Review by Showtime1080

"Style overrides everything else"

Is it fair to belittle the rudimentary premise of an action packed gun shooter simply because of its small stature and low-brow intentions? Absolutely. Max Payne 2’s gameplay is so shallow, so repetitive, and so easy, that it’s almost insulting to pc gamers spoiled on recently released and the anticipations of upcoming releases. Max Payne 2 does not contain any revolutionary play mechanics, does not contain any weapons that find new ways to kill enemies, does not contain exceedingly intelligent enemy AI, or anything else to raise itself on a towering pedestal of gaming genius. But, it absolutely has an original slickness to its presentation that gives gamers an excuse to savagely blast away enemies and love every minute of it. And blast enemies you will do. No doubt about it, Remedy has created the epitome of a shooter with every walking minute rife with bad guys after bad guys. Not in a cheap, uncreative way though. The enemies come at you with an overall purpose (even if the ultimate goal is to murder Max Payne) that is thoroughly explained in a slick movie like presentation with excellent voice acting and superb cutscenes.

The game plays in 3rd person that subtlety pushes the gamer into the world of Max Payne by allowing the gamer to view the character onscreen, and it works flawlessly. The character isn’t too occupying or too large, giving the gamer ample room to maneuver and analyze the situation. Maneuvering is quite important in Max Payne because the areas the movie transpires in are very detailed, filled with pleasing amounts of room ambience and normalcy, like bookshelves, boxes, barrels, cans, posters among others. The capacious items offer a slight distraction though because in hectic gunfights they can inadvertently hinder the movement of Max by blocking a panic-driven flee or stopping the animation of the shoot dodge the aggressive, horizontal dive that reduces the hit area of the character. With the introduction of a brand new physics engine, termed Havok, enemies and static objects behave with a rag-doll manipulation that is incredible to play with. Each part on a body, is independent from the whole body, so depending on the placement of a bullet, the corresponding part will fly away from the core; each death becomes truly unique. Never before has knocking a barrel over or running into a stack of boxes or the repulsive-but-fun act of piling human bodies up just to observe the snowball effect as they collide with each other been a fun staple in a game, but Remedy pulls it off with luxurious flair.

The slickness of Max Payne 2 reaches its climax with the implementations of bullet time and shoot dodge. The game is solidly above average without the additions though. When the thugs recklessly run towards Max from all possible angles with the aggressiveness of a charging bull, the sturdy shooting system responds very well. Not to mention the use of objects to provide cover when needing to reload, or to simply take a breather from the onslaught of gunfire. The fundamentals lie on a solid structure and it shows the effort Remedy has laid into the title. Still, the cool factor exhibited with the bullet time is such an exciting feeling, gamers wonder why more titles don’t utilize it. The ability to slow down the gameplay to a stuttering crawl, and gawk at normally fast moving objects, slowly, gradually meandering across the screen will leave the gamer in a state of utter wonderment. With the ability to slow the gameplay down, gamers can calculate the most lethal and best looking move to kill a group of enemies. A smug feeling emerges, similar to performing exquisite tricks in front of a large crowd and they “oooo” and “aaaa” at every amazing, elaborate death move bestowed on an enemy. Visually, staring at the ripples of a bullet as it majestically rotates and flies through the air, only to sludge its iron casing into the soft flesh of an enemy erupting into a splash of blood while the screen adopts a foggish, ghostly border is quite impressive. Moreover, the underwater aural effect of the bullets flying in slow motion sends the experience over the top.

That certainly isn’t the only thing impressive however. Yes, technically the game is the product of expert artist’s renderings with character models brimming with details, fluid life-like animations, great gun minutia, and excellent level construction. But again, the sheeness of the package that ties in with the incredible graphics creates a state of awe that loudly pronounces its grip on gamers’ visions. Max Payne 2 is staged out in episodes that explain the social problems and superficial human conduct between a handful of characters, Max Payne being the narrator and logical focal point. Sweet looking cut-scenes explain everything in a sharp way, then places the gamer in the current location of the story in the same rendered environment. The city is dark, gritty, evil looking, yet razor sharp and polished and is set in a busy urban New York setting. Every level in Max Payne 2 fits snuggly into the desperate chaos that is Max Payne’s life, causing him to travel to a wide variety of locations; from medicinally filled hospitals, to vast churches, to large executive mansions---all of them beautifully detailed. Additionally, with the smooth presentation, there are reasons to enjoy the eye candy, and there are reasons to kill thug after thug, and there is definitely a reason to activate the bullet time.

The game is quite fairly tough. The enemies all have very aggressive demeanors who shoot at first sight, and usually with pinpoint accuracy. The health meter Max uses is fairly small, and only a few shots are needed to kill Max, though there are plenty of health packs cleverly holding the disguise of a prescription pill canister. The weapons, ranging from the lowly, but reliable pistol, all the way to the suped-up, gaudy, zoom enabled assault rifle, shoot very realistically and generally travel where the cursor is aimed. The actual shooting is tight enough, bullets will fly realistically, and there are a variety of fun automatic weapons that spew gallons of bullets a second. Also the enemies are the perfect size, negating the awful feeling of searching for an enemy, or that frustrating feeling when the target is just too small to hit. Even with the bullet time, Max Payne 2 exemplifies the word “shooter” right down to the repetition. Nearly every level casts Max in a dangerous situation that can only be rectified by a spree of murders by aiming the little white dot at thugs who look threatening. Unfortunately, that remains the extent of Max Payne 2--basically running around, shooting enemies, getting power-ups to restore health, rescuing a hostage or two, and piecing together a pathetic torn up life.

There is Max. Max's life is nearly suicidal. There is a woman. There is a chief of police. The woman is beautiful; Max has the hots for her. The woman, who is a criminal, but kind hearted, plays hard to get. That is the stripped down version of the story though Remedy claims it to rise to the literature level off all previous Pulitzer prize winners; even including a small advertisement of its supposed brilliance on the front of its box! Still, the comic-book style visual presentation affixes so well with the movie script of a story, it unintentionally forces the gamer to pay attention, however it’s more of an obligation to. The scripting reads very quick and poignant as words pop out in speech bubbles to accompany the bold 2d artwork; reminiscent of dark violent comic book series, such as Spawn. Along with that, admirable voice acting is used throughout the whole strip; but these features still cannot breakdown the convolution of story, where plot twists, betrayal, lust, conspiracy, appear in an over abundance. Remedy may have gone just a tad bit too far; as players will grow restless cogitating the story when the shooting is ready and waiting. However, once again, the unmistakable coolness of Max Payne throws in some very clever side diversions such as a few dream episodes, and a hostage situation involving a guy in a big, floppy, mascot outfit that cannot be taken off.

How cool is Max Payne 2? As Max wakes up from a dream sequence, he learns his enemies are spying on him, in particular a man across the street in a camouflaged outfit who is equipped with a high powered sniper rifle. After shoot dodging past the window, he manages to escape the apartment then heads menacingly to the sniper’s room to deal the punishment. The sniper has left though, but Max learns they have spied on everything, down to the phone conversations with the sex hotline. Meanwhile thugs have entered his apartment to booby trap it with explosives, designed to detonate when Max opens the door. Imagine the laughter when Max looks through the sniper’s telescope and shockingly views a wild, dumb 3rd member of the trio enter the room, and accidentally kill everybody in the room.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/22/04

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