Yep, he fell alright...
Well here we have the sequel to one of the most brilliant third person shooters ever. Max Payne 2 comes to deliver one more aesthetical feast for your gaming world, as it's predecessor did in 2001. All the comic book intros and interludes are here too, all the cinematics and the brilliant cut scenes. Max Payne 2 sure does have a strong and equally complex story running in the background to support all this killing menace. What's more, they've managed to connect the new story with what happened in the first episode of Max Payne: "Have no fear! Vlad is here!". And Vlad nowadays has acquired the (excellent) Ragnarok club and turns it out to a classy restaurant called "Vodka"! Now, I dunno about the Vodka there, but surely the Molotov cocktails are strong enough! Some other old friends join the party too like detective Jim Bravura who's Max's supervisor these days, Alfred Woden (the guy who helped Max in the first episode) and the notorious Mona Sax (you thought she died but medicine does miracles nowadays!)... Oh! I shouldn't forget Vinnie Gognitti and his hilarious costume (the design and animation of this one is fantastic! The scenes where you have to protect Vinnie are a great laugh!)
Okay, let's begin from somewhere in this game. You see the intro comic and the cinematics and you're anxious to get into Max's new world. You see a hospital and a room where you lie on a bed just waking up from a shooting accident.
Simply stated the modeling and texturing in this game is a masterpiece! I dare to say that the modeling has evolved a step beyond the first episode. As soon as you'll enter the hospital (the first level) you'll realize this - thank 3D Studio Max for that! :).
Regarding gameplay, all the good elements of the first episode are here too! All the gunfights and whizz-bam-booms, all the good stuff that made us wanting more of Mr.Payne. So this time he comes in better clothing ready to blast away all those in the higher levels of society that conspire to plunge us into doom, to their financial benefit. The weapons are more like the same, with the addition of the AK-47 Kalashnikov (thank Vlad for those!) and the very useful MP-5 (which was only available as a must have mod you could find on the web, for the previous game) that can work in more than one ways. As a tip: Just think about the option of using it on the sniping level.
Hey! Mona gets to be Maxie's new girlfriend! Yep, time gets by and time gets lonely, so Max needs a bit of companionship and a bit of love. I'm not going to tell you the story on this one, I'm only going to say that in this episode you get to play as Mona too (nice ...err.. jeans pants!). So the action goes back and forth, as Max and Mona (a bit like M&Ms!) engage the same level and you get to play both of them. You begin the level playing Maxie's part, then the whole place explodes (what an original outcome!) and then without knowing if Max has survived or not you're playing Mona's part to that explosion point of the plot. Differences in the two characters are that Mona is a bit more agile than Maxie but, more vulnerable to enemy hits and the latter is far more apparent.
Another evolution of the game is in the enemies AI. These guys will give you a hard time even in the easiest of difficulty levels. They do now how to fight and they do also know how to hide. Sometimes they are a nightmare, as they have some very clever AI code on them and they make you run for cover. Most of the times you cannot afford to play via the full frontal attack approach and you need to think of tricks and strategies to lay'em on the floor. Just make sure you don't run out of the good ol' painkillers and have a finger on the quicksave button. The final boss (I won't tell you who is he, it's a surprise!) is extremely difficult to kill and although the concept in defeating him has a bit of inspiration from the final level of Max Payne I, it is still very difficult to avoid his continuous fire and send him packaged to the bosses of the other world.
Musically and sound-wise the game packs in all the usual bam booms one can expect from a game in that vein. The title piano tune is remixed a bit but the sad feeling it emits is here too. So when the main menu loads up expect to hear a familiar tune that will bring the following associations to your mind: Night - New York - Winter - A life gone down the drain - running like a fugitive - start killing to find the answer.
Okay, here goes the bad news though. Although being a better game than the first Max Payne, this one gets a bit too repetitive and to be honest, boring. I mean, I remember playing two levels which were situated at Mona's hideout. And then there is that construction site, which you get to play both parts, in fact it's like playing the same level two times. Oh! And if that's not enough, the hospital comes also in a double dose. It all reminds me the 'bloodline labyrinth nightmares' which you had to pass through in the first game, and that was innovative, but also annoying to me. It's sad, but I expected the same kind of scenery as in the first game, the scrubby urban flat complexes, the mansion and all that, but something more innovative than this. This one doesn't even try to impress in terms of innovation in level design. It must be that the developers didn't have any imagination left for level design after they finished the background story of the game... It's better done, but not better laid out, or thought about.
Speaking of the background story, I guess this time I lost the story somehow as it becomes too complicated and I believe that the furious game in conjunction with the over-complicated story doesn't mix quite well to a shooter gamer's head. And to be honest, in a shooter game like this one, you're far more eager to blast your way through the levels, rather than being curious about the secret conspiracies of this world. Okay, it's a good excuse not to label a game as a stupid shooter, and it's also a good excuse to cram in some art-comics gimmick, but I think that this kind of story backup is quite heavy for the given kind of game... I'm wondering to see what they'll come up with in the next Max Payne... Oh God!
Another drawback of the game is that some levels are ridiculously difficult. One that comes to mind right now is the second coming (!) in the hospital, where you have to escape through the guard on the door and some other guys upstairs. I admit, I've tried to cheat 'cause I got stuck for two whole days in this one, so I found some cheat codes for unlimited health and all guns on the web, but no use (well, only the painkillers cheat helped the situation), even if you have weapons (somehow!), the developers have coded the enemies invulnerable on that level.
Yeah call me a lame gamer but I get really frustrated getting stuck on the same spot for a long period just due to lack of my super hero reaction abilities, or if anyone else knows a good trick to pass that level otherwise, I'll be glad to know it.
The Bottom Line
The game has not lost it's relation to it's predecessor, be sure of that, it's almost identical to the initial Max Payne. What you saw, played and loved in the initial episode is here too. This is good and bad at the same time. Good because, all the good elements that made the first game an instant favourite are here and more nicely done, and bad, because it's exactly a re-vamped version of the first game without the slightest hint of trying new tricks and being innovative, unless you think that playing Mona's part can be regarded as innovation. Perhaps the Vinnie Gognitti scenes are the true shine of the game. It's a shame though that elements like that are scarce in The fall of Max Payne.
I loved the original! Once I've finished the first Max Payne, I have re-installed and finished again the whole game 4 more times, even when newer and better releases were around! Once I've played the Fall of Max Payne, I suddenly knew why Max Payne fell! I just got bored of it somehow to be honest, and finishing it was a task which required a bit of a nerve. I only did it because I was curious to see how the story ends. And if you ask me, I still do prefer the original and that is what I will re-install in the future when the good ol' Max Payne nostalgia hits me.
I really dunno If I should recommend this one one or not. Take it for the good graphics, or take it if you're a true Hardcore Max Payne fan. Otherwise It's a good shooter that only gets a bit too repetitive (like Halo), if you don't mind that, give it a try. Again if you missed (how could you??!!) the first Max Payne, this is a good excuse to get to know him. His real juice (err... don't get me wrong here! lol!) though is in the first game.