Full Review: No doubt about it, Xbox owners are ready for the Payne!
A game like Max Payne just screams to be freed from its PC roots. I mean, come on, this is what console games are made of. Nothing against the PC, but the game's fast, action-packed gameplay and attitude driven character just seems to fit better on a videogame console. And guess what? It's here. The title has been recently released for both the PS2 and Xbox, however, Xbox owners seem to have gotten the better end of the stick. The Xbox has only been out a month and it is already showing its technical superiority over the PS2, with visuals on par with the highest end PCs and faster loading times. Okay, I'm sorry, I'll stop PS2 bashing and get on to my review, post-haste!
First and foremost, if you have any small children around or if you're a religious freak, don't buy, or even rent, this game. It isn't rated ?Mature? just for the heck of it. Max Payne is probably the most gritty, disturbing, and violent game ever. Hell, the gameplay itself is all about murdering people, and not just a few; we're talking about hordes of them. Even from the get go we are treated to the sight of Max's murdered wife and infant daughter. As the story evolves we are treated to moral ridden members of the New York Mafia, which in turn leads to hookers, drugs, and lots of swear words (they so crazy). Now that I got that out of the way, everyone who likes a lot of violence and death in their games (and hates Senator Lieberman), read on.
To sum up the story in Max Payne without going too far into any details and spoiling it for you, it goes like this ? Three years ago Max, a detective, comes home to find his wife and baby murdered by some lifeless junkies who are on a new deadly drug known as Valkyr. To get revenge for their murders, Max joins the D.E.A. and attempts to track down where the drugs are flooding in. As it turns out, the mafia is a big supplier of it. So, Max Payne and all his glory decides to infiltrate the mafia and finally get the revenge he so desperately wants. That's not all either, in a more recent act, the mafia find out who Max is, in return they murder his partner and frame him for it. This is where the NYPD come into the picture. You see, murdering people is a crime; one Max doesn't plan on getting arrested for. This story is a major part of why the game is so great and there are many twists throughout that will certainly keep you interested.
Like I stated earlier, Max is a man of attitude. A badass if you will. If anyone steps in his way? BAM!, they be dead. It's not that he's always been like this, but he's gone through a lot lately and killing has become his style of things. Though, I do have one complaint about him. The story in the game plays out through comic book-esque pictures, but with voice work added in. Here we meet his, umm? how shall I put this? Super vocabulary. This guy knows some massive words, and he has more metaphors than Metaphor Man. The only reason I point his out is because he makes me feel so inferior. The point I'm trying to make in this paragraph is that Max Payne is one cool dude, but then again, you'll realize this once you step into the role.
You've probably heard it a million times before ? Max Payne's gameplay is like a combination of John Woo's famed gunning action with a bit of the Matrix's slow down effects thrown in (two very ?cool? things). I don't know where Max draws this power from, but the slow down effect is called ?Bullet Time?. It comes in two forms. One ? press the button to activate ?Bullet Time? as you are moving, that in turn leads to about five seconds of slow down ? and two ? press the button while you are standing still, this in turn slows everything down until your hourglass meter depletes, not to worry though, it replenishes with every given kill. The whole point of this feature is that you are able to see and dodge bullets in real-time. Plus, your aiming doesn't slow down one bit. So, not only can you dodge bullets, but you can also aim with a lot more accuracy. Basically, this lets you kill with more efficiency.
If it weren't for this ?Bullet Time? feature, Max Payne wouldn't be too different from other shooters out there. Set in the third-person, you guide Max through various locals in New York as you go on one big killing spree. You'll be equipped with some fairly standard weapons, with a huge variety of handguns, shotguns, uzis, rifles, and the ever-popular rocket-launcher. In addition, you have your standard medi-kits that come in the form of painkillers. The gameplay itself is intense and addicting ? walk into a room and murder everyone while at the same time trying not to get shot yourself. Helping out is some fairly smart A.I., they will certainly give you a run for your money. The game also has a few tiny puzzle type chores (it's where I get stuck), but nothing too major. The only problem with the gameplay department is that it lacks depth, and to be honest, doesn't require that much skill. However, this in no way makes the game any less fun.
Complementing the gameplay is a fabulous control scheme. One that I became accustomed to fairly quickly, why you ask? Well, it is set up exactly like Halo, a game I've been playing religiously for over a month now. The left analog stick controls movement and strafing, while the right analog stick controls your direction and aiming. As well, the right trigger shoots and the left trigger activates ?Bullet Time?. The rest of the buttons do some pretty standard things like reloading, switching weapons, activating switches, and jumping. All in all, these controls are about flawless, and work just as well as a keyboard and mouse set-up.
As I said before, the game's visuals are about on par with the highest end PCs. The characters in the game look and move realistically, the explosion effects are top notch, and the amazing texture work makes every room in the game almost photo-realistic. Just about everything in the game is interactive too. Push a button on the beverage machine and a coke pops out, shoot a light and electricity sparks, also, when you shoot a wall, or inanimate object, huge chunks of it flies off (which looks really cool in the middle of a gun fight). The weather effects are nice as well. In the story, New York City is having a pretty bad blizzard, so when in outdoor environments you'll see snowflakes slowly floating down and you'll make footprints in the snow as you walk through it. You just have to love the attention to detail in this game, and it all wraps up into one beautiful package.
Expect to hear some equally detailed sounds. Every gun in the game has its own distinct noise, each ground surface in the game makes a different sound from another, and the explosions are the most intense I've ever heard. The voice work is also of high quality. Max himself has a coarse, yet passionate voice, while the members of the mafia have their patented mafia accent and slang. Sometimes it's fun to just sit there and listen to their conversation right before you murder them. Afterwards you get to hear their screams of agony, mean? Yes, but really cool. Don't expect to hear much music in this game though. I'm not exactly sure why, but the game lacks any musical scores. Occasionally the music will pop in during an intense firefight or something, but it's really nothing too special. On the other hand, this really doesn't seem to hurt the game any; I came away quite pleased with the audio.
When I wrote a preview for this game a month ago I mentioned how cool the sound is when you activate the ?Bullet Time? mode. And just to remind everyone I will explain this again. As soon as you press the button the gunfire, voices, and everything else becomes muted while the sound of Max's beating heart can be heard. When your time expires everything sort of rips back into real time, leaving a very nice effect. It also goes a long way in intensifying this whole feature.
Everyone knows Max Payne is short, so I'm not going to disagree. You're first time through it'll probably take around 10 hours for you to beat. Making things even worse is the lack of multiplayer options and game options themselves ? there's only the main game and a small training mode. Now that I think about it, Max Payne fits pretty well in the rent category. Most places these days have five-day rentals, more than enough time to complete the game. But more than likely you'll want to go through the game twice ? one on the first difficulty setting and another on the harder settings. In the end it just comes down to personal choice, whether you rent it or buy it, you can't go wrong.