Review by nrmiles

Reviewed: 12/29/03

Hopefully you won’t forget about this $50 game when it hits $20.

Max Payne returns to the streets in the second installment in the Payne series. Max Payne 2 (MP2) boasts an updated graphics engine, ‘rag-doll’ physics and convincing facial detail over it’s predecessor. While it may be short in comparison to your average RPG, please consider that this third-person shooter, most assuredly, will be 10 hours that you will play rather than an hour of hate and a drive back to return the game. Beware that this game does not reward you with skins, cars and new levels for virtually ignoring other games for weeks at a time.

MP2, much like its predecessor, starts ahead of when things really began. After being revived from a series of near-fatal injuries, Max wakes up all alone in a hospital bed. After navigating the hospital halls, experiencing faint hallucinations of some events that you will soon participate in, hired killers raid the hospital to finish Max off. An explosion leaves Max weaponless and cornered in the hospital’s morgue, where Max begins to retell the experiences leading up to and past this point of no return.

This game largely looks and feels like the original, the exception being the sculpted faces of each character. The rag doll physics actually do more good than harm. Enemies will convincingly trip over items behind them when killed, or slam against walls or shelves when hit with a more powerful weapon, knocking the shelf’s contents onto the floor. Boxes and other items also apply to the physics as well as swinging doors. Guards get knocked back when you open a door in their direction.

Although part of MP2’s events are told through in-game cut scenes, the graphic novel scenes remain to be a large part of the game’s story-telling method. The dream-state scenes are back as well as the t.v. side stories, some of which give insight as to what Max has been through or spoof the events of the first Max Payne. Answering machines and phones play a small part in feeding you information and clues in Max’s current case.

The controls and bullet-time rules have been given a minor adjustment from the first payne game. Grenade, Molotov Cocktails, and a pistol-whip/gun stock slam have their own buttons. Shoot-Dodging no longer requires any bullet-time (BT), and BT itself regenerates, seemingly following the trend of regenerative stats in the likes of Halo and Red Faction 2. BT activation is accompanied by a burnt-sepia tone to the screen and allows Max to run as fast as he would without BT with each extra enemy he kills. Painkillers remain to play the role of med-kits and melee weapons are entirely replaced with a melee attack inherent in each weapon.

The enemy AI is somewhat random. Some enemies will run for cover and throw grenades around corners, while others will actually take a grenade throw to the head and patiently wait for the impending explosion. You can actually enlist the aid of some people at various points in the game, some of whom are pretty good shots.

MP2 is an overall improvement in the series. You’ll be constantly bombarded with objectives and clues, almost to the point where dying five or six times to an unseen sniper or an uncertain jump will be the only thing that compels you to take a brake. There isn’t any of that ‘I’m sorry, but our princess is at another castle’ crap that part one suffered a bit from. Some missions require you to defend people as they navigate their way out of a building or yard. You may get the impression that MP2 seems to be a little easier than the original due to the unlimited shoot dodge and health amount of BT you’re bound to end up with after each fight.

As of where it stands as to buy or rent: Buy it if you’re either a gun nut who loves rag doll physics and bullet-time tripled with a fantastic story or you loved the first one, but the average guy should and could rent this one due to it’s 8-12 hour rent-able length. Sure, most games today can’t outlive a single rental span, but this one could warrant a purchase if you liked the first one enough. Hopefully you won’t forget about this $50 game when it hits $20.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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