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T. Robert (Carpe M’Karzi) Szekely July 31, 2001 Review Feedback

Max Payne

Just go buy the damn game, okay?

 Latest Prices
$49.99 SamGoody.com

What, you still here? I said “Go buy the damn game,” can’t you read?

Man, you just don’t take a hint do ya? You want reasons? Justifications? Okay.

Max Payne is the first game since Half Life that made me care about the story and truly drew me in. It is also the first 3rd person shooter that did not leave me

 Software Specials


Release Date:

Gathering of Developers



450 MHz AMD
16 MB Direct3D Graphics Card
Windows 95
DirectX 8.0 or newer


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fighting the camera and controls more than the bad guys. And finally it is the first game in a long time that made me not want to stop until I finished it and once finished, want to play again.

The above words were written immediately after I finished Max Payne for the first time. After a cool down period of 24 hours I have a clearer head and a better feel for the game. I may have been underestimating.

Max Payne is like a good movie: even if you have seen it 100 times, you still never mind sitting down and letting it wash over you once more. Bits of dialogue creep into your everyday speech and images stay long after the final credits roll.

Max Payne, for the less informed out there, is a 3rd person shooter with a film noir police drama feel. The internal dialogue and dark almost repressive atmosphere set the tone with the graphic novel cut scenes and interactive introductions to each chapter pulling you into the story faster than a monorail ride into Black Mesa.
The story is quintessential cop angst. Max is a cop living the good life with a lovely wife and new baby. One day Max comes home to find all that changed and he begins his descent into hell. I am loathe to tell you any more about the plot as figuring out just what the hell is going on along with Max is half the joy the first time through the game.
It is a story of revenge, double cross and redemption. Through three Chapters and eight episodes per chapter (24 in all) you follow Max through a single night of blood and action amidst the worst storm to hit New York in a century.

As I mentioned the cut scenes or exposition theatre sections are played out in graphic novel format. For some reason this method really works well. Where other games use full CGI animation sequences to tell their story, this paper echo speaks louder and feels more visceral than any cut scene I have been subjected to thus far. The one time the game breaks the fourth wall was a shock and a delight. Kudos to the writers.

The world you walk, run and fight through is beautifully gritty and a joy to look at. The streets, slums and steel towers of New York are all represented in glorious 32-bit color and a staggering amount of detail. Sure with any game there is a fair degree of tile repetition as well and the ubiquitous stacks of crates but it is a testament to the gameplay that even though you register that you just saw the same bed in the other room you blip over it. Hell, in the hotel the “Magic Fingers” box beside the box actually works, just walk up and hit the use key and watch the shaking commence. The character models are, when standing, amazing and only slightly less so when moving. The texture-wrapped faces are occasionally jarring to look at but on the whole provide a photo-realistic edge to the game. Movement is fluid and a graphic treat. Max’s run has a natural rhythm and as he gets injured his limp is quite good. In combat the action is fast and furious. The enemy AI is quite good and will provide a decent challenge at the lowest level of difficulty. The enemies do not suffer from any suicidal tendencies and will duck and cover when they can. As you move through the game they will also dodge, leap and roll to avoid your attacks.

Now we come to the one bit in Max that is simply the coolest thing to come out since 3D graphics - Bullet Time. Bullet Time is that funky effect in movies like The Matrix when action stops and the camera does a quick arc around the subject, giving you a cool 3D effect. Max Payne does have this when you do a particularly cool kill but it takes it one step further. Your right mouse button is your Bullet Time button. Hitting the button slows time to a near stand still. Your heartbeat booms slowly and the world cuts to slow motion. In this mode you can still run, shoot and dodge but you can see the bullets steaming towards you and the world is your shooting gallery. This is not just a cool effect but judicious use of Bullet Time will save your skinny white butt many times. Standing outside in the falling snow and going to slow motion is damn near a religious experience.

As with most 3rd person games a portion of the game consists of puzzles, both find the switch and jumping. Both types of these puzzles are present in Max Payne but they are the best integrated I have ever played. There are two jumping sequences and I can guarantee that you will be halfway through the second one before you realize what has happened. Again it is the strength of the gameplay and plot that carries this game over sections and clichés that would have stalled any other game.

One piece of warning though, pay attention to everything in the game. Sometimes a simple camera pan will give you a clue on how to get past a section.

The voice acting is on the whole superior. Max is droll and world weary with just a tinge of old anger lingering in his voice. The bad guys are half clichés and camp but all perfect. Ambient sound is haunting at times; the ever-present wail of sirens adds a background buzz of tension to the entire game. The music. Man, the music. Just like a good movie, the music builds and hits when the action is getting hotter and carries you along driving the adrenaline rush. I actually replayed a few sequences just to hear the music and feel the rush it inspired.

The other problem with 3rd person games is control and the camera. Well, Max Payne seems to have solved both of those problems. Using the standard FPS “W” “S” “A” “D” key layout with “E” as use and “R” for reload means that most gamers will be comfortable with the game in seconds. The camera does a great job of not only following you but also giving you a good view of the rooms you are entering. Only once did the camera view get blocked (by my own head) and I still got the shot off for a fast kill. Targeting is made simple with a nice, small, easy to see yet not distracting white dot marking your aiming point. Shooting while diving sideways in slow motion in amongst an incoming hail of bullets is not only easy to do, but also damn cool to watch. I will let you discover the joys and sights of sniping by yourself.

Three levels of difficulty and a timed difficulty means that you and Max will be reliving this nightmare more than a few times.

A note on stability. Remedy has released a patch to increase stability of the game. That being said I reviewed an unpatched version and in the 11 hours it took me to finish the game, which included multiple restarts, reloads and quick saves I never crashed once. Also I ran the game at 1024x768x32bit and the only time the action slowed down is when I decided to make it do so through Bullet Time. This is one of the most stable games I have ever played.

As if the game needed anything else the Max-FX tools have been included on the disk which means the Modding community will be having a field day with it, which also means we all win.

Looking back I realize that I have not touched on the interface (damn near transparent yet exquisitely designed) nor have I talked about the level design itself (some of the best run, shoot, and puzzle levels ever), yet I feel that to go into depth on these technical sections may rob from your enjoyment of the game. A good game/movie/book/comic draws you in and erases that boundary between the media and the reader/watcher/player. Max Payne is a great game in that respect for as you play you start to feel his anger and sadness. Your outrage at the final plot point and the satisfaction at the grand finale are moments of gaming greatness. The end is perfect and damn satisfying.

Max Payne is not a perfect game(no game really is) but is easily one of the best games to come out in recent memory. If you are even remotely interested in the genre or game style pick this game up and settle in for a good long gaming session, because once Max Payne has you in his sights, it is damn hard to shake him.

Game Title Rating
Film Noir third-person shooter.
Addictive and challenging.
Some bad accents but main character carries story with voice alone.

Not a single stutter or hitch. Ran flawlessly.
Amazing! Just Amazing.

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