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Max Payne

Review By:  Brennan Ieyoub

Developer:   Remedy
Publisher:   Rockstar
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Action/Adventure
ESRB:   Mature
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:  

2-20-02

After watching a great football game, I like to top off the experience with a quick round of NFL Fever. After seeing a hot sports car drive by, I like to boot up Project Gotham and play pretend for a little while. After watching a kick ass, no holds barred, bloodbath of an action movie, I like to play me a little Max Payne. Never before has the spirit and drama of the superlative Hollywood gunfight been so faithfully translated to video game form like it is in this game. In Max Payne, you ARE the action hero.

Remedy has accomplished this task by taking a filmmaker’s cliché, and turning it into an integral part of the gameplay: you use slow motion as a weapon. "Howwwzzzzattt??" You ask me? Well with the simple press of the left trigger button, everything from your enemies to the bullets they fire at you slows down to a crawl. The catch is that Max, being the tough-as-nails rouge cop that he is, is still able to aim his guns in real-time. This gives you an incredible advantage over your enemies by allowing you to dodge bullets by diving in any given direction, and by giving you in a certain effect, superhuman speed. The effect is called bullet time, and the result is a revolutionary blend of action, art, and adrenaline. The first time you dive through a door in slo-mo, dodging bullets and firing off rounds like Chow-yun-fat, you can’t help but let a calm, understated "cool" slip from your lips.

Max Payne is actually a console port of a year old PC title. Having played through both versions, I can attest to the fact that nothing has been compromised in the game’s translation. The graphics remain sharp and detailed, and the sound is still an auditory assault. You do lose a bit of accuracy in control with the analog sticks, however the developers have made the sensitivity and deadzones completely customizable. After tooling around in the options during the first level, I was able to give myself a degree of control that fairly emulated a mouse/keyboard combo. An auto-aim function is also included for those who want the computer to decide where their bullets go (I HATE AUTO AIM!! GAGGHH!!), but thankfully, that option can be toggled on and off as well.

The story is told through cut scenes that feature graphic novel storyboards, and talented voice-overs. The basic premise is familiar as a hershey squirt: Max Payne was the guy who had it all together. Beautiful wife, healthy baby, promising law enforcement career. One day Max comes home to find his quiet suburban household trashed to pieces with the aforementioned wife and baby executed by a couple of drug fiends. After the requisite downward spiral toward the-man-with-nothing-to-lose platform, Max wages war against the Mafia, and the Narcotics Empire that grips the city of New York. The writing is sometimes over-the-top, but the extremely dark nature of the story calls for some kind of comic relief. Overall I think it’s a gripping story line, very mature, and always interesting to watch unfold.

When I first played through MP on my PC, I was forced to turn down the resolution, turn off all the kick ass special effects, cut down on the sound channels, and yet I still could only get the bastard to run at about 15fps. Now I still enjoyed it (albeit on my best friends computer), but playing the Xbox version is a completely different story. Nothing is sacrificed graphically here! The framerate stays fast and completely playable. There are only a couple of locations in the game where it stutters a bit. The realistic, hi-res textures of the PC game made the transition flawlessly. More importantly, all of the debris, bullets, and gunsmoke look great during bullet time. The Xbox is certainly capable of much more powerful effects, and while you won’t see the black monster flexing any of that extra muscle here, you get a great translation of a stellar PC game.

The sound effects department at Remedy deserves a box of choc-o-lates for a job well done. Every bullet fired has a sound effect that is context sensitive dependant on the surface it hits. When you slow down in bullet time, each effect changes and slows down to match the action on screen. It just adds to the incredible cinematic flair this game offers. There isn’t much variety when it comes to music, but I can see that the major emphasis here was on the sound of the guns, ricochets, and explosions. There are very few instances where you’re playing the game with back-up music. Mostly you’re accompanied by ambient sound effects like droning lights, squeaky doors and howling wind. The lack of music helped draw me into my surroundings. I think it was a wise decision on behalf of the developers. Time for the section where we tear into the meaty shortcomings of MP-Xbox.

The only MAJOR gripe I have about this version is the loading times. Not that they’re too long, but there are just too many of them. You can only play for about 5-8 minutes before you reach a door that halts the game and loads another section of the level. You’re taken to a boring loading screen, and completely removed from your gaming experience. I suppose it’s a lack of memory making the jump from PC to Xbox, but c’mon guys, I feel like you could‘ve done better. It doesn’t ruin the game or anything, but it is annoying nonetheless. I would have also liked to see some Xbox exclusive additions, but all you get here is a direct port. Not a bad thing, but it would have been damn nice to have something new here.

Highs:

  • Innovative bullet-time gameplay
  • Great PC to Xbox translation
  • Excellent voice acting

Lows:

  • Lenghty load times
  • No Xbox-specific enhancements

Final Verdict: 

With a Xbox, you get to play a near flawless port of a game that used to only be enjoyable to those with high-end PC computers. While you won’t find any enhancements here, this is an action title nobody should pass up (children need not apply).

Overall Score: 8.8

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