Written by  :  kbmb (435)
Written on  :  Dec 24, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
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A wonderful action shooter that brings back the senseless-violence thrill of Doom.

The Good

"Are you saying this game is like Doom?"

No, no, that's not what I meant. Doom and Max Payne have only one direct link to each other, and that's guns and violence. Of course, many games have that link, so why did I mention doom in the one-liner? Because very few FPS games, or games in general since Doom have had that thrill of going into battle, killing everything and walking away triumphant. Games nowadays emphasize realism and bring the action to you in a very scripted and "realistic" way. Like having to take out that guard to progress, or being forced to defend yourself against assailants, or of course the end-game boss. Now, I'm not saying that's not good either. In fact, I love the type of game that emphasize strategy and realism. I just missed the action of a Doom-style shooter, and Max Payne has brought it back to me.

"So, Max Payne is basically a senseless kill-everything-for-no-reason shooter? Bah! Boring!"

That's not what I meant either. Max Payne has a dark and noir-like story and setting that make going from one level to another something more than "flipping the switch and counting up your score". I compare Max Payne to Doom because of the battles, because Max Payne is not realistic at all, but at the same time it is an edge-on-your-seat thrill ride. I remember playing Doom and firing off that shotgun at the horde of demon-spawns, running away from the cloud of bullets, rockets and fireballs, dodging behind walls and charging into battle with no hope of surviving, only to come out alive, standing in a field of corpses.

That is how the battles in Max Payne are essentially fought. You charge into battle with the odds against you and somehow, miraculously, come out on top. How does this happen? Well, you have one distinct advantage, and it's the real selling point of Max Payne - bullet time. Obviously influenced by The Matrix, Max has the ability to slow time down, allowing him to dodge bullets and fire off his ammo twice as fast as his opponents. Once the battle begins, it might only last one, two seconds before everyone in the room - except for Max - falls to the ground dead.

"Doom didn't have that feature!"

Okay, enough about Doom. Don't talk anymore.

The story is cliche'd, but it's certainly new to the FPS genre - or in this case, TPS (third-person shooter...blargh) and as you play it, it won't feel at all like an "I've seen this before" game. You come home one day to find a bunch of druggies murdered your family, and then you're framed for murder! As if things weren't bad enough, druggies and thugs and psychos and every criminal and politician in the city is after you! It's up to you to cut through the red tape - in slow motion, baby - and find the men responsible for your family's death and clear your name at the same time. Such a feat could only be accomplished by Max Payne (or maybe Duke Nukem).

"Hey, Duke Nukem! That came after Doom, why didn't you mention Duke?"

Wha - I said quit talking! Doom had a story to go along with it, and it was pretty cool. Duke's story was dumb. Now shaddap!

The battles in Max Payne are truly memorable. Sometimes, during the death of an enemy, there'll be a sort of camera-sweep cutscene that adds so much to the experience. During the battles, you'll actually see the bullets fly past you, smashing bottles and breaking small pieces of wood off the walls. And there's just something great about throwing a molotov cocktail accross the cafe in slow motion and watching it burst into flames on the fatass bartender as he charges at you with his shotgun. Max Payne brings a truly cinematic feel to the genre that isn't brought on by scripted cutscenes or FMVs.

It comes with an editor. Heh...if you can figure it out, you can make a Max Payne for yourself.

The Bad

While I didn't mind the linearity of the game - it is just an action FPS afterall - it should still be noted. You don't have any real area to explore in the game, save for a few secret areas that you're not supposed to visit. There are no sights to see or anything like that. It's all standard "go here, kill everyone, go there, kill everyone, go through the door, kill that guy".

Everyone wants to kill you. Most of the areas you visit are areas where you'd expect to see a lot of enemies, but it's just a little rediculous that a hotel has thirty criminals armed with shotguns and uzis, but no civilians staying there.

I really wish they'd done more with the camera-sweeps and stuff in the game. They were awesome, but there just weren't enough of them. Only a few guys had them when they died, and I only remember one area that had a different camera angle before the enemy was dead. They added a LOT to the game and made it so insanely fun to play, I really wish there had been more.

Strategy would have made the game cooler. While Max Payne diving in slow motion was a cool feature...it just gets dumb when Max dives around the room shooting ten times in one battle. I wish the bullet-time would have been a more optional feature rather than a must-have, because unless you get the first shot - and make it a fatal blow - in a battle, you'll die without bullet time. Also, there's really not anything else to do but bullet time. You can't really duck behind many things because your head will pop above it and the bad guys can just shoot it. You can't lean around corners, there is no stealth involved in the game at all. I love the senseless-violence action...but there could have been more to it.

Some people complain that the game is too short. I didn't think so, but...well, maybe it is.

The dream sequences were cool, but the level design was unecessary. It's filled with mazes and guessing games.

Bullet time drains waaay too quickly unless you're just diving. But it's pretty useless unless you're diving, which is a pity.

The Bottom Line

Doom-style action with some shnazzy cinematic effects. Max Payne rocks!