Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Developer - Neversoft
Publisher - PIE
Release date - November 21, 1997

MDK is a 1997 third-person shooter video game developed by Shiny Entertainment for Microsoft Windows. It was ported to Mac OS by Shokwave, and to the PlayStation by Neversoft. It was published on all systems by PIE in North America and Interplay Entertainment in Europe.


The game tells the story of Kurt Hectic, a janitor who reluctantly must attempt to save Earth from an alien invasion of gigantic strip mining city-size vehicles named "Minecrawlers". These Minecrawlers are not only removing all of earth's natural resources, but are also crushing any people and cities that get in their way. Aided by his boss, the (possibly) insane inventor/scientist Dr. Fluke Hawkins, and a genetically engineered robotic two-legged/four-armed dog named Bones (although he prefers Max), Kurt must infiltrate each Minecrawler, and fight his way to the pilot, whom he must then kill before returning to Hawkins' in-orbit space station, the Jim Dandy.


For the most part, MDK is a run-and-gun third-person shooter. However, it also features several minigames, and allows the player to enter first-person mode at any time they wish so as to use their sniper weapon. The basic design of the game involves distinct individual levels in which the player character, Kurt Hectic, must infiltrate a "Minecrawler", fight his way through an array of enemies, tackle some rudimentary puzzles, and reach the control centre, where he must then eliminate the pilot in a boss fight. Every level is completely different, with different enemies, a different level design, a different aesthetic, and a different kind of control centre, with a different strategy required to eliminate each pilot.

During the standard run-and-gun gameplay, the player must frequently use Kurt's "ribbon chute", a parachute contained within his outfit that can be used indefinitely. The chute allows Kurt to make long jumps, survive long falls, and utilize updrafts. It deploys immediately, and retracts automatically when not being used. Kurt also has access to a smart bomb type feature, where he can call Max to fly a bomber over the battle area and drop bombs on the enemies. To call Max, however, firstly, Kurt must have collected an airstrike pickup within the game. He must then enter sniper mode to select the area he wants Max to target. Additionally, the airstrike can only be used in exterior locations on the Minecrawler. Other weaponry in the game includes, but is not limited to, grenades, "The World's Most Interesting Bomb" (when Kurt throws the bomb, all enemies within the vicinity will approach it, at which point Kurt can detonate it), "The Very Large Hamster Hammer" (a giant hammer that causes the ground to vibrate violently, damaging any nearby enemies), and "The World's Smallest Nuclear Explosion" (used for opening locked doors).

In addition to the standard run-and-gun/sniper modes, there are several additional gameplay modes in MDK. All levels start out with an "atmospheric entry" in which Kurt jumps from his base ship, the Jim Dandy space station, which is in orbit around Earth, to the Minecrawler on the planet's surface. As he descends, the Minecrawler activates its radar, which, if touched, triggers the launch of anti-air missiles, which must be dodged. Some levels feature Kurt taking over an enemy bombing ship and performing bombing runs, some feature a glider which Kurt must ride to specific location. One level features several snowboarding sequences, where Kurt must navigate obstacles while destroying enemies. Additionally, once a level has been completed, the Minecrawler disintegrates, and is sucked back into the energy stream from which it emerged, taking Kurt with it. Kurt then has a set period of time in the energy stream, during which he pursues a health power-up, which, if collected grants 150% health for the start of the next level. If he touches the walls of the stream, he loses health and decelerates. At the end of the set period, Max will enter the stream on a tether and pull Kurt back to the Jim Dandy.

Kurt's main defense against his enemies is his "Coil Suit," a skin-tight armor made of a Kevlar-like material, and created on a "nuclear-blast proof sewing machine". This suit serves as a bulletproof vest during the combat sections of the game, and also protects Kurt from friction and heat during the atmospheric entry sections. Kurt's weapon is a chain gun, which is attached to his arm, and carries unlimited ammo. The other major weapon in the game is a sniper gun. This is created when Kurt detaches his chain gun from his arm and mounts it onto his helmet. The sniper weapon can zoom up to 100x, and has the capability of supporting five different types of ammunition, including homing missiles and mortar shells. Kurt does not actually see out of the helmet, rather, he sees out of a HUD, which he uses to aim. There are also three "Bullet Cams" that track each projectile and linger briefly after impact, showing any damage done. However, when Kurt is in sniper mode, he is unable to move, and can thus be easily targeted by enemies.

The enemies in MDK are a collective of aliens called "Streamriders" under the command of Gunter Glut. Each Minecrawler is manned primarily by various types of soldiers named "Grunts." Some areas contain "Grunt generators" which create an infinite amount of enemies until destroyed. Apart from Grunts, and each Minecrawler's unique pilot, Kurt will also encounter various types of robots, tanks, automated and manned turrets, animals, small attack ships, troop transport ships, and sentry drones.


MDK's writer, co-designer and co-artist Nick Bruty has said the initial impetus for the game was his desire to move away from the type of game on which he had previously been working; family-friendly games such Aladdin (1993), The Jungle Book (1993), Earthworm Jim (1994) and Earthworm Jim 2 (1995), all of which Bruty had worked on for the Sega Genesis. According to Bruty,

MDK was a reaction, or outburst, from having worked back-to-back on cartoon games such as Aladdin, Jungle Book and Earthworm Jim. Don't get me wrong, I loved working on those games and learning new styles; but my heart is in fantasy and science fiction. I knew straight away that this was what I wanted to do next.

Bruty's first image for the game was a doodle of an armor suit with a self-contained machine gun, and a helmet that could be used as a sniper rifle. Once he had this concept in place, he wrote a rough draft of the story, and brought together a small team of people with whom he had worked before; programmer Andy Astor, designer Tim Williams, artist and designer Bob Stevenson, animator Shawn Nelson and, later, programmer Martin Brownlow. One of the first decisions the team made was not to develop the game for the system with which they had the most experience, the Sega Genesis, but instead to develop it for the PC, making it Shiny's first PC game.

Developing for the PC brought a number of advantages, not the least of which was it allowed the team to make the game using 3D computer graphics. As Bruty explains, "I wanted to work on PC because the game was 3D, which wasn't an option on consoles at that point." Tim Williams explains another advantage of working on PC was "it meant I wouldn't have to tone the game down to deal with the Sega and Nintendo's ratings boards. I loved [the concept]. I could see immediately the game would have a unique look and plenty of design opportunities. We were all big fans of the Alien movies and H. R. Giger, so that probably had some influence." As Shiny intended the game to be gory, even going so far as to study tapes of people dying in gruesome manners to see the effects of violent deaths on the human body, this lack of censorship was ideal. Once the decision was made to develop for the PC, the team quickly decided they wanted to make a game that would push the boundaries of PC gaming beyond anything seen up to that point.

The naming of Kurt Hectic was inspired by two disparate sources. In the early stages of development, some of the team saw the 1993 Mike Leigh film, Naked, in which David Thewlis' character says to a junkie, "What is it like in your head? Hectic?" Bruty and Williams loved the line, and decided Hectic should be the character's surname. When trying to think of his first name, they wanted to name him after someone who lived a notoriously hectic life, and settled on Kurt Cobain.

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