Game Review: Max Payne

Geek Specs:

Title: Max Payne
Platform: PC
Genre: Action
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: 3D Realms
Release: July 25, 2001

Required System Specs
Minimum (minimum graphical detail):
450 MHz AMD / Intel Processor (or compatible)
16 MB Direct3D Compatible Graphics Card

Supported Operating Systems:
Windows 95 (OSR2 or later), Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000.
Max Payne requires Microsoft DirectX 8.0 or newer to be installed.

Introduction: Take everything you've ever wanted to see in an action game, mix in a rock-hard, grizzled cop and a dark story filled with murder, arsen and other sinister evils, put it in a New 'Yawk' setting, and you get Max Payne. Max Payne is a noir action game that puts you deep within the psyche of Max Payne, a balls-out, cards on the table, devil without a cause cop seeking vengeance for the murders of his wife and son.

Review: No offense, but New York City is the perfect setting for the dark and intense plot. Even that is an understatement. This games tugs at your heart at certain points and makes you realize that you are the character and its your wife and child that have been murdered. It really puts you into the game which is a difficult thing to pull off in a third-person shooter. The story is told through excellently drawn comic panels that move the plot along nicely. Max' sly grins and face contortions really add to his character. Every aspect of this game adds to the realism. The sleazy nocturnal lifestyles of thugs, hookers, junkies, and Don's face you right and left. No place is safe. Expect to be attacked by more than one hitman or heavy upon entering a room. Don't be surprised by pornography on the walls and junkies shooting-up in bathroom stalls. The downtown locales are perfect for resident dead-heads looking for a good time. You will find yourself duking it out with the mafia in sleazy hotels, a New York subway, gothic night clubs, and even to the top of a corporate skyscraper.

The biggest gameplay element is obviously the bullet time effect. Bullet time allows you to slow down everything around you (including yourself) while you aim in real-time. At first this might sound too advantageous. With bullet time, you can easily defeat any enemy, right? I can respond to that only with an emphatic HELL NO! Without bullet time your opponents would be rather difficult. The A.I. is very intelligent and bullet time balances out the difficulty rather than give you a huge advantage. Even with it, some parts in the game are extremely frustrating causing you to try clearing a room of thugs more than once. I suggest saving often. One element that does give you an advantage is a massive arsenal of weapons. They range from close-up weapons (i.e. bats and lead pipes) to hand guns, shotguns, grenades, molotovs, and my personal favorite, the dual uzis.

The controls are beautifully crafted making for handling the afformentioned weapons an easy task. Move the mouse to rotate your point of view and the arrow keys to run in different directions. Set the mouse sensitivity to your liking so that you can aim easily without moving the mouse much. Equally beautiful are the camera angles. Many 3rd person shooters' I've played have had odd camera angles making the action hard to handle. In Max Payne, not once was my view obstructed.

The graphics are quite remarkable considering this game was in developement for a long time. The textures are dark but sleek & fitting and the animation looks great. The fine details on the wallpaper and city streets is a treat. Not only that, but practically everything is interactive. Max can flush toilets (and watch the water return), pick up phones, bust through glass, and grab a soda from a vending machine. Asbestos and paint fly everywhere off the walls in big shoot-outs. This adds to the ultra-realistic feel of the game. The sound is flawless all around. From the music, to the gunfire, to the voice-overs, all of the audio bliss will make you tremble. The voice-overs from Max Payne himslef are especially nice, as it adds more depth to his character. The A.I. is suprisingly responsive yet sensitive. They attack in groups, dodge bullets, and hide behind tables. A few times, they even know where you are before you do. So watch out for grenades flying past your head as you turn a corner. And use the camera angles to your advantage. Look around corners before just diving in the air expecting bullets to greet you.

Max Payne is also not like other third-person shooters in another way. There is no multi-play. The first time through, the game will take the average action fan ten to twelve hours to complete. So the replay value is limited. After playing it on, the New York Minute and Hard Boiled modes are unlocked. Hard Boiled is just of greater difficulty but the New York Minute mode is completely different. You have to successfully beat every level in the game (they are all unchanged) in under one minute. Every time you kill someone a few seconds are added to the ever counting clock. Going back to multi-play, even though the game doesn't have it to begin with, Max Payne was released with an editor that allows users to create their own 'mods' or versions of the game. Maybe we'll get lucky and some fan out there will create a multiplayer mode and upload it for all of us.

Conclusion: Bullet time is truly revolutionary in gaming. It encompasses a major portion of the gameplay yet remains genius in its simplicity and fluidity. Even without it, Max Payne presents us with a well written plot, cool gameplay features, excellent sound effects, and enough action to satisfy any gamers appetite. It sets the standard for third-person shooters. If this isn't one of the many great games you picked up last year, then be sure to check it out. You owe it to yourself. Max Payne does have high system requirements so if your PC can't handle them, then try the Xbox or Playstation 2 port. Both are exactly like the PC version except for the addition of an auto-aim.

Ratings: (scale of 0.0 - 5.0)

Gameplay: 5.0 Graphics: 5.0
The story moves along nicely and the game itself is hust the right length. Most third-person shooters are dragged on and the main plot is forgotten. Like I said before, this game sets the standard with carefully combined gameplay elements. Not to mention, the beautifully drawn panels add sort of a sarcastic and comical twist to the plot. Literally, everything, from the chiseled look on Max's face to the carefully detailed wallpaper, is fantastically ornate. It almost looks too real. The only thing that could be improved upon is the lighting. I don't think Max's shadow was spooky enough bouncing off the walls on moonlit nights.

Sound: 5.0 Overall: 5.0
The voice-overs of the mobsters and Max Payne himself really put you in the game and make the super-realisitc graphics even more noticeable. Here's a tip: when you play this game, crank up the volume! You will be glad you did. Gunfire never sounded more real. I really enjoyed playing this game. I have never played a game with such a dark story that could also be combined with great gameplay. Every aspect was pulled off wonderfully. This game will leave you craving more. We can all have solace in the promise of more Payne mentioned in the closing credits.

Written by Magus


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