It’s the game everyone has been waiting for, the game everyone has been talking about, the “impossibly stylish shooter” that is: Max Payne. I first heard about MP via E3 coverage, all those years ago - I was instantly hooked, and remain that way. Since its E3 debut, Max Payne has been one most the most highly anticipated games to date, thanks to the hype - Which took us on a four year ride, a wait that seemed almost eternal. It’s finally here. I was one of the many who pre-ordered the game… it was only days before I got it that I considered the possibility: “could this game simply be nothing but hype?” I couldn’t have been more wrong…
The creators had their intentions well noted before even commencing production - There was to be no multiplayer scenarios, simply because they wanted to make this the best single player experience in the gaming world. If you’re a Matrix fan, or are some sick weirdo that gets enjoyment from shooting junkies in the back while they are injecting, and hearing them scream in twisted agony - You cannot go past this top notch single player experience.
The origins of, and ideas behind the game are simple: take the best action from the movies we love, and throw it slap-bang into a compelling story line of deceit, misfortune and hate.
Three years ago a young NYPD cop came home to find his family senselessly slaughtered by a group of junkies high on a previously unknown designer drug, known as Valkyr. This drug has spread and is decaying New York City, like a flesh eating plague… That cop was you, and you’re on a crusade to get even.
Somewhere in the middle of your endeavor for vengeance, the plot thickens, sucking you in even further.
Many people who have already finished Max Payne consider the ending a bit of a let down, claiming that considering that they could do so much with their well designed plot they created, the ending should have been much better, unless of course they are preparing for a sequel or expansion pack...
The game engine is one of a kind, in fact many would say it’s beyond anything else that has graced the PC gaming community, so far. Realism has been taken to the next step, with life-like textures and special effects that not only dazzle and surprise, but that take you even deeper into this desolate world of crime, that really expose and bring to life the gritty feel of this crime infested city. You can shoot through doors, dive through windows, make your own exits, blow off locks, and turn canisters into burning shrapnel by simply exposing them to heat. The atmosphere is unparalleled, taking the extraordinary KingPin locations to the next level, and without homies.
The cut scenes are either in an artistic comic strip form, which really add to the mood, or simply action scenes built inside the very engine that the game is played - Looks superb either way. These comic strips and in-game cut-scenes play a huge role in the story line, keeping you on the ball and in touch with what is going on amongst the bloody carnage.
While playing the game, I’ve noticed that these amazing visuals do come at a cost. I currently run a 1.2GHz Thunderbird and a GeForce2 GTS. The game runs quite nicely in medium detail, and even playable on high detail - But when the frames really count, is when you lose them… times when you have 7 enemies charging you with sub machine guns and shotties. The developers do recommend a high end system to get the most out of this fantastic engine, I’d need to back them up completely on that.
There are lots of graphic options available, so being able to tailor the game to your system isn’t a problem. The problem is trying to play something so ugly, if that’s what’s required.
The GUI is easy to navigate through, and controls are well thought out, making it a breeze to use, and even easier to setup. You can resume games from the main menu, or start a new one - Overall it’s a clean cut and professional interface that won’t get you confused or have you spending endless hours navigating through it.
If there was one thing that I was slightly disapointed with, it's the sound effects. Most of them are rich and to die for, but there's the few weapon effects and foot steps that sound really out of place. For example, you're running accross a snow covered road, yet your shoes sound like you should be tap dancing. I'm just picking now, and it really doesn't matter, it definately doesn't ruin the atmosphere or anything along those lines - But I can't get a game be reviewed without finding at least a couple places where it has fallen down.
Don’t get the wrong idea though, Max Payne is definitely not a game that hides behind an in-depth story line and eye-candy engine. The gameplay is nothing to be sneezed at. The gloomy and diseased feel of the crumbling crime-world is always going to keep you on your toes. The gameplay is explosive and quick, but don’t forget to explore rooms thoroughly to find leads, media coverage, keys, weapons/ammo and pain killers. If there’s anything you need to remember, it is that if you hear a lot of talking and yelling behind a door, make sure your grenade finds its way in there, before you do.
You can threaten a life of the unarmed, or just ask nicely - forcing them to unlock doors, or get you into restricted areas, among other things.
An extremely popular feature of the engine is its bullet-time gameplay. Have you ever watched a movie where a guy has dived through a door into a room, and taken out four enemies with dual Uzi’s, all in slow motion of course - and thought: “Man, I wish we could do that in a game”? Well now you can. The engine boasts many other similar features, such as seeing corpses fly back while the camera rotates around their drifting body, and riding your own bullets - seeing what they see.
AI is impressive at most times. You’ll find grenades being thrown at you, while they run and take cover, you will watch them dive behind a sofa, firing repeatedly, you will also see them shoot right through each other if that’s what it takes to gun you down. The police are always in numbers, and will cover each other well - not to mention call for backup. They are always aware, and always paranoid… That’s the way you get after dealing in drugs and arms most of your life. You’ll find that every type of enemy has a slightly different personality when it comes to battle, which is a nice touch.
Max Payne is one of the most explosive and involving games I have played in years, a single player inovation and one of the best experiences I have had since Broken Sword. MP will without a doubt continue its rain over the industry as a land-mark game, and is a very likely candidate for action game of the year. The game is fast paced and keeps dragging you deeper into the plot, relentlessly throwing action, surprises and amazing scenarios right at you. If there’s one game you need to get this year, it’s Max Payne.
- Graphically intense visuals
- Matrix style action
- Above average plot
- Original and crisp gameplay
- Breath of fresh air in gaming genres
- High system requirements
- Sound effects need work
Final Score: 92%