Bring on the Pain!
Seeing as how the Max Payne movie is hitting cinemas here soon, I thought I’d review the game upon which it is based, in the hopes that it will encourage people to play the game before the movie spoils what would otherwise be one of the best games ever released in the history of everything.
In Max Payne, you play as Max Payne (surprise, surprise), an undercover DEA cop who has just avenged the deaths of his wife and daughter. Then, in an act similar to many films in the film noir genre (a genre which the game seems to replicate), the rest of the game is told in flashback. First, you go back three years to the day when said wife and daughter were killed, then you start the game in earnest three or so days before the scene depicted in the beginning cutscene.
In terms of gameplay, Max Payne was the first to use the now done-to-death mechanic that is ‘bullet time’. By hitting either the right mouse button or the Shift key, Max with slow down time and, depending on if you were moving in any direction at the time, dive. You can aim in real time, and can often kill one or two people in a single dive, more if you jumped off something big.
The graphics? Meh, they’re ugly. But that’s by today’s standards, and seeing how this game was made back in 2001, I don’t see how I could hold it against it. You want pretty? Go suck it up and get Crysis.
Although, that being said, Max Payne does have some problems on rigs that are ‘too powerful’. On my current machine, every so often the cursor throws a spas and shoots halfway across the bloody screen, causing me to fire at the wall behind me, the ceiling or the floor. Or a combination of such. Very annoying when you’re trying to kill people.
Not so much when you’re enjoying the story. Max Payne has the frankly underused mechanic of being able to not only skip cutscenes (expressed in the form of a graphic novel, narrated by Max himself), but to revisit and view them later, in case you either skipped it the first time to get into the action (which to be honest doesn’t happen that often in the game, most of the time they’re between frantic shootouts), or in the case you liked them and want to see it again. Plus, you can review the story so far whenever you load your game, so that you can know exactly what you were doing.
The story in Max Payne is rather well-written too. You get your bog-standard ‘Ooh, there’s a guy who wants to help me, oh dear he’s dead now’ moves and the inevitable plot twists, but overall the story really drives home Max’s plight. He constantly sounds depressed, but since he’s been undercover in a hellhole for the past three years it’s understandable somewhat. Perhaps too many anecdotes and similes are used in the cutscenes, but that’s just part of Max’s character.
For system specs, as the game was made in 2001 even today’s low-spec rigs should be able to run Max Payne with maxed settings, or close to max. My modest one couldn’t handle 4-layer anti-aliasing without a significant frame rate drop, however on 3-layers it ran smooth (aside from the mouse-jumping). Still, it also got a PS2 and an Xbox release, so if you can find it, you can get them for either of those and forego the whole system specs problem altogether.
I haven’t had that much time with the second Max Payne title, however from the little I’ve seen it doesn’t exactly compare favourably with the original. They changed Max, for goodness sake! The original Max was a lot more definitive, now he just looks like a ****.
Let’s just hope they base the movie’s version of Max on the original, aye? Oh, and also hope that the movie does this great game justice. Because, if they don’t, they’ll have to answer to a lot of people.