MDK (video game)
North American cover art
Shokwave (Mac port)
Neversoft (PlayStation port)
|Designer(s)||Nick Bruty, Bob Stevenson, Tim Williams|
MDK is a 1997 third-person shooter video game developed by Shiny Entertainment and published by Playmates in North America and Interplay Entertainment in Europe for Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, and subsequently PlayStation. It was one of the first PC games to require a Pentium or equivalent processor, and did not initially have a GPU requirement. The game soundtrack, composed by Tommy Tallarico, was separately released.
The game tells the story of Kurt Hectic and his attempts to rescue Earth from an alien invasion of gigantic strip mining city-vehicles named "Minecrawlers". These ships are not only removing all of earth's natural resources but are also flattening any people and cities that get in their way. The game combined action with a sense of humour, and featured a "sniper mode" that allowed the player to zoom in on enemy targets.
A sequel, MDK2, was developed by BioWare and published by Interplay for the Dreamcast and PC in 2000, and later for PlayStation 2 (titled MDK 2: Armageddon) in 2001, and Wii (via WiiWare) in 2011. A HD version was also released for the PC in 2011.
MDK's gameplay is primarily that of a third-person shooter, except when the player enters sniper mode, at which time it switches to first-person. Kurt has a wide range of weapons from which to choose, which differ in standard gameplay and sniper mode. A large part of the gameplay involves the use of Kurt's "ribbon chute", a parachute that can be used indefinitely.
In addition to the standard run-and-gun/sniper modes, there are several mini-games in MDK. All levels start out with an "atmospheric re-entry", while some levels have a bombing run; boarding a glider and dropping iron bombs onto enemies. There are also a few special game modes in different levels. For example, one level features snowboarding sequences where Kurt must navigate obstacles while destroying enemies. In another level, Kurt must disguise himself as a sentry robot to deceive guards.
All levels (with the exception of the final level) begin with Kurt skydiving from the Jim Dandy to the Minecrawler below. The Minecrawler activates its radar, which, if touched, triggers the launch of anti-air missiles, which must be dodged. Dr. Hawkins also sends down weapons at this point which (if collected) are added to Kurt's level inventory.
Each level is divided into several sections called "arenas", interconnected by tunnels. Each arena can be different in style, as can the method needed for getting through it. Some are large areas with many Grunt generators, and others combine platform jumping with puzzle solving. Many arenas have a specific solution, like throwing sniper mortars into tubes, pushing objects next to high platforms, or shooting power generators.
Once a level has ended, by killing the boss in command of the Minecrawler, the Minecrawler self-destructs and its debris and inhabitants are sucked back into the energy stream, taking Kurt with them. Kurt has a set period in the energy stream, during which time he pursues a health powerup, which, if collected grants 150% health. If he touches the walls of the stream, he loses five health points and decelerates. At the end of his period in the stream, Max will come out on a tether and pluck Kurt to safety.
Kurt's Coil Suit
Kurt's main defense against his enemies is the Coil Suit, a skin-tight armor suit made of a leather-like material inlaid with twisting gold designs. This suit serves as a bulletproof vest and protects Kurt from the atmospheric friction of re-entry. The front end of Kurt's helmet can be removed and attached to his arm, becoming a chaingun with unlimited ammo. There is also a powerup that increases the damage and firing rate of the chaingun, making it easier to defeat large quantities of enemies.
The sniper rifle is created when Kurt's chaingun is mounted on his helmet. It gains 100x zoom and the capability of supporting 6 different types of ammunition. Kurt does not actually see out of the helmet, rather, he sees out of a HUD camera, used to aim. There are three "Bullet Cams" that track each projectile and linger briefly after impact, showing any damage done.
The Ribbon Chute allows Kurt to navigate long jumps, long falls, and utilize updrafts (deploying automatically). The Ribbon Chute retracts automatically when not being used and can be used indefinitely. According to Dr. Hawkins's diary, there were also concepts for a "Bow Chute" and a "Tie Chute".
The enemies in MDK are a collective of aliens called "Stream Riders" under the command of Gunter Glut aka "Gunta". They use the energy streams to invade planets and strip them of their mineral wealth. The alien force is composed mainly of "Grunts", so called due to their number and vocalizations, sounding very similar to monkeys. Similar robots with better armour and weapons are encountered as the game advances. Grunts can be deployed from generators, grunt-launcher tanks, or even brought to action by carrier-ships. The larger varieties usually do not have generators or reinforcements, but are much harder to combat. No matter how big the robots are, they can be killed by one or two sniper shots to the head.
Besides the Grunts, there are a large variety of other enemies, such as tanks, cannon turrets, small firing ships, larger carrier-ships, special sentry robots, and some special enemies. Among these, for example, there is giant ships with spherical cannon turrets; to defeat the ship, Kurt must snipe each turret. Another example is musician guards who shoot musical notes at Kurt.
MDK's manual is in the form of the diary of eccentric inventor Dr. Fluke Hawkins, who discovers something he calls "Flange Orbits". However, when he broaches the scientific community with his discovery, he is ridiculed. Hawkins then builds a space station, the Jim Dandy, bribes his laboratory janitor, Kurt Hectic, by means of Hungarian goulash, and launches both himself and Hectic into a self-imposed exile, swearing never to return to Earth until he "comes up with some really good stuff." Upon reaching orbit, he realizes that "Flange Orbits" do not actually exist, but rather than return in shame, he begins work on a robotic dog that he calls "Bones" (although the dog prefers "Max").
Hawkins continues his work in relative peace until one day, he notices a strange phenomenon - streams of energy headed straight for Earth. He sends down a warning (along with a basket of Max's oranges) but is promptly ignored. The streams proceed to disgorge innumerable hordes of enemies in "Minecrawlers", giant fortress-cities designed to strip the mineral wealth (and potato crops) from a planet. The military forces of Earth are subsequently crushed and so Hawkins decides to take action. Pairing his new "Coil Suit" (a revolutionary armor suit capable of repelling "bullets, bees, and small but very hard sticks", and which holds a retractable/re-usable "ribbon chute" for parachuting or gliding) with an arm-mounted chain gun that also serves as a head-mountable sniper rifle, he has the perfect weapon suite. Due to the Doctor's age and Max's extra pair of legs, Kurt is the only one who can wear it, thus becoming the very reluctant hero.
So, Kurt is dispatched on "Mission: Deliver Kindness", entering the Minecrawlers from above, and destroying them from the inside-out, shooting his way through to the driver, and typically killing them in some rather violent fashion. Kurt fights his way through a number of Minecrawlers, destroying them one by one, until he reaches Gunter Glut, the hideous leader of the invasion. Kurt destroys the final Minecrawler but Glut escapes with Max into an energy stream leading to the alien homeworld. Kurt gives chase, frees Max and kills Glut. The ending sequence is a monochrome mix of a French pop music video ("Non Non Rien N'a Changé" by Billy Ze Kick) and clips from the MDK promotion video.
The initial PC release used software rendering to draw the world and did not require any additional GPU capabilities. However patches were later released that added support for then popular APIs, such as D3D, Glide, Redline and PowerVR. Although a fast CPU was recommended, the game ran smoothly with relatively low RAM. Kurt's movement was created using sprite-based animation. The sniper mode allowed Kurt to zoom from one side of the map to the other without any noticeable pop up.
Meaning of "MDK"
While the actual meaning of the title's TLA is not revealed within the game, the gaming press and fans adopted Murder, Death, Kill, which was coined as a neologism in the film Demolition Man. Another possibility is documented inside the game manual, where Kurt's mission is named "Mission: Deliver Kindness". In the readme for the MDK demo, it is stated that nobody is quite sure what "MDK" means; it means whatever each person needs it to mean on that given day. As the readme was penned on Mother's Day, the meaning for that particular day was "Mother's Day Kisses".
In the European version of the game, the background images of the installation program present many possible meanings for the letters; some silly, some believable, with one of them being "Murder, Death, Kill". In the Japanese version, on the back cover it says in bold yellow letters: "My Dear Knight". The "Making of MDK" booklet that came with the "Limited Edition" of the game says that the term was actually the game's code name, but when Shiny attempted to come up with a final name for the game, they simply chose to stick with the codename.
In the installation screen for MDK2, various meanings are shown scrolling down as a backdrop to Kurt diving through, or to, an unknown destination. In the background, "Murder, Death, Kill" is highlighted.
In an interview with David Perry in NowGamer, Perry revealed that the original meaning of "MDK" from the company's initial promo video was in fact "Murder Death Kill". However, because the toy company that was supposed to make toys based on the game did not like to have those words printed on the toys, the words were removed and replaced with "MDK". At the time of the game's release, Perry's official line on the game's title was that it stood for the first initials of game's characters; Max, Dr. Hawkins, and Kurt.
MDK received mainly positive reviews upon its release. The PC version holds an aggregate score of 89.20% on Gamerankings, based on five reviews. The PlayStation version holds a score of 76.33%, based on six reviews.
Game Revolution's Johnny Lee scored the PC version an A-, writing "Did you think that the 3D gaming style in Mario 64 was awesome, but the game just too soft for you? Try it again with a twist of Doom and you can say "up yours" to those soft-core, non-violent, weak-ass kiddy games." He concluded that "MDK combines sweet graphics and 'revolutionary' gameplay and design concepts to put it in a class by itself. Thank heavens someone decided to create something revolutionary rather than dupe others' successful ideas."
GameSpot scored the PC version 7.6 out of 10 and the PlayStation version 7 out of 10. Jeff Sengstack called the PC version "a visually exciting, mentally challenging shooter with a humorous and twisted viewpoint." He praised the humor in the game, and the originality of some of the weaponry and enemies, but was critical of the controls and the length of the game. He concluded that "MDK is frequently fun, sometimes frustrating, full of surprises, and visually stunning. It's not going to inspire the next revolution in action gaming, but it is an enjoyable diversion." Of the PlayStation version, Josh Smith was critical of the graphics, saying "In execution, the flaws show, and you may wish they'd traded a little of the game's visual inventiveness for some consistent graphical clarity." He also felt the gameplay was repetitive and the game itselt too short, concluding that "In all, MDK is something of a mixed bag. Amazing graphics style, but little graphical consistency. Awesome combat action, but little combat challenge. Great puzzles, but they're really pretty simple, and the whole game can be solved without using too many brain cells."
IGN scored the PlayStation version 8 out of 10, calling it "one of the most impressive PC to PlayStation ports ever seen [...] This game moves just as fast as the PC version, it has all the levels, including a few bonus ones, and the sniper helmet is still 'pixel-perfect'." Their only real criticism was that "there are random slips in framerate during some levels because of the real-time loading."
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- Lee, Johnny (May 5, 1997). "MDK PC Review". Game Revolution. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
- Sengstack, Jeff (May 6, 1997). "MDK PC Review". GameSpot. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
- Smith, Josh (February 12, 1998). "MDK PlayStation Review". GameSpot. Retrieved August 9, 2013.
- "MDK PlayStation Review". IGN. November 21, 1997. Retrieved August 9, 2013.