Publisher: Overhaul Games
Developer: Overhaul Games, Interplay
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, 3 GHz Pentium D CPU, GeForce GT 120/Radeon HD 2600 XT or better graphics card, 1 GB RAM, 1 GB hard-drive space, DirectX 9
ESRB rating: Not rated (original game rated Teen)
Release date: October 2011
Ever since widescreen flat-panel television prices finally came down from the stratosphere, “High Definition” has been one of our most cherished entertainment attributes. The phrase has joined “Director’s Cut” and “Remastered” as important buzzwords in TVs, DVDs and feature films. New developer Overhaul Games has used its inaugural release, MDK 2 HD, to add video gaming to the list of leisure activities sporting the magic high-def descriptor. They’ve taken an 11-year-old PC shooter and made it much more appealing to the eye, while retaining the original’s fast-paced gameplay.
Kurt Hectic was just a mild-mannered janitor until he came to work for mad scientist Dr. Hawkins and his six-legged, cigar-chomping robot dog, Max. When Earth is attacked by alien forces led by a giant blue demon known as Shwang Shwing, Dr. Hawkins puts Kurt into a homemade battle suit and sends him out to defend humanity. The 10-level shooter has you playing as all three characters (Kurt, Max and Hawkins). Kurt and Max are straight-ahead shooters (mostly of the spray-and-pray variety), while playing as Hawkins involves platforming and puzzle-solving, including combining inventory items into unique weapons.
Being an old-school PC gamer, I just happened to have a CD ROM copy of the original game in my collection, so I played the first three levels (one devoted to each character) before I took on the HD version (the pre-release press demo is limited to those levels). The gameplay is exactly the same between the two versions, but there’s a striking difference in how the games look. Check out the two screenshots on this page. On the left is a shot of the 2000 version, with the same scene from the new version on the right (both games were running at 1920 x 1200 with 32-bit color depth when the captures were taken). The graphics throughout MDK 2 HD are brighter and richer than those in the original game, but Overhaul has also made the subtitles more attractive and the character heads in the text boxes more detailed. And despite the numerous graphics updates, the new game runs at an almost constant 60 fps, and it retains some of the original game’s quirks, such as the lack of a target reticule in the shooting sections.
Sometimes trying to make an original experience better can backfire (see the Blu-ray versions of the Star Wars movies as a good example). But Overhaul has avoided the potential problems by leaving the core gameplay of MDK 2 alone and giving it a welcome new look. Anyone who fondly remembers the original game should definitely check out MDK 2 HD when it releases later this month.