Written by  :  kbmb (435)
Written on  :  Oct 28, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Certainly a great game, but not necessarily better than the original.

The Good

If you've played Max Payne, or have Internet access, or you're not a caveman, then you probably know what Max Payne is, and chances are you know what it's all about. It's about slow-motion gunfights with graphic novel cutscenes and Max with a funny look on his face.

In Max Payne 2, the gameplay is enhanced, and the funny face is gone, but at its core, it's still the great Max Payne we knew from 2001. Gunfights are fought in a similar manner, but with Bullet Time 2.0, you can actually utilize it rather than being forced to "shot-dodge" every time you want to kill someone. Using bullet-time in Max Payne 2 is a spectacular sight. The colors change, the screen goes kind of blurry and it completely immerses you in the world of Max Payne: Faster Than God. And with the best ragdolls I've ever seen in a game, gunfights are a blast to play over and over and over.

Gunfights are what this game is all about. With a plethora of weapons at your disposal, and of course with the aid of Bullet Time 2.0, you'll blast your way through an insane amount of enemies, each one who may be almost as strong as you, only lacking the bullet-time advantage. This means that the game really does require a bit of skill on your part, and you won't be able to just stand in the middle of a gunfight taking the hits. Use your bullet-time, shot-dodge the blasts, take cover, and use the environment to your advantage.

And boy, how you can use the environment! The guys who made this game must have put great effort into making a TON of interesting quirks in the environment. With the amazing physics in the game, you can use these against the enemy (whether you're intending to or not) and they can use it on you. Imagine, you charge into a room with a staircase. Enemies are flying up the stairs, and behind you more are coming. You spot a tank of gasoline on a box. Switch to bullet time, dodge some gunfire, blast the gasoline. The tank ignites and flies into the first guy on the stairs. He topples backward and the tank follows him down. Suddenly the tank explodes, blowing a hole at the bottom of the stairs. The blast throws the box against the door, blocking any further entry from the flankers. Whoever else was on the stairs is now dead or falling down into the hole left by the tank's explosion. You look down to see pieces of the wall, boxes, bodies, tumbling down the stairway into the hole. You jump down yourself and find you can use this area as a second passageway to where you were heading. This is just one of many, many incredible outcomes I encountered in the game.

As well as incredible gunfights, there is an interesting story to go along with it. The same mood from Max Payne is back, with graphic novel cutscenes progressing the story further.

The game also has incredible graphics, and even more incredible is that I can run the game at medium-to-high detail levels on high resolutions on my piece-of-shit computer and STILL get amazing frame rates. The graphics-to-framerate ratio is hands-down the best I've seen on my system. This is one of the few games that actually stays true to its "system requirements", unlike many games in which still run like ass even if you have more than the recommended system specs. If you were reluctant to get this game because you were afraid it wouldn't run - buy the game!

The Bad

Despite all the greatness in this game, I can't help but feel like I enjoyed the first one more. Now, don't get me wrong, Max Payne 2 is a solid game, and a hell of an experience...but, well, let me just list some things that bothered me.

The writing. I just can't believe that the same writers worked on both games. In the original Max Payne, Max would always have some interesting metaphor to say in the cutscenes, and perhaps it was just that stupid smirk he had in the game, but I always got the feeling that Max didn't take the world too seriously. It didn't change the dark mood of the game - if anything, it enhanced it. Max was hurting bad inside, but he only let us know about it - never his enemies. But in Max Payne 2, Max is always depressed. I don't think he smiled once, or even suggested that he wanted something other than to die. And he almost never uttered a quirky metaphor - when he did, it was ho-hum, not nearly as clever (or cheesy!) as in Max Payne. A good example of different writing is when his boss is yelling at him for letting innocents die. In Max Payne 1, he would have been spitting out metaphors and insulting his boss in a cheesy quirky way, comparing the predicament to off-the-wall situations, similes that had you raise an eyebrow. But in Max Payne 2, he just pleads to his boss that the situation got out of control, that he needed to crack the case, boo-hoo-hoo.

Max also looks much more realistic in MP2, but he looses a lot in that transition. He's now seems like a real person - a real depressed person, and not the suicidal life-is-too-fucked-up-to-take-seriously guy from the first game. MP2's Max did a fantastic job of portraying emotion...one emotion: depression. It was intense...but that was it.

Also, his voice has taken a noticeable change. He sounds like the same actor, but he has a sort of...Boston?...accent that just seems out of place. He also never raises his voice above a certain level, in-game or in a cutscene. In MP1, you heard him literally yell out for his wife, you heard him get angry at his enemies. But in MP2, he always stays at the same depressed please-kill-me volume level, devoid of emotion, life. "She was dead..." "I hated him..." "I dreamt I killed my wife..." always the same. Maybe if the lines had been wittier, it would have been acceptable, but...this isn't the Max I remember.

There are other things "bad" about this game. Lip-syncing is pretty buggy. Sometimes Max doesn't move his lips at all when he talks, other times it's ridiculously out of sync. Going through the same three levels two or three times was kind of awkward, but not too much.

The Bottom Line

Max Payne 2 is a great game. But any fan of Max Payne will notice a definite change in writing, style, voice acting, and so on. It's not necessarily worse than Max Payne...but it is certainly different.

If Max wasn't so damned depressed throughout the game, I might have enjoyed it more. But it's still a great game, with new game options, including a survival mode where enemies will continue spawning until they finally get you!

Worth the money, definitely. But it could have been more. I want to know where the original writers went.