The stories in video games have always been clichéd, historically speaking. Whether it be the save the damsel in distress or make sure the universe stays in one piece, we’ve seen it all a million times. When a game centers around the murder of a mans wife and newborn child, gamers take notice, especially when the game plays so well that it grips players in it’s plot better than any RPG. Max Payne does just this and takes players through an interactive action movie that’s better than, well, most action movies.
Lawman Max Payne arrives home one night after work to find that some addicts high on a new drug have invaded his house and killed his wife and child. What follows is a tale of a man with a vengeance unlike any other as he sets out on a suicide mission to avenge their deaths and take out those responsible. The games biggest draw is “bullet time,” a revolutionary new way to make sure the gamer is always at an advantage. Pressing the button to activate this feature slows down all of the surroundings around the player but allows them to continue aiming in real time. Taking out a room full of bad guys has never been so mesmerizing or as fun making the game worth the price of admission for this feature alone.
Very little has been lost from the translation to the Xbox. While a PC may offer a higher resolution, this seems to be the only noticeable difference between the two. The 3rd person perspective is great and rarely does the camera get in the way of things. (*cough* Tomb Raider *cough*) Going into bullet time gives the player a near-dream like state with an engrossing blur effect and outstanding detail. Be looking for accurately modeled bullets that can be seen flying from the barrel of your gun (or guns) right into the bodies of your unfortunate opponents. The environments are dark and sparsely detailed, perfect for the games grim setting. Oh yeah, it’s really bloody too.
Very little music accompanies the actual gameplay with the vast majority saved for the cinemas. Ambient music from radios or TV’s is the most you’ll get while blasting enemies into bloody pulps. But honestly, there are so many guns blazing, people screaming, and shells hitting the ground, music would only get in the way. Be listening for some hilarious clips coming from televisions and some conversations from the gangs that are probably the best part of the sound (The John Woo reference is truly priceless).
Some players may find the 2 dream sequences annoying, and I can only agree. These segments are frustrating with their ridiculous platform jumping and maze sequences, plus the non-stop screaming of your wife make these segments a couple that should’ve been deleted. The first sequence nearly requires a strategy guide or players will be wandering for hours though the ever-extending hallways. Looking past these two problems, the game is practically flawless in its level design and character development. The Xbox also allows for instantaneous loads and saving is possible whenever YOU want it, not when you finish a level or find a save point.
The game is somewhat short (roughly 6-8 hours) making it a tough purchase even at the Platinum Hits price point, but there’s is no doubt that this is a must play. Action movie fans will love the bullet time feature, gamers will love the story and, well, they’ll like the bullet time too. The graphics are dead on, the sounds are outstanding, and the control couldn’t be more precise. You can’t ask for much more than that from a video game.