain all around remains quiet until you trigger off a response therefore it is advisable to attempt a spot of reconnaissance work before you launch an all out assault. Activate Sniper Mode and pick out a target who may first appear as a speck on the horizon, then zoom right in, so close that you can place the cross-hair right between his eyes. Now watch the turtle like creatures carefully and you will be amazed to see them performing their daily chores. Some of the troops are even sleeping while on guard duty. You can watch a group of aliens from far away and anticipate their ambush without them knowing. Using an extremely sophisticated collision detection system, MDK will allow you to pick off an alien's arm, or leg, or head. Also, the in-helmet view supports multiple screens. When you fire off a bullet, it will take a camera with it, allowing you to see the destruction up close. Go on, take a few shots and watch the chaos that erupts. You'll find they begin arguing to one another, running back and forth in confusion and dragging the sad wounded carcasses across the playfield.

The enemies are wide, varied and impudent to match. They have a high AI that will see them taunting you as they try to draw you out from your cover by giving you the V-sign and flashing their bums in your general direction. No matter how many times you lay them to rest, more and more keep appearing. On closer investigation you will see that they are constantly being regenerated from a glowing cylinder and it is this contraption which must be destroyed before taking out the individual troops. Don't be fooled into thinking that the aliens will remain on the ground as they have tanks and aircraft at their disposal which constantly bombard you from every direction. Virtually everything that moves can be destroyed and items that don't move may as well be rubbed out as it will probably come to life later.

Standard weapons include a machine gun with unlimited bullets. This can be powered up to a super chain gun which will tear the enemy forces apart in a matter of seconds. Your sniper gun can also be boosted by collecting homing bullets, sniper grenades and mortars. You will occasionally come across special weapons that can be thrown at the enemy. Tornadoes will whip up a whirlwind and suck up anything in the vicinity. A giant slammer will pulverize anyone who gets too close. The Worlds Smallest Nuclear Weapon is at your disposal which will blast away obstacles in your path creating an explosion that leaves a mini mushroom cloud fallout that destroys all in its path. There is a neat decoy at your disposal in the form of an Inflatable Kurt, so you can draw out the enemy and then pick them off from a safe distance. How about a pick-up that showers the area with exploding cows? Or releasing a crate full of 'homing seals' that chase the enemy and detonate on contact. Weird!

Health power ups are available but there is a slight catch... you have to capture them. That's correct, the darn things have legs and will run away when you approach them, screaming like a frightened chimp.

Completion of an area differs from zone to zone. Sometimes you are required to destroy all of the enemies which ranges from one extremely tricky bugger to dozens of annoying mechanical twits, while on others you must simply survive until you discover the exit. You face a variety of end-bosses in gorgeous sequences that typically rely less on raw firepower and more on a good aim and being able to quickly figure out the working of a mechanism.

Value for Money
The only major gripe I have with MDK is the lastability. If you have a trained eye for these type of shoot-em-ups I would recommend that you go straight for the hard mode as I completed the entire game on medium setting in about 14hours. On saying that there are an abundance of secret areas to discover which give this game an fair amount of replay value. Leave them begging for more seems to be the policy of Shiny, and that I was.

GRAPHICS: Brilliant MDK has to be the most diverse, bizarre and yet strangely original video game that I have ever experienced. I don't know what Shiny had in their minds when they set out to produce MDK but what they came up with is pretty damn cool. When you engage sniper mode the screen will change to Kurt's eye view which can be zoomed in to such a degree that allows you to pick out a point between the aliens eyes while you are nestling in the hills on the city outskirts. This gives the game a more assassination feel to it rather than rushing in blindly with all guns a-blazing.
SOUND: Excellent

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