Developer(s) – Remedy Entertainment
Publisher(s) – Rockstar Games
Director – Sami Vanhatalo
Producer(s) – Scott Miller & George Broussard
PEGI – 18
Inspired by the success of the likes of games such as Loaded and Tomb Raider, Rockstar decided to put out their own third-person shooting game. One of the better games of it’s kind during the sixth generation; Max Payne combines moderately well-handled gameplay with a pretty intense story throughout.
Graphics – 6.5/10
I believe the best things about the game’s visuals is the maintenance of how dark and gritty the game’s atmosphere is, and how lighting comes into play very prominently. From a graphical standpoint, however, the techniques used to render the facial expressions of character sprites is very reminiscent of how Rareware handled the same thing in games like Goldeneye and Perfect Dark, which may have l looked extremely realistic at the time, but was on considerably less powerful hardware. So by that token, the visuals actually look outdated in my opinion. To me, it’s shocking how superior the graphics of Max Payne 2 to that of its predecessor; especially considering that they were released only two years apart from one another.
Gameplay – 6/10
As I said earlier, the gameplay of this title was fairly well handled; but there was definitely room for dramatic improvement. What I enjoy most playing this game, which I’m sure a lot of people would agree, was the facility to slow down time during combat, allowing players to pull off very stylish and cinematic displays of gunplay. It was a pretty good novelty and gave the game a great bulk of its charm. However, even for a linear game, there is a considerable lack of substance; even for a linear sixth-generation title. There are absolutely no side quests and no cause for any kind of exploration whatsoever, with players simply having to get from point A to point B, and nothing more.
Controls – 8/10
Though the control scheme in most third-person shooters was flawed in one way or the other, the control scheme in this game is at least much easier to cope with. Of course, the slow-motion mechanics make combat a lot more bearable than it would have been without them, but regardless, I think they can also feel a bit stiff at times too, in that moving the character can seem like a chore after a while.
Lifespan – 7/10
Regardless of how little substance there is in gameplay, the game is still exceptionally long under the circumstances. Max Payne can actually take about 20-25 hours to finish. In my opinion, I think it is one of those games whereby its lifespan outlasts its level of gameplay value, but for those who are more lukewarm to this game, it will last them a fair amount of time, at least. I would most certainly have been more disappointed if it lasted about half as long as that.
Storyline – 9/10
In lieu of what would become an uncomfortable tradition in the seventh generation of gaming, the best thing about Max Payne is the story. A private detective, Max Payne is living a very stable and full life reminiscent of the classic American dream, until his wife and infant daughter are tragically murdered by a group of drug addicts high on a new kind of drug, which Max subsequently investigates upon his transfer to the DEA. But it turns out that the entire drug operation runs much deeper than Max previously thought, and events unfold into something much darker and convoluted. There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns throughout which to me, makes for more than enough to keep players engaged for at least one playthrough.
Originality – 7/10
Though there were quite a few third-person shooters during the sixth generation, Max Payne was one of the first, and one of the few, in my opinion, to present a control scheme and style of play that gamers could get to grip with well enough. It’s also interesting to know about the history behind the slow-motion mechanics. At the same time as the release of this game, the film The Matrix was the biggest thing around, and a sequel and spin-off game was just around the corner. Inevitably, gamers started comparing the slow-motion mechanics to the cinematic techniques used in The Matrix, and suggest it influenced the game profusely. But in fact, Max Payne had been in development before the original Matrix film, and the slow-motion mechanics had been considered since the very beginning of the game’s development. The slow-motion mechanics featured in the spin-off game Enter the Matrix would have actually been inspired by Max Payne.
So to summarize, Max Payne, though lacking in gameplay substance and not having the best control scheme, does have its charms in the form of the slow-motion mechanics, differentiating it from any other game at the time, and of course, does have an exceptional story. It made for a fairly standout sixth-generation experience, but I just wish there could have been side quests or two thrown in for good measure.