Game Review - by James Allen
Ever since The Matrix appeared in theatres, the gaming public has been clamoring for a computer offering which features the same shooting action and slow-mo sequences. Your prayers have been answered, Spanky, because we have Max Payne. In development since the Bronze Age, Remedy brings us a story driven third person action shooter, all wrapped up nicely with the pink bow of Bullet Time. Was Max Payne worth the wait, or will the gaming public have another headache of max pain mediocrity?
Despite being in development for so long, I was surprised about the briefness of the whole game. First off, there is no multiplayer, and the single-player mode takes around 12 hours to complete. When compared to the juggernaut games of recent times, this seems not up to par. Once you do complete the game, you unlock harder difficulty levels and New York Minute, where you must kill opponents to add to the time given to complete each chapter. Although many map and model editors are included, and we are sure to see piles of mods and extra levels by gamers everywhere, it would have been nice if Remedy had included some extra levels not included in the story lines. Oh well.
The sound in the game is very well done. In a game such as this, it is important to get the atmosphere right, and Max Payne does this beautifully. The sound acting is well done, although some of the characters have unbelievable accents and such. Like in No One Lives Forever, you can hear the conversations of your soon-to-be victims. All of the firearms related effects are included, and seem pretty realistic. The fact that you can hear your heartbeat during Bullet Time seals the deal. The most haunting sound is that of a grenade bouncing off a concrete floor; you need to turn and run! All in all, the sound complements the rest of the game very well.
Although much has been given to Max Payne as to its revolutionary gameplay, after you strip away the shiny wrapping paper, you're left with a common third person shooter with basically one new feature: Bullet Time. Don't get me wrong: Max Payne was a blast to play, and Bullet Time is awesome to behold. But, the gameplay degenerates into an exercise of smanship. The puzzles usually consist of flipping a switch, and only require a try or two to master. This actually works with the fast pace of the game, however. Also, all of the levels are very linear, so there is no guessing which was to go: it's amazing how many locked doors a grenade launcher can't take out.
With the sheer number of enemies coming toward you, Bullet Time is not just a neat addition, but also a necessity. You gain more Bullet Time by killing enemies, and the actual implementation is very easy to use. Bullet Time comes in two flavors: shootdodging (diving in any direction in slow motion) and normal Bullet Time. The key to Bullet Time is that everything moves (including Max) in slow motion, but you can aim in real time. This gives you a great advantage, which you need to use in order to survive.
The weapons you are presented with run the gamut from handguns and sub-machine guns to rifles and grenades. To relieve your bloodletting, painkillers are (scarcely) provided in the level, hidden in lockers or cabinets. The interactivity (although in most cases scripted) with the levels is also pleasing. Most of the objects in the game can be shot, pushed, pulled, or blown up. Need a refreshing drink? Buy a soda and use the Homer Simpson method of liquid retrieval: shoot the can. To complete the package, a very good story (best since Half Life) drives the action. I actually felt bad for Max after learning the entire story. I was depressed for months (months=five seconds). I won't spoil the storyline surprises here, just find them out yourself. Although Bullet Time is undeniably cool, the rest of Max Payne is tread ground.
Ah, the graphics. Much buzz was produced from the sporadically released screenshots and movies, but let me tell you, folks: they don't do the game justice. Each level is an exercise in beauty and graphical realism. Everything in the game, from Max himself to the shot up walls, shows that much time was spent making sure the graphics are top notch. And are they ever. It's the little things in the game that show how special the pretty pictures are. In Bullet Time, you can see each individual bullet whizzing past you, and even shotgun blasts are rendered with each single pellet. Fire is also cool, especially in one specific sequence. Each of the levels is rendered in a believable and dirty look. When either Max or certain enemies die, a cool death cinematic shot is shown, which gives finality to the situation. The price of these visuals aren't as steep as you would think: a P3 600, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB GeForce2 MX ran the game at the highest detail at 1024x768 with only one short frame rate drop. With the attention to detail heading the marquee, the graphics are indeed wonderful and pioneering.
All right. The graphics are really cool, Bullet Time is really cool, but the rest is standard shooter fare. With just a short single player mode, the fun runs out too quickly, and I, for one, want more Payne! Even with its shortcomings, somehow (by buying it), get your hands on Max Payne and enjoy the melted goodness. No doubt, user created mods and levels will be out soon enough to extend Max to greater heights. Just make sure you enjoy what you have, instead of wrangling with what was left out.