Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
Things I like: a good film, a fine wine, the company of a salacious woman and an early night (usually in that order). Other things I like: shooting the hell out of virtual characters on screen, preferably in slow motion.
The trouble is, if someone asked me why I put Mr Payne up with the 'other things' on my wish list I'd struggle to avoid sounding like a certifiable hick: Well, you know, ah like shooting stuff'n'shit, uh-huh... Because, in essence, that is Max. You can dress him up in the finest anti-aliased clothing, craft a beautifully detailed story around him and even try to pass the whole thing off as 'A Film Noir Love Story', but the fact is that Max Payne 2 is the 2003 equivalent to Operation Wolf.
So why the huge score? Let me try to explain. The original was, in my humble opinion, the coolest PC game ever. I'm not saying best, I'm just saying coolest, and it's just been superseded in almost every way possible. I started playing the game at six o'clock on a Sunday evening after a heavy weekend, tired, hungover and in need of sleep. Cut forward a few hours and I was bom again, tired only of games that finish too early. Believe me when I say that The Fall Of Max Payne is one of the tightest, most thrillingly captivating games of all time, and like all good things in life I didn't want it to end.
It did (round about six hours after I started it), but by then I'd been sucked in and spat out by the new Havok 2 physics engine that fully realises the cinematic scope the developers were aiming for in the original. Limbs buckle, paint pots fly off the wall, bodies arc through the air in graceful flight and boxes you'd been using for cover a few seconds earlier are blown away leaving you fully exposed to the relentless waves of gunmen all packing bullets emblazoned with your name. Yes. this is Max Payne, but every element has been buffed beyond recognition and it's a thrill from start to finish.
The game still hinges on the concept of Bullet Time, the ability to slow the action down and dive through the air piling lead into anything that moves - without it you'd be dead within minutes of firing up the game.
As with everything else in the game, Bullet Time has been polished and, dare I say, perfected, so you can Shot Dodge without expending any of your Bullet Time, stay prone until you've finished shooting, or switch into full-on Bullet Time mode giving you time to think, focus your shots and get your body out of the way of as many bullets as you can. (And when every single bullet is rendered and coming at you from all angles you need every little advantage you can get.)
Take out multiple enemies and you move into what's called 'the zone', where your enemies get slower and you remain at the same speed, giving you an even bigger edge in battles. It might not equate to a massive overhaul from the original but you'll be pleased to know the clipping problems that plagued the original have been eliminated and there are some funky new effects, like the Matrix-style gun reload that sees you spinning around like an extra from The Nutcracker before resuming the fight. And what a fight. There's only one skill level, that adjusts to suit your own capabilities, but it seems perfect - hard enough to make you cuss tike a madman and reward\ng enough to you with a smile on your face after you've cleared a room with one rotating dive.
The Fall Of Max Payne is played across the backdrop of a deeper, more sophisticated tale, with loads of your favourite characters coming back for more. I'm not going into detail here - play it for yourself and revel in the twists and the occasional genuine shock when the game takes you into uncharted territories - but I can say the characters are well fleshed out, to the point you actually start paying attention to every panel of the graphic novel that splits the action sequences. It's not the deal-clincher but it's a cut above most other games out there and it lifts what could be a brainless action shooter into something that little bit more.
The only criticism I can muster is the length and even that's up for debate. Is the game too short? Is life too short? All I can say with any degree of certainty is that like a ferocious boxing match, no game could keep up this sort of pace for much longer without losing the focus and direction, and any game that plays for up to 20 hours is usually padded to the rafters with filler, something of which The Fall Of Max Payne is utterly devoid. Personally, I'd rather pay my money for an experience that's going to leave me breathless and unable to sleep until it's over. I suppose there's sense in both sides of the argument, but I think that as long as you know the caveat, a short game can still be worthy of a classic rating. It's probably a bit of a cop-out to say that you can play through different modes once you're done with the game proper (although fresh downloads are already on the Internet, and mods will be available soon), but while you might be gagging for more at the end, surely that's a sign that you've just enjoyed your last few hours to the max.
Behind Every Good Man Is A Damned Fine Woman
I'm deliberately steering clear of ruining the story for you, but there's a brilliant narrative split about halfway through the game that lets you play as Payne's bit of fluff, Mona Sax. This is actually one of the best bits of the whole game as you make full use of the spectacular sniper rifle, trying to keep Max alive as he's running through bits of the level you've already completed a few minutes earlier. There's also a section in which you're wired up, taking instructions from Mona as you're clearing an apartment block. Hearing instructions like the cleaners are to your left, through the hallway as you've got your hand pressed against your ear makes you believe, if just for a split second, that you are actually playing through a film. Quentin Tarantino would most definitely approve. And, while I don't often eulogise female game characters, Mona is coolness personified. She's bad, as scarred as Max Payne, and packs out a mean pair of distressed jeans. I would quite like to marry her.
Download Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
In a ballad of blood and bullets, the world around me slows to a crawl. To my left, an armed thug, clad in Armani. To my right, Mr. Armani's five friends. They stand, aiming at me, but I'm faster. Much faster. I dive through the air, hands out, guns raised, and pull the triggers. Who am I? Max Payne--the hard-boiled lead of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. Due this December for PS2 and Xbox, this trigger-happy third-person shooter follows our good-cop-gone-mad as he tries to pull himself away from his sordid past...but that past just won't let go. Case in point: Mona Sax, the femme fatale who graced Max's original adventure, has reemerged, drawing Payne back into a world of deceit and mystery. Seems Mona's the prime suspect in a murder case, leaving Max to choose between the badge or the broad. But Cupid hasn't completely changed our old pal Max. In fact, Max Payne 2 doesn't dramatically mess with the original's bullet-ridden formula. (The game's length, for instance, still clocks in at a scant six to 10 hours.) Yet, in retrospect, playing the two games back-to-back (the PC versions, at least--we haven't tried the sequel's console editions yet, which are reportedly very similar), it's obvious nearly every detail has been given a new layer of polish. Max Payne 2 boasts a tighter story and sharper textures, and the environments feel more alive, thanks to more interactive objects--boxes tumble, oil cans roll, and enemies keel over realistically. Instead of falling straight through solid walls like in the last game, corpses will bend and slump over like so many rag dolls.
As before, the most stunning visual effect in Max Payne 2 is bullet time, the slow-motion gameplay mechanic that allows you to dodge enemy gun spray and target foes while hurling yourself through the air. There are now two levels of bullet time for various situations: The original shoot-dodge, as well as a new 2.0 version that allows you to move slightly faster while tinging the screen in a beautifully bronzed glow.
And like gumdrops dusted with arsenic, Max hasn't lost his penchant for waxing poetic in his pulp-style voiceovers, using wordy, overwrought metaphors. Depending on what you thought of the original's writing, it's as charming or annoying as ever.
In 2001, Max Payne hit the shelves and was widely successful on multiple platforms. Now Rockstar is back with Max Payne 2 ' The Fall of Max Payne hoping to deliver on the same great game play that made the original so popular. Although the series liberally borrows ideas from several genres, it manages to deftly blend them into a gaming experience that is truly unique. However, more importantly, it's just plain fun.
Max Payne's greatest asset lies in the fantastic delivery of the 'bullet time' effect. This feature saves the game from merely being an average shooter. Super slow motion gun fights, with bullets flying and shell casings spilling out everywhere make for some truly fantastic sequences. The 'Hollywood'? effect is of course inspired by John Woo action movies and The Matrix. Frankly there is just something inherently fun about diving around dodging bullets, laying waste to enemies. While bullet time is back, a new addition allows Max to increase his ability to slow down time as he racks up the body count.
The storyline is vaguely familiar and was compelling enough that I wanted to find out what happened to poor Max. Thankfully the design team has sprinkled a dash of humor into the story, to lighten up the serious subject matter. The 'film noir'? inspired storyline is presented in the same graphic novel form as the original game. It can be somewhat cheesy at times, and one hopes that some of the lines were intended to be tongue in cheek. However the story itself is interesting, dripping with style with enough twists and turns to make it compelling. Mona Sax returns as Max's love interest, and in a nice move you are now able to play a couple of levels as Mona which helps to keep things fresh.
The coolest addition to the game is hands down the Havok physics engine. Rag doll physics are all the rage in FPS games, but Rockstar takes this step further by adding realistic physics to objects and models in the game. (Ok movie style physics) While the effect may be a bit overstated at times, all manner of debris and bodies fly as expected. The designers make good use of this technology too. The level design is purposely cluttered with all manner of moveable objects that just asking to be kicked around or blown to pieces in a fire fight.
Graphic wise Max Payne 2 simply looks fantastic. The graphics are highly detailed with great use of photorealistic textures. Special effects such as fire and rain are exceptionally rendered as well. Although the minimum requirements are pretty hefty, I was surprised how smooth it ran on my middle of the road system.
Although it does not support multiplayer and is a bit short, this definitely one of the best action games this year. Replay ability is helped by the fact that an already active gaming community working on some cool looking MODS. Clever storytelling and an extreme attention to detail help push Max Payne 2 over the top. Whether you liked the original or simply missed it, Max Payne 2 is definitely worth the look.
With an all new bullet time, a plot that manages to live up to the Max Payne name and a second playable character, Max Payne 2 is definitely worth a buy. What makes this latest Max Payne so engrossing isn't the well-balanced blend of puzzles and blasting or the detail rich graphics or even the well written plot, what makes this game so hard to put down is Max Payne himself.
Like the original game, Max Payne 2 places you in the heart of a graphic novel choosing to use well-drawn art delivered in blocks as its main medium instead animation for cut scenes. What this does is force you to pay attention to the plot ' something worth doing. Instead of building a game and injecting it around the occasional cut-scene, Max Payne blends the two seamlessly making the plot not just interesting but integral to the game.
Instead of trying to fight your way past wave after wave of bad guys, there are whole sections of the game built around Payne's memories and inner turmoil. The game finds you walking through Payne's nightmares in a very real and disturbing fashion.
Of course Payne isn't all about plot. The gameplay is fluid and fun, using a simple set up to guide Payne and his counter-part, Mona Sax, through the seemingly endless stream of well-armed bad guys. Although the control is well put together, using the right trigger for shooting and the left for the slow down bullet time that made the original Payne so famous, moving a character across tight spots can be unnecessarily tricky. There are times when it feels like you are balancing Payne on a ball, trying to find the sweet spot to get him up on that board or stairs.
The voice acting is excellent, but the sound is a little odd. Payne 2 uses a sort of directional sound that increased and decreased volume depending on which direction your character is facing. I'm sure it was designed to make the game more realistic, but it ends up just being annoying.
This time around Payne uses Bullet Time 2.0. Instead of just using Bullet Time to dive and shoot in slow motion, as in the last game, you can now use it for an extended period of time to run around blasting bad guys. While this is sort of fun, it does make the game much easier than the original. However, the effects in Bullet Time 2.0 are just as impressive as the original with reloading becoming something more akin to ballet.
The game also features a new physics engine that turns just about everything in the game into an interactive part of Payne's world. Max Payne 2 is more an experience than game, a cinematic feat that really lives up to the idea of putting a gamer in a story and making them care what happens.
Poor Max - the guy just can't seem to catch a break. Not only has he lost his wife and child' not only is he a burnt out shell of a man but now he's getting mixed up with a possible murder suspect by the name of Mona Sax. Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.
As the follow up game to the mega hit Max Payne, Max 2 is more of the same in the gameplay department. Max is controlled by you via a 3rd person perspective as you run through New York city's meanest streets pumping out 9mm justice. Now it has been explained that Max's focus becomes so sharp that he can start dodging bullets while gunning down vastly superior forces. Well, this is true if you are still going by the last game's rules. Now, Max has the same bullet dodging ability, but the ante has been ratcheted up a bit more since Max's bullet time ability really starts to work more effectively the more Max uses it successfully, to the point that he eventually could be running around full speed while the bad guys are frozen in bullet time. A clever and necessary addition since the sheer amount of bad guys is impressive in some scenarios.
As an avid comic book reader in my youth, I really liked the way the story unfolds between levels. It's like a comic book with panels depicting the actions of what is going on. Yes, you are required to read these narrations as they explain the story's major plot points, conspiracies, etc. So if this type of thing isn't your bag, at least give it a shot because it really is cool. The story is fairly engaging and I couldn't help but feel like this was a gritty graphic novel written by Frank Miller.
But, (there is always a 'but'?) playing this version after playing the PC version left a bad taste in my mouth. Immediately apparent in this translation, the PS2 version is nowhere near as good looking (see below). There are several frame rate problems that come to light, and when they do it's because of the same kind of problems that plagued earlier PS2 games, too many moving things on the screen. Couple this with some serious load times throughout the game and strange cuts make it seem as if your PS2 is acting up.
I found the game to be disappointing in the graphics department (keep in mind, I played this on the PC first). One of two things has occurred here. Either the PS2's processors/hardware are getting long in the tooth and can't pump out the kind of visuals that this game demands without sacrificing gameplay or the developers cut corners and sacrificed some of the game's finer points to hit a holiday release. Honestly, I hope it's the first because I hate to think that a major player in the game scene (RockStar) would be willing to put out an inferior product for the sake of a dollar.
Look, this franchise is certainly a decent one. Rockstar added a second type of gun fighting in this game called Shootdodging that enables Max to do all those cool moves you see in the commercials and the story is quite good. But if I had my choice, I would purchase this on the PC or Xbox first as the game plays so much better on those systems. As much as I love my PS 2, this version is the ugly cousin in the Max Payne family. Rent before purchase.