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Max Payne (Windows)

Mature
ESRB Rating
Genre
Perspective
Theme
90
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.2
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Indra is here (19737)
Written on  :  Jun 10, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

[v1.2] Maximize the Payne!

The Good

Review Version: v1.2 - Minor paragraphs added. My grammar sucks.
Game Version: v1.0
Tech Specs Used: Intel Dual Core 2 1.86 Ghz Processor, 1GB Memory, 256MB NVIDIA 7300 LE Video Card.
Difficulty Setting Used: Renegade (finished).
Finished: Yes. Friday, June 6, 2008. 3.52 AM.

Technical Note: Game must be installed in default path to function properly, installing in a different location may cause the game to crash at the start of gameplay.

I first played this game decades ago, when I was still a freshman in university, barely a few hours…and it seems I missed out on something really dang good. Better late than never, I suppose. Ironically, I just figured out Max Payne ie. Max Pain. Doh. Sometimes your brain is slow, sometimes it’s non-existent. Really.

Anyway, about the game.

Now and again, you really need one of those games where you can just…shoot stuff and blow things up. Great stress reliever…a simple outlet for violent instinctual drives, to some of us. Moving on, the only difference between Max Payne as an action-shooter with every other action-shooter on the planet is two things: Style and story.

Style
Style is called Bullet-time™, and you’d think that Matrix really wasn’t that long ago. With Bullet-time, everything comes into slow motion. There are 2 options of “slow-motion” available. The “jump-role”, which is something every action-hero should do at least 1,000 times per second of their lifetime (hehe), or simply stand still and aim and shoot at your hearts leisure. The later isn’t really fun, but the Bullet-time sequence lasts much longer than the jump roll, which only lasts as long as the “jump.”

For people like me who sometimes have really bad reflex instincts: the brain does identify that there’s a really ugly big-ass motherf**ker with an equally ugly big-ass shot gun aiming at your possibly equally ugly face, despite mental commands zoning-in to your fingers, they don’t seem to respond (if they do respond at all) and prefer to shoot the wall, the floors, that flowerpot on the right hand corner of the screen, but not that bloke carrying the shotgun.

With a simple right-click of the mouse to a certain direction (jump-shoot), you have an extra few seconds, to actually aim and start shooting at the dude, or shoot at an uglier big-ass mother**fucker, with an even bigger gun, behind the previous bloke.

Blood splattered on the wall, bullet holes creating new windows in the ceiling…you even hit that flowerpot on the right hand corner of the screen. At this point, the life of an action-shooter is pretty much utopia.

Story
What makes Max Payne – Max Payne, however is not the Bullet-time action (though it's pretty much a trademark). It’s the story: How it is portrayed and how it unravels. The story teller is May Payne himself, using a comic-book portrayal of the unfolding events. Personally for me, on an artistic level as well as on a personal level, this is sooo much-much better than those crappy animations. Even more so, as many of the dialogs within the comic book are well written, as cliché’s in comics are almost always appropriate.

The story itself, well…it’s a simple matter of vengeance, up-close and personal. Max’s wife and newborn child are gunned down. The plot thickens, and Max ends up practically killing everyone. Yay! Despite that shallow synopsis of the story I just wrote, the writers do seem to try to bring the player to a same personal emotional level with Max…to emphasize the “pain” that Max is feeling. The loss, the unbalancing of reality…or in Max’s words: ”The end of the world is only a cliché unless your actually experiencing it…,” which are words II can unfortunately, very much relate with.

This pain, this sorrow, may only be done so with equally supportive dialogs and emotion from Max. Though Max, most of the time while storytelling, does not portray any emotion at all….which only occurs when the pain is “max-ed out” (something no one should experience). Only bits and pieces of rage and despair are frequently reminded to the player when Max remembers his memories of that fateful day. More or less, almost all of the voice-overs, especially the cool-rough voice of Max Payne (voiced by one Mr. James McCaffrey are state-of-the art acting...well maybe just Max. However, one exception: Mrs. Max Payne sounds like some drunk in a sleazy hill-billy town in middle-America. Her voice acting was a constant irritation (even more so than the sound of the baby crying).

The writer also had a lovely sense of humor, despite all those cheesy (but totally appropriate) clichés. One of the best lines for a gamer to read in the game, has something to do about Payne (under the influence of a drug) discovers that:
[1] He is part of a graphical comic; [2] He is part of an computer game.
I intentionally left out the punch-line...something you really have to experience yourself. But as far as the writing goes...it's basically a masterpiece...as far as computer games go, at least.

One minor addition...loved the music during combat.

The Bad

Most of the game mechanics were standard enough. There is however, one very annoying feature that I’m flabbergasted someone didn’t notice when developing this game.

My style of play isn’t like the average teenager who usually shoots first and aims later like Rambo. I conserve my bullets and that means using the U.S. Marine Corp. (I think) slogan: One shot, one kill. Well, since that doesn’t really happen very often, at least every damn bullet should actually hit the target. Thus, I usually take things slow, baiting the enemy and finding myself a nice place to crouch and shoot.

Now this is where you find that annoying little feature. You find out that, Max’s head, his hands, or his gun is blocking the sight between you (the player, not Max Payne) and the enemy target. So you really can’t see very well. Now this is really stupid, especially when you start thinking that you’d rather blow Max Payne’s head off so you can actually see the enemy.

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I recently remembered something equally annoying...which is something that all action-shooter developers should notice. Though this feature may not be a big deal for everyone, mind you. Do you know is the most irritating thing about opening a door and piling the place into a new ammo dump? Having that stupid door slam right in front of your face - WHAM! Next thing you know, your spelling your name on the door in some unknown Klingon tribal dialect.

This has happened one too many times...the only way to avoid this, is to stand right beside the opened door, so it doesn't close on you (but it tries really really hard mind you). Now when your a action-shooting hero that is more concerned about keeping that door open than actually dodging bullets and shooting the living daylights out of everything in the room...you know you have priority issues.

Last time I checked in the real world, doors don't usually shut by themselves. My mental commands to my room door don't seem to be responding well, so why does every god-damn door in this game (and a lot of action-shooter games) have an automatic closing system? If I was the enemy AI, I would probably be equally pissed. :p

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Many people claim that the game is too short. Thankfully, I didn’t notice it that much. What I did notice is that the level design isn’t really top notch. A lot of it is going around in circles, and pretty much shallow if not for the story. There aren’t many instances where you can't actually use the sniper rifle with leisure, as using those dual Beretta’s mostly finishes the job, as most of the levels are corridors with enemies just behind the corner.

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To my disappointment as a “bullet-conserving” psychopath, the number of bullets in this game is a bit over-stocked. There are simply too much bullets to pick up and not enough enemies to kill. Unless you’d prefer the Rambo style of shooting first and aiming later, the overwhelming supply of ammunition in the game, killed most forms of tactical approaches to kill an enemy. No need to use my sub-machine gun when I already have 10 grenades in my arsenal waiting to be used up...and after getting those heavy guns...who uses the simple shot gun again?

I thought this may had to do with the game difficulty, which unfortunately for me was a bit too easy. I really don't understand why I can't play the hardest level...but apparently, after finishing the game and curiously playing the next level difficulty, again I was bullet overstocked... *sigh*

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Lastly, there was one part of the game I really loathed. It's the part where Payne is either doped up, or having nightmares. In this setting, Payne enters a dream-world, trying to find a way out. This is obviously story-based...in a bad way. The voice of the baby crying and Mrs. Payne is equally annoying as is moving around and getting lost half of the time. If they made it shorter, I probably wouldn't whine too much about it. It really does get annoying when you play the game a second time around.

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This combination of story vs. game play strikes me as quite odd. The story is very much mature for a standard action-shooter, however, the game mechanics i.e. ammunition, level design... was seemingly designed for the average doorknob who doesn’t plan out his/her combat tactics (shoot first, aim later). But then again, I probably shouldn’t expect more from a game where the purpose is to shoot things. :p

The Bottom Line

Is it playable? Yes.
Is it playable 10 years from now? Yes.
Do you have to play it? Hell, yeah! Bring on the Pain!