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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Rockstar Games
DEVELOPER:
Remedy
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
November 25, 2003
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3

Max Payne

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on October 09, 2003

First Impressions: Bring the Payne?


The Things I Want by Max Payne
A smoke. A whiskey. For the sun to shine. I want to sleep. To forget. To change the past. I want my wife and my baby back. Unlimited ammo and a license to kill. Right then, more than anything, I wanted her.

The first Max Payne title seemed to come from nowhere. In 2001, a small Finnish developer called Remedy handed the gaming world a bona fide hard-boiled cop movie all wrapped up in a neat little interactive package. Originally a PC title, MP was a perfect fit for the (at the time) brand new Xbox, and Microsoft's freshman console received a version of the game that rivaled the original both in graphics and presentation.

The conclusion of Max Payne saw the death of the last thug involved in tearing Max's world asunder, and the weary Detective wanted -- no -- expected, his own time to be up as well. Jump forward to MP2, and Payne has been spared these indignities, and is instead assigned to the DEA. As in the original, a back-story that leads to the current situation at the opening of The Fall of Max Payne will reveal the abandonment of the DEA post, and a return to active duty with the NYPD. Once again Max is framed, but this time the developers have interjected an interesting twist ? the enigmatic Mona Sax. Both a love interest and a ghost from Max's past who's sure to cause trouble, Mona will play a key part in MP2.

Since the original game drew its ideas from John Woo -- and Hong Kong action cinema in general ? the focus of the play was on over the top, insanely violent gunfights. The intense bullet-time effect seen in the first game is back, and the trademark slow motion gunplay is actually taken to a whole new level?. one that's been dubbed Bullet Time 2.0 ? and it's absolutely breathtaking. Unlike normal bullet-time, 2.0 is less readily available, but when Max switches on, he's in the zone, moving at almost normal speed while his enemies are mired in molasses. At these times, Max is nearly invincible. Having seen a recent demo of the PC game, I'm now seriously anticipating the Xbox version. I loved the first title, playing it upon its release (Halo?then MP. I had much enthusiasm for the Xbox after that double shot of gaming goodness so early on) and I'm certain Remedy will once again bring a high quality port to the table with MP2.

Once again Max takes on oceans of mafia goons and other assorted scumbags in his quest to extricate himself from whatever current mess the team at Remedy sees fit to heap on him. Using a heavily modified, completely overhauled version of the first game's engine, the developers promise a deeper experience this time around. The lighting has been improved, as have the facial animations and overall character movement, and Remedy has implemented a new physics engine, which lends authentic weight to explosions and overall environmental destruction. Shotgun blasts produce sparks and ricochets, and bodies fly down stairs and through tables and furniture with eerie realism. The rest of the game looks absolutely gorgeous, with note perfect renditions of buildings, streets, alleys and other urban environments all wrapped in a dark, foreboding visual style. Fitting imagery for the gritty noir storyline and themes of hardcore violence.

Max has incredible new moves, and the improved bullet-time allows him to unload into enemies in superhuman style. Max now takes a room like death incarnate, sweeping across and covering the floor with endless shell casings, while his enemies slowly spin through the air spraying gouts of deep red blood. One sequence in the demo illustrates Max mowing through a room of baddies with an automatic shotgun, blowing thugs out of their socks and turning anything even remotely flammable into an immense fireball. The Havoc physics engine produces some stunning interplay between Max and his environment, and each time you engage in a firefight, the outcome is always dependent on every move you make.

One of the cooler new aspects of the sequel is the use of NPC characters that fight alongside Max during certain sections of the game. In one sequence, Max and 3 other roughnecks rush a group of suspects in an alley. Taking cover behind dumpsters and parked cars, the group uses suppressing fire to hold back the opposition. In the meantime, Max moves in and lands a direct hit with a Molotov cocktail, burning several mobsters to an instant crisp. Taking position in the center of the street while the NPCs cover him, Max pulls a sniper rifle and kills the last two gangsters 40 yards down the thoroughfare, the action switching to a bullet-cam view as the projectile soars to its target.

The sound is shaping up nicely, and the whirling rush of bullet-time and the relentless booming of gunfire bring the action home. The music seems suitable; moody and sparse, and the voice acting sounds promising thus far. The comic strip storyboards make a return, as do many of the major characters (that survived) from the first Payne title. MP2 will also feature fictional television programs that you'll encounter throughout the game. This tongue-in-cheek humor is inherently amusing, and is no doubt befitting a title published by Rockstar Games.

Final Thoughts
The first Max Payne was a superlative gaming experience, one that I cherish to this day. The sequel looks to rock even harder, and the intense film-like narrative promises to deliver an emotional punch to go along with the insane action scenes. Make no mistake; MP2 will be the action experience to own for the holidays. Look for more info on the Xbox version of Max Payne 2 here at Gaming Target as the release date approaches. Oh, and get that trigger finger ready...


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