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MDK 2

It's an interesting time to be a gamer. There is much hype surrounding the next-generation console systems, such as Microsoft's X-Box and to a lesser degree Sony's PlayStation 2. With arguments heating up over what direction is best for the industry, a number of high profile titles are now seemingly up in the air over release platform and timing. The two camps couldn't be farther apart. Proponents of the console systems cite standardization of hardware and lower cost of ownership as the saving grace of the community, while hardcore PC enthusiasts hold fast in their testimonies that the PC is the incubator of innovation, depth, and complexity. For years now the console and computer markets have catered to separate audiences with few exceptions. As these audiences become singular, the challenge to create products that appeal to both will become increasingly more important. However, the elements that constitute a well received console game, such as quick load times, ultra-speedy gameplay, simplistic interfaces and reflex oriented action have proven difficult features to implement on the PC. Difficult, but not impossible.

In 1997, the combined teams of Interplay and Shiny introduced the PC to one of the most unique takes on platform action ever seen. For those not familiar with the sleeper hit MDK, a little history is in order. MDK had the player assuming the role of Kurt Hectic, a janitor employed by a mad scientist named Dr. Hawkins. In the original, Kurt is given the task of saving the world from an evil alien race attacking the Earth. He's given a super-duper technological suit of armor capable of many neat tricks and sent off to face an endless stream of strange-looking aliens. At the time of its release, MDK sported some of the best visuals the industry had ever seen. Coupled with its slapstick-style humor and extremely fast-paced action, MDK was fairly well received and won over a lot of hardcore PC players in the process.

My first impression of MDK 2, however, wasn't at all positive. Excited to check out the promising visuals on my new 1GHz powerhouse system, I was extremely disappointed to find out that the OpenGL game only works on certain video cards with certain combinations of drivers; even with the provided GLSetup utility I could not get MDK 2 to work on my new 64MB geForce II card. So it was with much frustration that I moved over to one of my older systems, which is equipped with two OpenGL-friendly Voodoo2 cards in SLI mode. As expected, everything ran according to plan, and once up and running I was impressed with the OMEN engine. It is quite capable of rendering some impressive visuals, and the designers have utilized its power quite well, showing off a lot of color variations and eye-popping lighting techniques.

Except for the significant flaw in compatibility, I was happy to see that high quality graphics remain a key factor in the appeal of the MDK 2 series. As for the rest of the offering, the newly introduced features to the sequel are its best elements. As mentioned earlier, there are multiple characters available to play in this version, and each of them come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Of the three, Kurt maintains his sniper and parachute abilities. The other two would-be heroes include Dr. Hawkins, the mad scientist from the original, and his pet Max, a six-legged dog whom he invented. Max carries a weapon in each of his four upright paws, making him the best choice for "shoot first, ask questions later" types. Dr. Hawkins' character is the most interesting for many reasons, mainly because I feel it's BioWare's way of introducing some depth and complexity to this otherwise mind-numbing shooter.

 

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