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Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne Review

/ Dec 14th, 2003 No Comments

Today has been an interesting day for me in that I both saw The Matrix Revolutions and finished Max Payne 2, the originals of both having in the past had comparisons drawn through the wonder of bullet time. It is just a shame that The Matrix couldn’t turn out like Max Payne 2…while The Matrix has convoluted into a far weaker entity than what it started off as, Max Payne 2 has taken all that was great about the original and polished it into one of the greatest games I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

If you have played the first, and if you haven’t you should, you will structurally know what to expect from Max Payne 2…the story is laid out before you in a mix of graphic novel cut-scenes and game engine sequences, all accompanied by Max’s narrative. Then in between anything goes in what is an all out gun-fights that would make the Wachowskis embarrassed.

The story telling is arguably what drives the game; I will not give anything away as there are numerous twists and a few shocks that I wouldn’t want to ruin for you. But the story picks off where the last game left off and features many of the same characters such as Vlad and Vinnie. The most important character is Max’s love interest that vanished near the climax of the first game, Mona Sax, beautiful, tough and is actually the star of one of the games best levels where you control her and Max in a Tarantino style split story telling. All the games characters are brilliant though in terms of voice acting and their overall personalities, they are totally believable and totally drag you into their world. The game boldly carries the tagline ‘A film noir love story’ for a very good reason.
But ok, you want a story, you’ll read a book. However, Max Payne 2 has a game in it as well and it is just a sheer joy to play. I wrote a piece a long time ago now about how graphics and technological improvements are worth more than just eye-candy, they can allow us to do things and experience things we never have before in a game. Never could this be truer than in Max Payne 2.

The game engine is unbelievably slick, I run it at 1280×960 with everything maxed out, 6xAA on an Athlon 2400+, Radeon 9700 and 1Gig of RAM and things move as smoothly as greased fat man slides on ice. The work gone into the levels is staggering, the texturing is the most detailed I have ever seen and the environments are very rich with plenty of things to see. The funhouse levels in particular are some of the slickest, most brilliantly stylistic things I’ve ever seen. The most impressive additions come courtesy of the Havok physics engine though, an awesome piece of design that totally changes the way you interact with the environment.

Now, when you hit bullet time and dive across the floor and see each individual bullet leave the chamber of your gun, you will see it streak through the air, you hit a stray pot-plant and see it fly up in the air and bounce down to the ground. Another shot hits a pile of boxes, they wobble but stay upright until the can of gas you just hit blows up and sends them spiraling off into the air. Then to top it all off, when your last few rounds bury themselves in your enemy he will crumple to the ground thanks to good old rag-doll physics.

I have seen some amazing, unscripted moments thanks to the physics…cowering below a staircase I threw a grenade up to the top and ducked back under. I heard the explosion and then saw a dead body slide down the stairs…his rifle slid after him until it picked up enough speed and clipped the edge of a step sending it rolling the rest of the way. Another enemy was left bent double in mid-air over a pipe after I shot him off a balcony. Oh, and just you wait til things start blowing up around you…chaos theory in a videogame is a good thing and bodes well for what Half Life 2 will offer us.

The game is a cinematic experience and the sound is well up to scratch, some of the music I would happily stick in my CD player and listen to at my own leisure. The effects are top notch too, the guns, the explosions…it’s all just perfect.

The only criticism I have heard aimed at Max Payne 2 is its length. It won’t really take you much more than eight hours to complete I would say, and while this is short, I would take quality over quantity any day. There are no ‘filler’ levels here, every one of them is action packed and driven by the story. To be honest, I doubt it would be as good as it is if it were longer bearing in mind its intense storytelling. But still, length is offered through extra modes of play such as various time-attack modes, but more importantly, full mod support is offered, so you can expect to see the net flooded with new ways to play the game very soon.

Max Payne 2 is the kind of game I really hope we see more of in the future, mature story telling, great characters, technically outstanding and above all just pure good fun. If you don’t buy it then I despair, I really do! Hows about we just give it Game of the Year now and be done with it!

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton was based out of Europe before disappearing off the face of the Earth. His contributions in the early days of Gaming Illustrated's history, however, shall never be forgotten.
Jamie Wharton

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