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MDK2 Armageddon

Developer: Bioware | Publisher: Interplay
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/26/01 | Genre: Action

When the original MDK was released a few years back for the PC, it was somewhat of a revolution in PC action titles. The graphics were astounding, character designs were highly original, the sniper scope was something gamers had never before seen, and the game was damn hard. Now the sequel to Shiny Entertainment's masterpiece, MDK2: Armageddon, is available for the PS2. MDK2 takes all of the elements of the original MDK and throws in a bunch of additional surprises. Before I delve into the details concerning this game, I want to make one thing very clear. If you intend to play MDK2, you need to have patience and skill. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again - and again and again. The game does have multiple difficulty settings, but that won't make everything a cakewalk for you. There are still many areas where timing and speed are needed to successfully get through an area. For those that feel up to the challenge, I suggest playing the game on the Hard difficulty setting or higher. The easy is much too easy, and the medium setting is a bit challenging, but if you are an accomplished gamer, the hard setting or even the Jinkies setting are where it's at.

The game only has ten levels, so you might as well make them really tough to get as many hours of game time as you can. MDK2 will test your gaming muscle like no title in recent memory. You will curse the game for the frustration it may cause you - but you will keep playing. And when you finally make it past an area, the sense of accomplishment you feel will be all the reward you need. Why is MDK2 so much fun? Well, in addition to the game's original character Kurt Hectic, in his coil suit with chain gun and sniper hood, MDK2 allows you to play as Max, the six-legged bionic dog, and Dr. Fluke Hawkins, the creator of Kurt's suit. Max and Dr. Hawkins served mainly as cut-scene comic relief in the original MDK, but now you will need to learn to play with these characters to successfully complete the game.

You will play 3 levels with each character. The levels with Kurt play much like the original MDK, only a bit more difficult. In one particular level, there are floating platforms that Kurt activates by sniping them. You shoot the first platform from the ground, then you have to float up to it on an air stream, land on the platform, switch to sniper mode, snipe the next platform, and jump to it before the platform you are standing on disappears. The timing and accuracy this requires leaves little margin for error. Aside from the sniping challenges, Kurt has plenty of wide-open areas that allow you to unload his chain-gun into the enemy hordes -very nice. But if firepower is what you crave, then Max the dog is going to be your favorite character. He has twice the health of Kurt and he can carry four weapons at a time. Max is a whirling dervish of destruction as he tears through the levels with four Uzi's blazing. Max also sports a jet pack, which of course means there are some challenging platform jumping areas in store for him as well. Dr. Hawkins is MDK 2's most innovative feature. He has very little health, only 60 points - and he is definitely not much good in a straight on firefight. What makes the doctor so unique is his dual inventory system - one for his left hand and one for his right. You can combine items from the two inventories to create new items for the doctor to use.

For example, you combine dirty towels and bottles of sauce to make Molotov cocktails, or a hand dryer and some pipes to make a Leaf Blower. These items are critical to successfully navigating the Doctor's levels. You must use brains, not brawn. In one particular level the doctor must deactivate a number of switches in a specific order to deactivate some alien bombs. But to the credit of the game designers, the order the switches must be pressed changes each time you try to deactivate a bomb - which means you don't learn patterns. I have never liked games that force the learning of patterns and this was such a welcome relief. In order to compliment the exceptional level designs, MDK offers a huge number of controller configurations. This helps ensure that every gamer will find a control scheme he or she is comfortable with. This customization allows you to focus entirely on the game and not worry about what button you are supposed to push. Graphically, MDK is a bit of a mixed bag. The special effects, level designs, and character models are all superb. The level of creativity in this game is virtually unmatched.

However, the character animations are not always smooth, mainly due to frame-rate, and there is occasional slowdown. MDK's graphics are not likely to wow you now that games like The Bouncer and Onimusha have been released, but MDK2 still has some of the best graphics available on the PS2. Sound in MDK2 is absolutely fantastic. The digital audio placement couldn't be better. On one of Kurt's levels, I was standing in a tunnel under the floor of a larger room. Enemies were running around overhead and I could hear them circling over my position. With sound alone, I could tell if they were in front or behind, to my left or to my right. It allowed me to emerge from the tunnel with my sights just about locked onto the bad guys. The sounds of the environments, music cues, and weapons are all exceptional. If I had to complain, I would say I wish the chain gun were louder - but then the Super Chain-gun wouldn't sound as cool. Replay value is tricky, because it depends on the type of gamer you are. If you just want to see the game's story and all the levels, you will probably tear through the game on the easy level and never play again. But if you want to prove to yourself that you are a gaming god, you may play through first on the Medium setting, then try to beat the Hard or Jinkies settings. The story will be the same, but it will be a whole new game on the harder settings. The only downside to playing the harder settings is the Dr. Hawkins levels. The Doc doesn't really engage in many direct confrontations, so making it through most of his levels is about the same in difficulty, since solving the puzzles doesn't change. The exception of course would be the doc's boss fights at the end of each level. They get MUCH harder.

Overall, MDK2 is one of the finest pure gaming experiences available for the PS2. The story is humorous, but nothing special. You are not playing this game for it's story - it is all about the gameplay, pure and simple. MDK2 is three games seamlessly blended into one. Part shooter, part puzzle, and part stealth, with a healthy dose of platforming thrown into the mix. If you want to know if you are really good at video games or if you just seem good because all your friends suck, here is your litmus test. Those without patience or skill need not apply. The creators of MDK2: Armageddon have thrown down the gauntlet. Do you have what it takes to accept the challenge? You will never know until you try!

By Jonathan Halwani - 08/01/01
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Screenshots for MDK2 Armageddon

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