Max Payne (Windows)

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Written by  :  Cor 13 (174202)
Written on  :  Apr 28, 2004
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars4.29 Stars

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Welcome to stylish TPS-ing!

The Good

Max Payne is a rather simple, but extremely fun cinematic shooter that takes old-fashioned gameplay and updates it with some tricks of its own.

The first thing to note is that it is a third-person shooter (TPS?), in fact one of the first successful implementations of this sub-genre. Third-person view has the advantage of allowing the protagonist to perform moves that would be pointless in an FPS, such as rolling. We've seen many times how your FPS opponents were rolling to avoid your shots; but now you can finally do it yourself!

Quickly navigating Max to save him from the constant barrage of bullets becomes more than just a gimmick; it adds new layers of challenge to the gameplay. Rolling and jumping out of the way in time is often a life-or-death situation. The action becomes more intense and also more cinematic when you actually see your hero performing all those moves.

The famous "bullet time" effect makes the action even more stylish. At times Max Payne almost feels like one of those over-the-top kung-fu movies. Getting rid of your enemies becomes even more impressive when they die in "dramatic" ways, even the simplest kill turning into yet another cinematic scene.

I liked how the game never deviated from its realistic setting. Casual encounters with thugs and ferocious boss battles, sniping enemies and shooting things to clear your way, no monsters or exotic weapons - it was a great ride through modern-day New York: linear, but satisfactory.

The graphics of Max Payne are a sheer beauty; the engine is powerful and smooth, and the levels highly detailed. All levels are filled with Duke Nukem 3D-style interactive environments: you can turn on and off TV sets, flush toilets, and so on.

Max Payne kicks in on a very personal note. The uncomplicated narrative is basically a vigilante quest for revenge. The player is easily able to identify himself with Max, and the following elimination of bad guys becomes more satisfying than ever.

The story is told in still screens with comic-book pages on them, which is an original and stylish idea. The dialogues and, most of all, Max's own comments, are well-written and convincingly spoken. An interesting thing is the usage of humor. At first sight, it seems there's nothing to laugh about here, but the more you advance the story, the more you realize it has a double edge. Its stylistic references to action movies are so obvious that it nearly becomes a self-aware parody.

There are also those weirdly appealing dream sequences, which prove that Max Payne is a game with a double bottom - you get brainless action, involving atmosphere, hallucinations, and hints of a parody in one package.

The Bad

It is very linear, to the point of almost turning into an "on-rails" shooter. You are typically taken to locations that look "explorable", but upon closer inspection it is revealed that there is only one path to proceed. Miraculously locked doors, blocked passages, and other assorted linearity enforcers are everywhere.

The gameplay is very simple, going back to the old days of shooters when problems were solved with blasting everything you see to pieces. Since the game is rather short and there isn't much variety in the enemy design, stylish bullet time kills can get a bit repetitive with the time.

Max's colorful comments might not be to everyone's taste; some of them try to be too sophisticated, making a strange expression. Also, Max has a permanent silly grin glued to his face, which makes him look like a maniacally-minded dork.

The Bottom Line

Ever wanted to play one of those uncomplicated action movies with hard-boiled heroes who shoot bad guys in spectacular ways? Well, Max Payne is exactly that. Gorgeously looking, stylish and cinematic, it is a blast to play, especially if you manage to disregard its linearity and simple gameplay mechanics.