Just go buy the damn game, okay?
What, you still here? I said “Go buy the damn game,” can’t
Man, you just don’t take a hint do ya? You want reasons?
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
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.
Gathering of Developers
16 MB Direct3D Graphics Card
96 MB RAM
DirectX 8.0 or newer
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
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
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
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.
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
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.