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Max Payne (PC) artwork

Max Payne (PC) review

"Max Payne's developers were able to take a simple formula for a third-person shooter, and spice it up with slick controls, big guns, and a really cool controllable slow-motion feature (aka Bullet Time.) While most of the game revolves around running around killing things, the ability to toggle on your limited bullet-time makes the game all the more fun. Bullet-time slows the game down, allowing you to aim "


If you follow computer games, and haven't been living under a rock for the last 6 months, chances are, you've probably heard about Max Payne--The incredibly hyped and anticipated action game of 2001. You'll hear things like ''A John Woo movie combined with a vidoegame'', or ''This game really makes you feel like you're in an action movie'', and, quite frankly, some of you just may not buy that hype. But you should, because most of it is true. Max Payne DOES put you in an action movie. Max Payne DOES make you feel like you're playing a game made by John Woo. And Max Payne IS one of the best games of this year, period.


Max Payne's developers were able to take a simple formula for a third-person shooter, and spice it up with slick controls, big guns, and a really cool controllable slow-motion feature (aka Bullet Time.) While most of the game revolves around running around killing things, the ability to toggle on your limited bullet-time makes the game all the more fun. Bullet-time slows the game down, allowing you to aim easier, and even dodge bullets. While in bullet-time, the effects truly are phenomenal. Sound effects and visuals will be blurred, and you'll even be able to see the bullets fly right by you--It's quite a rush. However, this doesn't come without a price--When your bullet-time meter is depleted, it won't rise again until you kill some more enemies, so you'll have to use it sparingly.

Bullet-time really does just add a totally different dimension to the game. What would otherwise be just a somewhat average third-person shooter is now one of the most artistically brilliant action games ever made. Never before has a game felt so cinematic outside of a cutscene. Any game fan should have a ball dodging bullets, and watching the enemies practically stand still, while you blast them to hell.

Anyway, moving on. Aside from bullet-time, the game also features some really cool weapons, including a desert eagle, beretta, shotgun, grenade, molotov cocktail, and sniper rifle (which as a really cool slow-motion effect when fired). So, when you combine solid control, with fun gameplay, loud and realistic guns, and the coolest slow-motion feature ever implemented in a game, what do you get? Simply put, Max Payne.


Expect nothing but the best from Max Payne's graphics. These even rival the graphics of many games found on PS2, XBOX, or GameCube. Everything in the game just flaunts an amazing graphic style and atmosphere. The whole environment is incredibly detailed, down to every nut and bolt. Supreme texturing effects make the gritty locations look even more realistic, with tons of lifelike touches which just add a whole lot to the gaming experience. The whole game in itself is also quite realistic--firearm damage is inflicted accordingly, depending on where the victim is hit, and that includes yourself. Max has no more life than any of the criminal mobsters, and even has less than a few. A short-range shotgun blast will blow pretty much anyone to oblivion. Another nice feature is how detailed the characters in the game look--All models are nicely done, even though facial expressions leave something to be desired (particularly Max's).

And while there is violence and use of firearms, there is blood. But again, there is realism. There is not an overly large amount of gore--There's just enough to make it feel like you're actually shooting people (You can decide if that's good or not). When you shoot someone, a fair deal of blood does come out, (hence the ''M'' rating) but it's not unrealistic and gratuitous like in many action games. Ultimately, Max Payne is one of the best-looking games out for PC. From it's style, to it's detail, the game really does impress.


If you're familiar with other action games, you may recall that they don't always have the most compelling of storylines. You know... They're generally related to military, or something, and they're never particularly special, but this is not so in Max Payne. There is a very nicely woven story propelling this gem of a game. Max (the main character) is essentially just trying to find the men who killed his wife and baby, and avenge them. He's a badass fugitive cop, who was framed for a crime he didn't commit. The amount of men you kill in this game is definitely in the hundreds range, but, hey, he's a good guy, just misinterpreted, right?

The whole storyline of the game is presented through some nice still cutscenes. They're like a comic book/graphic novel, but the illustrations look like they were actual photos, but then were turned into oil paintings. This is definitely a cool look, and you can always look at previous graphic novel strips you've looked at previously in the game, in case you'd like to review. It's a nice break from the usual cutscenes we'd find in game's similar to this. The script is also one of the best I've ever seen in a game. Max uses some really obscure, interesting, and vivid analogies, descriptions, and other literary devices. Definitely more than you'd expect from the average comic-book.

I'd much rather have the graphic novel-style than just simple FMV cutscenes--You'll see why when you play the game. All in all, the storyline is great, with many twists and turns along the way--However, the main focus of the game is action, but it still manages to pull off enough goodies in the story department to keep you playing.


Even though Max Payne isn't a terribly lengthy adventure (12-15 hours), it's still very challenging, but never too challenging. This is accomplished through use of a never-before-seen self-adjusting difficulty level. There are three difficulty levels to start out with, each determining how much health enemies have, how much life Max has, etc... And then from there, the game actually monitors how you are playing the game, and adjusts the difficulty to caytor to your style. In othe words, if you're doing badly, the AI will get a bit easier, and the game will just feel more the way it should. And if you're just breezing through it, the game will improve the AI to slow you down a bit. It's really an ingenious system, when you think about it. Hardly ever is the game too hard or too easy--It always feel just about right.


Another winner of a category, with realistic gun sound effects, and spectacular voice-acting. While I don't demand good voice acting in a game, if a game does have it, this really impresses me. And Max Payne does have it. Everyone in the game has a convincing voice, which isn't by any means under-par. Even characters in the game who have a short or unimportant role were acted out by some of the best voice-actors I've witnessed--especially Max's own voice.

Another key element in the game are the sound effects. Guns and explosives make crisp and rich sounds, similar to what you'd expect from an action movie. The music ain't too bad either, and while it can be a tad repetitive, it sets an appropriate, dark mood for the game, with low-key piano tunes.


While it ain't perfect, Max Payne's control is definitely solid, and highly playable. It's simple enough--the mouse moves around the crosshair, w, a, s, and d move you side to side, and back and forth, right-mouse performs bullet-time, and left-mouse shoots. Those are the basic controls which you'll be using throughout the game. It's also very easy to quicksave [F5] and load [F9]. It only took me about 5 minutes to really get the controls down, and after that, I was set--Had hardly any problems with them for the rest of the game.


Being a fairly short game, you'd expect Max Payne to have some replay value, which it does. There are four difficulties, which unlock themselves are you beat the game on the lower difficulty. I bet some of you are thinking ''So what? What's the big deal with difficulty levels anyway?'' Well... I admit, in many games, this is indeed a puzzling question, because most people wouldn't want to play through the average game more than once, but Max Payne is different. I, myself have played through the first two difficulties of Max Payne, and I enjoyed it the second time around nearly as much as the first. You see, the gameplay style is just so catchy and fun that it takes a while for it to get old, and the game is well-worth a second time through. Other than those three extra difficulty levels, there is a very well-made level-editor which actually lets you do a lot of programming alterations to the game. You have pretty much all access to modifying the game in whatever way you want. Unfortunately, getting the hang of the level-editor can be a challenge, and does require a fair bit of knowledge of computers, but there is an in-depth .readme file, which can be of aid. All in all, I almost guarantee you'll be spending over 20 hours on this game, which isn't bad at all.


There's no doubt about it--Max Payne is a videogame marvel. The newly implemented bullet-time system really does kick ass, and with a combination of a great storyline, sweet graphics, solid gameplay and control, believable voice-acting, and good pretty much everything else, you've got a true winner. There is simply nothing cooler than being able to slow down the action and make your own special-effects, like in a movie. Max Payne is the first game that lets you make your own mini-cutscene, per se. This feature is enough to keep even the most uninterested gamer coming back for more. The only thing that may cause you to get a bit bored is the often repetitive gameplay style, but it can be overlooked.


Graphics: 9.5/10
Sound: 9/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 8.5/10
Control: 8.5/10
Replay: 8.5/10

ender's avatar
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)

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