|Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne|
Release Date: Out Now
Poor Max, his life in ruins after the nightmarish events of the first game (his wife and child were killed), he finds himself back in the NYPD as a detective. During a routine murder investigation he runs into an old 'friend' - a femme fatale called Mona Sax - a suspected killer who he thought was dead…
The original Max Payne games were a big hit on PC, PS2 and Xbox, a film-noir graphic novel styled game that brought Matrix-style slow motion "bullet time" (the ability to slow the action around you to a crawl, whilst you can aim your weapon in real time) to gamers before the Enter the Matrix game was a twinkle in Dave Perry or the Wachowski's eyes…
MP2 plays exactly like the first game, and you'll immediately notice that although Max has had a facial makeover (presumably to make him look less like he's constipated) the scenery around you all has a similar look and level of detail. The first time you shoot something or bump into something and knock it over though, you'll realise that Max's new environment has physics attached to just about everything (excluding the kitchen sink). Crates, bottles, furniture… just about everything is moveable or breakable, and added to the ragdoll physics of the enemy it really raises the previously lively action to a higher plain. Sadly the opportunities for using all this realism to your benefit seem to be limited, but the macabre delight that the sight of bodies and all kinds of other objects going flying when an explosion occurs cannot be underestimated. These can be triggered by shooting petrol cans or flammable drums, or by lobbing molotovs or hand grenades (handily this time thrown weapons have their own Y button, and don't have to be selected from the rest of the firearms menu as before). There certainly is fun to be had seeing just what you can do with the bad guys and the scenery. There are also odd sections where AI characters will help you out - and thankfully the AI really works, and it gives the game a different slant - sadly these never seem to last for long.
Mona is a central character in the game and you even get to control her on one of the best levels in the game - a nice touch. Max regularly has dream or nightmare sections and these are superbly done with a slight blurring and distortion effect that's as disturbing as it is fascinating - much simpler and much better than the nightmare levels in Max Payne.
Naturally Max has loads of weapons to play with, from single and dual pistols, various shotguns, to the handy MP5 or AK47…and naturally, a sniper rifle. Pressing B activates the limited bullet time, or you can do a slo-mo "shoot dodge" by holding the left trigger and moving Max in any direction. The action plays generally well, but Max isn't as agile as many action heroes and lacks subtle movement; he still runs everywhere (he has no walking animation - it's stand still or run) and although Remedy got rid of the hideously bad nightmare-blood-trail sections from the first game, and wisely made the platform sections fewer and simpler, getting Max through these is still trickier than it needed to be. This leads me to my main problem with MP2 - why is the distribution of detail and animation so messed up? - As I said previously, you can move most scenery objects and pickups in the game, even turn on all of the taps, and every character has ragdoll physics (including Max) - and yet poor old Max can't walk slowly or stealthily, or even climb - and it gives the game a lopsided, slightly unpolished feel that's completely at odds with the rest of the production's quality.
So even with the impressive physics engine and the new-look Max, MP2 feels like a data disk rather than a true sequel - not exactly disappointing as far as I'm concerned because the gameplay and story is so strong, but certainly less that it could have been. Just like its predecessor, MP2 isn't a long game but has several difficulty settings to draw you back for another play-through. But as compelling as the action and the twisty plot is, I'd question as to whether most gamers will actually want to do it again and again. One thing's for sure - Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne gives us a good early indication of what the next generation of games (that will have physics all over the place) will offer, and the added realism and gameplay opportunities that they provide.
- It's Max Payne!
- Intense story that will keep you playing.
- Bullet Time!
- Explosive and violent action, and we like a bit of that.
- Impressive physics.
- It's rather short.
- Max still can't walk or climb.