Review by samonkeyuk
"Slow motion diving, camera twirling fun."
I'll say one thing about Rockstar; they sure love their violent games. Throughout their quest to introduce more adult titles to the market in an effort to attract a more mainstream audience, they've come up with some absolutely cracking games, as well as some less than brilliant ones, each one covered in a thick blanket of gore. But whereas games like Manhunt have been perhaps almost too violent, using gore as a selling point rather than simply as an addition to add more emphasise to violent scenes, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is a fantastic achievement. Rarely have I been so impressed by a game, which perhaps is best described as a cinematic adventure, an action film which you play a lead part in, rather than merely a shoot-em-up. And this is why:
Whilst most games use their plot as an excuse to get the player to collect one hundred gold pairs of spandex shorts (Super Mario 64) or whatever, Max Payne 2 constantly calls on its story to enhance the gaming experience. It's told in the unique Max Payne comic book novel styleee, which rather than disrupts the gaming experience, instead adds to it as you become more and more familiar with the characters. One of the delightful and frequently disturbing aspects of the story is the way interacting with objects can help to flesh out the characters even more, one example that springs to mind in game is hearing an answering machine recorded conversation between Max and a phone sex girl, whom he has phoned to confess that he's So alone or something. The game is littered with tiny windows into Max's twisted psyche, for those prepared to search the games levels thoroughly, as well as a huge amount of minor character interaction that does nothing to move the story along, but is just simply there to make Rockstars morbid world seem more real. And for that, I applaud them, for it truly works. The main story focuses on the love/bordering obsession relationship between Max Payne and Mona Sax, set in a fantastically well thought out film noir setting. Without wishing to spoil anything, because that would be criminal in a game with a story as well thought out as this one, the lusty troubled couples adventures reach a climatic end, with some fantastic unexpected twists, and I found myself playing the game as much to see how the story would end as I was because I like shooting random people in slow motion. Bam.
On the Xbox version of Max Payne 2, the graphics are truly splendid. Max himself looks amazingly detailed, the guns are probably exact graphic replicas of the real thing, but having held nothing more lethal than a potato peeler, I am uneducated in the world of firearms, but I'm sure you Americans will admire Max's impressive selection of boomsticks. The city is an intimidating urban mix of claustrophobic rooms and streets with huge towering buildings on either side. Some of the more impressive locations include a huge building site, and the perhaps legendary Mona's funhouse, which is probably the most impressive level I have ever seen in a game ever, my jaw was wide open throughout that bit, and it is perhaps reason enough to spend money on this alone. The game I mean, not my jaw. So yes; graphics: outstanding.
Perhaps the games strongest point. Scattered throughout the games world are a host of random TV shows that play as you walk in and out of the rooms, which do nothing but enhance the playing experience by enriching it with the games own trademark black humour. Max's guff voiceovers are littered with the most hilarious clichés and ridiculous metaphors I think I have ever heard, but because the game never takes itself too seriously, and is constantly reminding you that you're playing a video game with its references to classic detective films and characters talking about what they did last night or whatever, its enjoyable rather than cringe inducing. Although perhaps the trumpet of joy the enemies give when they see you does become a bit tiresome after you have heard it 10 times in a row, but overall the sound is fantastic.
Despite the amount of praise I have given this game, perhaps it is the Gameplay that has evolved the least since the first Max Payne game. At its most basic, the game consists of running through a linear sequence of rooms, shooting people. That's pretty much it. What elevates it above pretty much every other game that does this is the way Rockstar have, and I'm afraid there is no other word to use to describe it than the one I am about to use: Max Payne 2 is cooler than pretty much every other shooting game out there, for a number of reasons. Most of them I have already talked about; the ingenious use of sound and graphics, the tremendous story line, but lets not kid ourselves, what makes this game cool is the use of Bullet Time, stolen from the Matrix. Since the first Max Payne game, every piece of software under the sun has nicked bits from the Matrix at some point in time, and thus Rockstar were forced to rethink their slow motion firefights to maintain the sophisticated advantage Max Payne 2 has over its rivals. Now, using the trademark slow motion dive costs none of your little bullet time meter at all, but pressing the bullet time button enables you to slow down time, giving you the advantage over the superior number of enemies. The more enemies you slaughter in slow motion, the deeper Max goes into bullet time, until everything is all yellow and exciting and stuff as you link together bullet time combos and slow motion dives across desks sending room furnishings flying every which way. It's incredibly exciting, and its impossible to explain how much fun it is by describing it, but I guarantee the first time you reload whilst in bullet time and the camera spins around you in a wild circle, completely forgetting the intense gun battle to show off just how cool Max is, you'll be impressed, and perhaps also consider purchasing a lovely leather jacket much like Max Paynes one.
So to conclude: I had great fun playing Max Payne 2, and I was enthralled from start to finish, but I must stress its not the longest game in the world, and can be finished in a weekend of casual play. But what a weekend! Having said that, I would probably be less pleased if I had spent £40 on this (No idea what that is in Dollars), so its probably a rent only game, but definitely one I think everyone should play, because games of this calibre don't come along very often.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/30/04
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