Have You Played… MDK2?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I can’t even remember how much of MDK 2 I ever played. The reason I remember it is because it accompanies a rambling anecdote, and that it’s really bloody weird that it was made by BioWare.

Ready to learn how very old I am? I was at a preview event for Baldur’s Gate 2. Not the release, but during its was in development. I am ancient. It was in Seattle, because I guess American journalists didn’t like travelling one state higher and actually going into Canada or something. In a three storey arcade, which was open only to us and for which we had infinite tokens for goes on the machines. Which in many ways sounds like a childhood fantasy, but was a bit awkward and meant we weren’t getting the information we’d travelled halfway around the world for.

Anyway, when it was finally time, the Doctors declared the game existed, and that we were going to have a go at it. And goodness me if the resolutions weren’t improved from the previous game, and so forth. Anyway, it’s clearly ridiculous to try to preview a 200 hour RPG in an arcade surrounded by shouting weirdos, but this was 2000ish and how it was. Which eventually brings me to MDK2.

At the time, the sequel was pretty much unseen. Released in 1997, MDK did well in sales, and unlikely publishers Interplay wanted to set straight to work on a sequel. However, Planet Mood were already on Giants, and super-strangely Interplay ignored the game’s creator and went to their buddies BioWare to put it out. Someone at that Baldur’s 2 event, someone from BioWare whose identity I genuinely can’t remember, was drunk enough that he thought it a good idea to whip out his laptop and show us a working build of the game. Looking back, I wonder if that someone could have been Dr Greg, since he was lead on the project. I like to think it could have been. It probably wasn’t.

Anyway, there I had this world exclusive look at the game before anyone else, and I couldn’t do a thing with it. Very strange. So, anyway, did you play it? It was really rather liked, and fantastic for being such an anomaly from the RPG developers.

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23 Comments

  1. Baf says:

    I did. I remember thinking the humor wasn’t as good as in the original MDK, mainly because it was more obvious. MDK’s basic deal was that it put up a substrate of ultra-cool shooter and then constantly broke that mood by throwing in blatantly cartoony things and/or taking the over-the-top action just a little too far over the top. MDK2 told jokes. It’s the difference between an action title that doesn’t take itself seriously and an outright comedy.

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      Nauallis says:

      I love this description. I’ve never been able to quite explain why MDK was so hilarious. This nails it.

      • Thankmar says:

        Its indeed a good description, I did feel like Nauallis.

        I do like MDK2, the gameplay is much smoother and more varied, and, iirc, much better paced than the first. A really polished thing (if you like the puzzles and changes in gameplay-style), very Bioware in that regard.

        But the first has a really unique feeling to it, both, as described, humour-wise, but the gameplay also feels like nothing else. With your high speed-machine gun as you primary weapon and only timed variations to that, it feels like a old-school vertical shooter turned third person. And third person was, at that time, something novel, like Tomb Raider, because (iirc) Doom-Clones ruled gameland then. And the sniping was, as stated futher down, really new, too.

        Compared to that, the second one was a much safer bet.

        • onodera says:

          The original was probably the first corridor shooter. I remember the reviewers calling it the first 3D arcade game, since it had no keys or backtracking like ‘real’ 3D shooters, just a sequence of arenas.

    • snowgim says:

      Yeah nice. All I remember was that I loved MDK but never really got into MDK2, that was probably one reason why.

    • Paroxysm says:

      I think you’ve nailed why the humour didn’t work.
      The thing that really confounded me though was why separating out the game play styles was seen as an improvement by people. The original game was so fluid and could really surprise you. The sequel responded with “Only one type of gameplay per level!”. A bad game and a terrible sequel is all I ever thought about it.

  2. Dr.Ded says:

    I played it!

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    Kemuel says:

    Good gravy! That’s Edmonton!

  4. Durgendorf says:

    I never got past a couple levels in the original. It felt like a vacant shooting gallery.

    This one I loved, though. The three play styles felt right together, and I found the humor right up there with No One Lives Forever 2 as a pinnacle for action comedy. I’m not going to risk a replay to find out if I’m wrong on that one, though.

    Also, I had no idea Shiny wasn’t involved in the making of this.

  5. metagrim says:

    I never got around to playing the second one, but I played the hell out of the first MDK. It was the first game that I remember that had real sniping in it, and I loved picking off those weird goblin alien things from halfway across the map as they mocked me, thinking they were safe.

  6. G-Lord says:

    Played through it and still have the boxed copy for PC. The decision to have three characters that played completely differently, giving the game a lot of diversity, was excellent imo. Still doesn’t beat the original in my book.

  7. Arathain says:

    Played it and finished it. It’s rare for me to finish anything, true even back then, so I must have enjoyed it.

    I remember enjoying the variety offered by the different characters, and the humour, while hit-and-miss, at least had some hits. The thing that sticks in my mind is the scale. There were some properly enormous environments, with tons of verticality. I remember one particular section involving jet-packing up the side of this colossal wall or dome. It was very irritating, since you had limited flight time and the platforms would retract on you if you didn’t time it right, and you could just fall right back to the bottom. It looked and felt incredible, though.

    MDK was similar, in terms of offering scale. Those games aren’t as well remembered as they should be. Huge technical and design achievements.

  8. Urthman says:

    It’s a dumb little thing, but the section where you have to make a bunch of jetpack jumps and group of aliens sitting in a forcefield bubble cheer every time you make a successful jump really made me laugh, especially because the jumps were pretty trivial.

  9. Urthman says:

    Also, at the time, playing a character with four arms and a gun in each hand was pretty fantastic.

  10. Scobie says:

    I played the demo, which had a chunk of gameplay for each of the three characters. The controls were bizarre and I got stuck on some puzzle or other.

  11. Turkey says:

    Don’t remember much about it neither. I liked the Jack Kirby homage stuff in the cutscenes, though.

  12. gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

    I guess I never realized that it was a different team that made MDK2, but that makes sense now. I loved Giants:CK, and thought MDK2 was a letdown. I specifically disliked the fact that I had to play the last 1/4th of the game to see all three endings.

  13. CannedLizard says:

    “I guess American journalists didn’t like travelling one state higher and actually going into Canada or something.”

    Urge…to kill politely…rising….

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    particlese says:

    I haven’t played it, but I keep meaning to. I think it came with my Sound Blaster back in the day, along with Deus Ex, UT99, and Thief 2 (loved, loved, and not yet played, respectively), but my dad really like it. I have played the first MDK, though, which we also really liked and which came with his work laptop for some reason.

  15. phlebas says:

    I think I played a demo of MDK back in the day, but didn’t play the full game until after I’d played MDK2. Which may explain why I enjoyed the second one a lot more than some people were able to.

  16. bonuswavepilot says:

    “…during its was in development…” – John, you need to take a word-spanner to this sentence, it’s got a nasty rattle and the manifold is coming loose.

  17. Caiman says:

    The original MDK has that wonderful Shiny / Planet Moon humour going on, and I don’t think Bioware quite understood it. MDK2 just went for zany, which didn’t quite work. The gameplay, however, was superior to the first game. It was one of my favourite games in that year, still think of it memorably, but no idea if it holds up. Probably not, so I’ll leave it at that.

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I played the PS2 version which added in difficulty settings and I remember even on easy it was bastard hard. I distinctly remember the point I stopped playing as being this giant room where as the dog you had to use a jetpack and fly from pillar to pillar while enemies constantly spawned around you.