Of all the games i've come to adore, a disappointing few of them are 3rd person action shooters. For why...well, I simply haven't played that many. Not very many catch my eye as something worth trying. Max Payne, as it turns out, is far and away my favorite of the few i've had a crack at. It really is an ingenious game that manages to not just be a bundle of cheap thrills designed to appeal to someone who really doesn't know anything about gaming. Instead, it's a bundle of brilliant game elements that fall together in a very neat pile.
So, we'll start at the beginning. Or not. Max Payne decides to start from the end of the tale. Max is on the top of a very tall building surrounded by cops, all beginning to close in on him. He's also holding Sniper Rifle. That should give you an idea of what he's been up to. However, after a narration by Payne himself, we go back in time.
Three years back to be exact. Max Payne is in the NYPD at this time in history, living the so called American Dream with his wife, Michelle, and his baby daughter. He arrives home one day to a disturbing scene. The house is slightly askew! Now, you take control of Payne for the first time. You can go around the house a bit, try the phone to discover you can't...but the objective is to get up the stairs and into the bedroom. You do so, killing the bad guys in your way, but your too late. Michelle and the baby are dead.
And so, that's how the plot of Max Payne kicks off. From there you go on a insane, one man army killing spree in search of revenge for your dead family. It has it's twists, turns, and is an all around solid plot. However, I found myself not paying very much attention to it because of the kickass action of the actual gameplay. So on to that.
Max Payne, as I said before, is a 3rd person action shooter. You go through the game with various guns, blasting away enemies on your way to vengence and the truth. As you go through the game, you fight more enemies at the same time, use bigger guns, etc. It's fast paced, fun, and well done. But it needs something to be more than just that. And it does have something indeed. Bullet Time.
It's a pretty cool concept. At the press of a button, time slows down. Everything starts moving in slow motion except your aiming ability. Meaning you can now get a jump on the enemy. You can also do some pretty cool tricks with this slow motion ability. You can jump forwards, backwards, and to the side while your guns are blaring at some unfortunate fool. John Woo anyone? It is this Bullet Time that makes Max Payne more than just another shoot em up.
Of course, like a few others games I recently reviewed, Max Payne is too damn short. There are 3 acts, made up of 6, 7, or 8 chapters each. The total chapter count is 21, not counting prologues at the start of each act. Each chapter has decent length to it, but in the end it's still a very short game. Most can probably beat it in a single day. Furthermore, there's really very little replayability. I enjoyed replaying it on different difficulty modes alot myself, but that's not for everyone.
A game like this also needs to be good technically to truly pull it off. And Max Payne has that. The graphics are certainly good. Yes, Payne himself looks like his face was run through a blender, and there were more impressive graphics at the time, but it's still good. However, it may lack slightly in graphics but makes up for this with Atmosphere. It just feels...dark and grimy everywhere you go. The method of storytelling only increases the atmosphere. Much of it is done in Comic Book fashion. All in all, it's great. Some of Max's cheesy lines bring it down, but hey, at least there's some humor. =p
So, when all is said and done, Max Payne is one of my all time favorite games. It has some great gameplay, solid plot, is technically sound. Sure, it's really short, and might find it's way to the back of a shelf to collect dust within the day, but nothing lasts forever. And games like this are simply meant to be replayed.