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Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne Review
publisher: Rockstar Games
developer: Remedy Entertainment
PIII 1000, 256MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1.5GB HD
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Oct 14, 03 (released)
|» All About Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne on ActionTrip|
This year was a funny one for PC gaming (By funny he means weird - Smap). It was hailed as the breakthrough year for the platform; a year to see the release of Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 - two of the most hotly anticipated PC games currently in production. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me to learn back in May that Remedy was going to release Max Payne 2 this fall. Not that I complained about playing more great games, it just seemed that the Max Payne sequel would suffer from the enormous hype surrounding Half-Life 2 and Doom 3. As it turns out though, Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 never showed up and Max Payne 2 managed to upstage them both this year. Remedy kept the project under wraps until it was pretty much finished. As a result they and Rockstar got a smooth release while garnering just enough attention to ensure good sales numbers.
This is no way to act in a hospital!
You will go down like the dog you are!
The grizzled New York cop is back - darker and more introspective than ever. In case some of our younger readers are not aware, Max Payne 2 is one of the rare games that focus solely on the adult gamer audience. You can see tinges of sexual content, as well as hear the f--- word here and there (Among other friendly phrases - Smap). This is, as far as ESRB is concerned, a sure sign that a game gets an "M" rating. Ironically, Max Payne 2 will probably appeal more to teenagers than it would to any adult that has ever read more than two decent books in his life. Once again, writer Sam Lake has produced a collection of the corniest overly dramatized phrases and clich' plot twists that I have heard or seen in an action game. Sam certainly knows how to create a "unique" experience. Unique in a sense that it highlights every possible film noire clich' and blows every typical noir scene way out of proportions by making every single sentence sound "deep" and "larger than life." It's like listening to a bad motivational video (with moaning and swearing -Smap). Then Sam mixes all that up with plenty of violence and some mild sexual content involving busty female assassins to make sure that we are all paying attention. There are huge differences between say a Tarantino movie and a game like Max Payne. Both supposedly target the same audience but, while Tarantino can come up with an intelligent take on the world, Max Payne can do nothing except babble on like a bad, idiotic poet that will simply not shut up. I could possibly relate to some of the things said in a Tarantino movie, but there is no chance in hell I could relate to the cheesy "B" movie fairy tale or the utter psychedelic nonsense that are the pseudo-philosophical "words of wisdom" spewed out by Detective Max Payne. Maybe the writing in this game is some sort of a joke. Maybe Sam Lake is pulling some elaborate stunt on the gaming industry, and using subtle irony to get his point across. But who cares, really? Half way through the game I got genuinely fed up from listening to all the bullshit dialogue in the graphic novel style narrative (I used that time to get myself something to eat or drink or go to the bathroom - Smap).
As far as the actual plot is concerned, it involves Max being thrown in a middle of a mob war and falling madly in love in a feisty hired gun called Mona Sax - a true classic. Because it tries to deal with too many issues all at once, the story appears confusing and overwhelming - Max falls in love, tracks down the bad guys, has haunting nightmares about his murdered wife and daughter; it's all in there (Often 3 or 4 times, too! - Smap)! It's just thrown at you all the time though it will be very hard to catch all of it amidst all the shooting and bleeding. In many ways both the style of writing and the actual storyline are highly reminiscent of the original. This time around, however, I got the impression that ole' Sam Lake wanted to outdo himself and create "a blizzard of haunting thoughts that pierce through the heart as they leave the confines of your PC speakers and like arrows made of burning ice stab you with their hidden meaning..."
Nice shiny floor makes Max very happy.
Don't stain the rug, Max!
Max Payne 2 is a game full of diametrically opposed extremes. Some of the levels seem repetitive and too railed (taking place in similarly designed buildings), and then all of a sudden, we see flashes of sheer brilliance - levels like the Fun House (set in a horror-themed amusement park), or the hilarious moments when one of the bad guys ends up being stuck in a Baseball Bat Boy suit. In addition, players can lead the female heroine (Mona Sax) as she coordinates her efforts with Max (popping bad guys with a Dragunov sniper rifle), and play a few puzzle-oriented levels that provide a welcomed break from the constant action. This goes a long way to ensure that the gameplay is interesting and varied enough to keep the player glued to the screen, even despite its aforementioned drawbacks. The actual action sequences are more intense than ever. If pure action minus the crappy storyline is what you're looking for in a game; along with some nicely choreographed combat scenes; Max Payne 2 will be right up your ally.
The game looks jaw dropping, and its visuals come at no expense to the frame rate. This is probably one of the best looking PC games out there. Everything looks perfect - the particle effects, use of pixel shaders (blurring effects), extremely realistic looking characters and texturing... Remedy has managed to create the most immersive and interactive game world yet. The physics model is spectacular, and is possibly only rivaled by the one in Half-Life 2. In fact, the physics become a major factor when it comes to solving some puzzles or killing bad guys in new and inventive ways. The out-of-this-world graphics and physics code become most apparent in levels where we see buildings collapsing or going up in flames, lots of explosions, etc. Although standard and very familiar the weapons are nicely balanced and very fun to use. One other important thing that adds to the game's addictiveness is the good difficulty balance. There will be plenty of bad guys around and it will be tough to go through some of the levels. You will feel challenged but never frustrated, and just when you think that some of the more linear maps are getting repetitive and boring the designers will surprise you with a nice break in form of a dream, different looking or puzzle-oriented level. Overall, my impressions of the core gameplay were largely positive. The technology behind it is brilliant and it draws you into the game world. It's not just the technology though; level designers have done an excellent job of including certain background details that make the virtual New York City come to life. Max Payne 2 has an excellent 'wow' factor. You can show it to your non-gamer friends as evidence of just how far video games have progressed in terms of technology and their cinematic value (and rub their noses in it like the heathen dogs that they are - Smap).
Besides some examples of linear and repetitive level design, my only other objection to the gameplay mechanics has to do with some mildly annoying quirks in the AI. Sometimes, the baddies would rush at a certain spot one by one even though I would just stand there and shoot them as they appear. In addition, it seemed to me that both the NPCs and enemy AI had some slight collision detection and path finding problems. That's not something you like to see in an AAA action title. Still, the AI was passable, and what I've mentioned are mostly isolated incidents. Sure, it's not as good as it could've been, but it doesn't diminish the gameplay experience.
In the end, we should, of course, address the issue of length. As it was the case with the original, Max Payne 2 doesn't have a multiplayer mode. To make matters worse, it took me just six measly hours (maybe even a bit less) of casual gaming to beat it. As short games go, I must say that this is one of the shortest I've played. It has its moments of brilliance and I'm glad to have played it, but I really am not sure if I would pay for it. That is if I had to choose between this and something else. I think I'd rather pay ten bucks to see "Kill Bill Vol. 1" than thirty five to play Max Payne 2. This doesn't mean that I didn't like the game; it's a matter of principal. I don't think that six hour games deserve to be treated in the same way as games that provide a lot more hours of gameplay and just as much fun - like Illusion Softwork's Mafia for example.
8.2 Very Good
Brilliant technology behind the action (graphics, physics model), a few excellently designed levels and beautifully choreographed action scenes; intense as ever;
Hardly what I'd call a good story (or writing for that matter), too linear at times, some repetitive levels, a few AI quirks and weird sound bugs; short, short, short.
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