Review by Winkle
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
- Introduction -
One of the most anticipated titles for this year is finally out, and like the other big-named titles (i.e. Doom 3), it's a sequel. We all know that sequels aren't necessarily a good thing, instead they're usually intended to cash on the success of the original title (Quake 2). So how does Max Payne 2 do compared to the original and other action titles of this year? Read on and find out.
- Reviewer's Computer Specs -
AMD Athlon XP2100+
512MB PC2100 DDR-RAM
MSI GeForce4 Ti4400 128MB AGP
- Graphics (9/10) -
The original Max Payne still looks good by today's standards. With that said, the sequel is a considerable improvement. The first thing you'll notice are the character models, in MP1 the character's faces are mapped onto the model and simply switch graphic files to show different expressions. That's long gone in MP2, the faces are beautifully modeled in full 3D with moving mouths when characters speak, the weapons are once again painstakingly modeled in the game world. Textures are incredibly sharp, the lighting and shadows are brilliantly done. The flames and explosions will inspire awe and the level designs are simply fantastic (best I have seen for any PC game). There is the occasionally slip in the lip-synch but that's forgivable.
Although the graphics aren't quite as good as HL2 or Doom 3, it is still incredible considering that MP2 runs on a HEAVILY revamped MP1 engine which is over 2 years old.
What I love about MP2 is that I can run the game at 1024x768x32 with every graphic option maxed out on my moderate rig and the game is 100% smooth. Even in some of the larger gun battles involving around a dozen enemies and a few allies and the bullets are flying like crazy, absolutely no lag, choppiness or slow-downs. Kudos to Remedy for that.
My one complaint, the bullet trails during bullet time is now gone, that's something I wish they kept.
- Audio (9/10) -
MP2 sets a whole new level for audio in video gaming. The only other game that can possibly compete with MP2 in the voice-acting department is Metal Gear Solid. The voice-acting is top-notch. The musical score is very well done, the original Max Payne theme makes a return but it's redone in a slower, more darker method and I absolutely love how it sounds. The usual fanfare is there, different step sounds when you walk on different terrain (water, dirt, cement) and ambient noises.
Many have complained that the weapons sound weaker in MP2, but I find them realistic. Many games and movies tend to amp up gunfire noises to be more dramatic but in real-life, a Beretta pistol does not sound like a 15-inch cannon. A single point is deducted due to a few bugs in the audio, occasionally the music will cut out for no reason, and the 3D surround sound sometimes fade (or cut out) too quickly (loud to almost inaudible). But otherwise, a top-notch effort and quality in this department.
- Gameplay (10/10)-
There is an old saying, ''if it ain't broke, don't fix it'', and Remedy certainly followed up on that. The original Max Payne was a work of art, instead of taking it apart and revamping it, Remedy simply took what they have, made a few additions to it, slapped on a brilliantly new story and shipped it. Now some may say that's just an easy way to make money, but I say it's ingenious when nowadays many developers try to ''re-invent'' game series through sequels which turn out to be duds. Everything from MP1 is here, all the bullet-time, shoot-dodge, great action and amazing story are intact.
Bullet-time 2.0 has a few improvements but it's essentially the same thing. The best addition is the bullet-time reload which allows Max to reload any weapon in about a second in absolute stylish fashion. When you do a shoot-dodge while firing and land, Max won't get up, instead he'll stay on the ground until you stop shooting. This is great for a few things, after some practice you'll become skilled in the art of diving from cover to cover, if you're good enough you can land such that only your head and gun is sticking out from behind a wall of boxes leaving you relatively safe as you mow down wave after wave of baddies, but most importantly, Max doesn't waste precious seconds getting back up after a shoot-dodge which is when he's most vulnerable. In addition, shoot-dodge no longer requires bullet-time so there's no limit as to how many you can do in a row. The bullet-time regenerates itself now, but you can still refill it the old fashioned way by killing bad guys.
Another addition, as you kill more enemies in bullet-time, the time actually slows down more and more with each kill. This is great because when you're in some of those massive battles, time can slow to a crawl giving you an advantage, and when you reload when it's REALLY slow, the camera does a very nifty 360 rotation around Max while he's reloading. Once again, the camera will focus on a bad guy on exceptionally good kills (i.e. shot-gun at point-blank causing the corpse to fly off a building or through a wall of boxes). And the new rag-doll physics will make for some spectacular kills (and you will get MANY). Many items are also dynamic now such that you can push them or knock them around. After some intense gun battles a neatly organized room can become littered with corpses, scattered boxes, garbage cans, chairs, etc all soaked in blood. Icing on the cake.
There are no words to describe the story. If you thought MP1's story was the greatest told since Metal Gear Solid, you haven't seen MP2. Without revealing or spoiling anything, it is just simple amazing and completely ties in with MP1's storyline. I don't think there's a doubt when I say that MP2 itself has the best plot for any video game or movie in 2003, and I haven't read a single book this year that comes close to MP2's wonderful plot. For those of you who haven't played either game, there's a Previously section in MP2 where it briefly runs down the events of MP1 although in my opinion, it doesn't do the first game justice.
Another complaint by some people are that the game is too short. I have no problems with the short length, it's an action game after all but it has a tendency to leave you wanting for more. I have a habit of never touching a game again after I finish it but I have replayed Max Payne numerous times, and I have a feeling that I will be going through Max Payne 2 many times as well.
- Conclusion -
I will simply say that the original Max Payne was a work of art by Remedy. Max Payne 2 is a masterpiece. If you didn't like MP1 for whatever reason, there's little chance you will like MP2. But if you enjoyed MP1, run out and get your hands on MP2 as quickly as you can because you're in one hell of a ride.
My advice to those of you who haven't played either game, get the first game, play through it, know and understand the storyline THEN get and play Max Payne 2. Trust me, it will make MP2 about fifty times better, the Previously section is good but it doesn't make up for the first game.
Max Payne 2 is by far, the best game I have played all year. Remedy have shown that the first MP wasn't a fluke, they know what they're doing. They've created YET again a fantastic product. We all know that Shakespeare is required reading by all English students, but we really should make Max Payne 2 a required game to be played by all video gamers.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/17/03
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