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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Rockstar Games
GENRE: Action
November 25, 2003
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 Alex Fitzgerald  on December 05, 2003

Full Review: So much blood you'll need a window wiper.

Sooner or later all things lose their luster. Such is the case with the technology known as bullet time. Championed by The Wachowski Brothers in their first Matrix movie, Bullet Time was a camera technique in which the action on screen would move at a slow motion pace while the camera moved at normal speed. This idea back in 1999 was groundbreaking, as the Wachowski Brothers accomplished in The Matrix what John Woo and his colleagues in Hong Kong had been attempting to do for years. You could see every bullet speed through the air, every slight movement by the actors. Action in American cinema reached a level of precision that hadn't been seen for years.

Now, in the year 2003, the Bullet Time effect is becoming the diamond that will no longer shine. After the Matrix came out, tons of movies, games, and TV shows blatantly ripped off the camera technique. Bullet Time was so popular at one point that its usage became flat out ridiculous, with even Nickelodeon commercials featuring the precise technique.

Finally, people became sick of Bullet Time. Only directors slow to pick up on things continued to use it in commercials, and critics scoffed when Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle used Bullet Time again (often mentioning in their reviews that the technique now looked dated).

Because of Bullet Time's novelty has been wearing thin for some time now, it was doubtful whether or not Max Payne 2 would be as well received. Admittedly, the original game was quite a one trick pony, and so is the second one. The game's focus is still on letting players blow the hell out of enemies with the aid of slow motion, but fortunately for Rockstar Entertainment Max Payne is not a movie actor but a video game character.

The second you start playing Max Payne 2 you will be having fun. Jumping around wildly trying to dodge fire and spraying bullets at enemies while doing so is still fun as hell, and its only made more so by the introduction of several new weapons. The game has also been refined enough by the developers that you soon forget all of the game's smaller flaws. Whenever the game starts to feel monotonous something changes on you. Max Payne will have to keep going even when he has no weapons, or when a thousand other gameplay-altering obstacles are in front of him. If that's not enough you'll also get to play as Mona Sax, Max Payne's love interest, during the game. Mona's levels offer a different perspective on the traditional Max Payne formula, as more focus is put on long range sniping than upfront killing.

Rockstar has released the second Max Payne game for Xbox, so Alex is here to investigate if it will really be the fall of Max Payne like the name suggests or if it will turn out to be a sequel that's more stylish than the first.

Despite all of Max Payne 2's attempts to stay fresh though there is still a slight feeling of been-there-done-that occasionally. Often times Max will have to return to the same areas, some lifted right from the first game, which doesn't help matters. People who were tired of shooting enemy after enemy by the end of the original Max Payne will find themselves bored an hour or two into this installment.

Where this game really shines though is in its presentation. Max Payne's writers have continued their resurrection of film noir in this title, and unlike the Die Hard sequels it actually seems PLAUSIBLE why Max Payne is going into another fit of darkness and violence. Max Payne has left the DEA and gone to work for the NYPD. Things are moving steadily along for Max, until one night when Max is investigating a routine call when he runs into one of the groups that have popped ever since Max killed off half of New York last time. Well, one thing leads to another, and after Max makes a few mistakes and is put into a few compromising situations, Max's partner is dead and Max once again is a wanted man.

The real spice to the game's plot is how it is delivered to the player. The comic book presentation returns, and with it the painfully haunting dialogue from Max Payne's tortured soul. You see the game from multiple angles (both from Max Payne and Mona Sax) and things aren't always conveniently put into chronological order, leaving you to put the pieces together by yourself. The writing has also gotten even darker, as Max Payne's writers now allow their characters to drop F bombs in the appropriate places, and at one point during the game we even see a full on sex scene complete with some nudity.

To complete the package is the game's excellent music and graphics. Bullet Time has been upgraded, and the environments are even more destructible. To complement the game's improved enemy AI is the more intricate character models given to game characters, and how good they look during their respective animations. The comic book format in which the game's story is presented is again awesome, with the artists constant shades of gray and black giving off an even more depressing look to Max Payne's beautifully drawn world.

The game's score is more varied this time around, but the string arrangements still do their job to set the mood, whether it be if Max is feeling down or if he's two seconds away from the brink of death. The voice acting is also top notch, with high quality voice talent adding layers to the game's characters.

Bottom Line
Max Payne 2 is a great sequel that continues the story from the first game in a plausible manner, while evolving the gameplay that made the first title so enjoyable. The only problems this game faces is that it hasn't evolved enough to make it feel as fresh as the first title, and the game's short running time - a mere ten hours or so. Still, if you enjoy shooters or film noir, Max Payne 2 is going to be your game this month, and deservedly so.

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