Malcolm Owen On July 18, 2002 at 8:47 am

Constipation is a major problem in this world. Approximately four and a half million Americans are constipated most or all of the time. Women are more likely to be affected than men are. This means that $725million is spent in the US each year on laxatives alone. Spare a thought for Max, for he has been given a face, not only one that should be slapped, but also one of constant strain. It is a mystery as to whether or not he should really be taking laxatives instead of pain killers, but this one minor issue is tiny in comparison to the rest of the game, Max Payne.

Max starts out his "Cinematic" story by discovering his wife and baby killed by some junkies high on Valkyr (Fictional drug). After this harrowing experience, he moved to another division of the police force and goes undercover. As his last remaining contact dies before him, he is suddenly put in a situation where he has all that is evil in the city, and also the NYPD, on his heels, trying to wipe him off the face of the planet. Max, as a hero with nothing to lose, decides that if he is going down, everyone else will be going down too. With this in mind, what do you think he does? Go home and have some food before watching Regis on TV? Hell no! He goes off on a spree, getting rid of as many mobsters/gangsters/people carrying guns and shooting at him as possible.
Storytelling is done via the medium of the comic strip. Quite frequently through the game, the action pauses while Max investigates a clue or other item of interest. The actual story is gritty and hard hitting, while also cliché. It made me laugh and cry all the way through. At times, it gets a bit creepy (e.g. the drug dream sequence), but this all adds to the already great atmosphere.
Suiting the style of the Hollywood Blockbuster, Max Payne is filled with fast paced fighting sequences, explosions, and fire (Fire IS a legitimate feature of a HWBB. If there is no fire, there would be no tension in a building that the main characters have to escape from urgently. Fire makes for great sequences! ). Every great and funny bit from the big screen hits this in some form (Jumping onto a train, trying a locked door and the walls fall down around it, weird psychotic dream sequences involving running and corridors) and it’s a chance to relive your favourite moments in films as the main protagonist. John Woo is a heavy influence here. Most of these sequences involve using guns (Aside from a baseball bat and a lead pipe), and you can have your gun-case-hitting-the-floor fill of Berettas, Shotguns, Molotov and hand grenades! Heck, there’s even a sniper rifle for all of those CS folks!
Probably my favourite bit of the game is Bullet Time (aka The Matrix Effect). You can slow down time at opportune moments, allowing you to aim precisely while everything is in slow motion. It allows for gunfights to get as good, if not better, than the movies themselves. Bullet time isn’t a limitless resource, as quite frankly, it would be too simple to complete the game if you could shoot everything before the enemies realise what’s happening. Everyone you shoot adds time to your clock, so the better you do, the more time to do fantastic shots you get. A nice reward, and it gives something the player can use all the way through the game.

Visually, the game is stunning. Many will have noticed parts of the engine before, as Remedy were heavily involved with the Mad Onion 3D Mark testing suite. I don’t really need to justify the engine’s beautiful features (like fire and gun flares), as any screenshots I show can say it for me. (Look to the bottom of the review!). Audibly, it fits the gritty/slightly-cheesy styling Max brings to the table. A fantastic musical score accompanied by great vocal tracks makes this experience suck you in further.
One side point – Comedy! On the odd occasional occasion, you find a TV (They are on your path, so no need to "Search them out". If you stop and listen to them, you will find that they are nice and long "Episodes" of fictional shows. The first one I discovered was quite early in the story, where it is some sort of generic American soap opera being spoofed. Later, there is a weird mental rambling involving a flamingo (!?), and even a comic strip involving the good old baseball bat, just as you find one! This game is funny as in ha-ha, rather than in the respect of trying hard but failing Not many games can do this, but Max pulls it off easily.

Max Payne is a good game that everyone should play at least once in their lives. It may not be a good "Quick Blast" game, but it is a great "Sit down and don’t get up for hours" romp through New York. (Maybe that’s where Max’s expression comes from…excessive sitting!)


Great to play


Lovely to look at.


Nice to listen to.


Damn constipation!

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