Max Payne II

Can the new Payne stand up to it's original, or does it get blown away in a
shootdodge?  Read inside for the answer.

Max Payne II Review

By Richie

 

Going into Max Payne II, I was filled with fear and
doubt.  The original Max Payne was such
a complete and perfect work of art that the thought of attempting to equal,
much less improve, upon it was almost lunacy. 
Since Max Payne went wrong in so few places, more was needed than a
simple new release with a few minor fixes. 
No, improvements, somehow, had to be made if the game was going to equal
its predecessor.  Remarkably, the
developers at Remedy Games did just that, and the product is everything the
original was and more.

 

Max Payne revolutionized shooter graphics when it was
released, and didn't see an equal for a long time.  Even today, it's quality character models and beautiful textures
are still unequaled by many new releases. 
So has Max Payne II improved? 
Yes, but not by leaps and bounds. 
The environments, from police station to construction site, are still
horribly detailed with individually textured, moveable items, and the
obligatory scorch marks, bullet holes, spent casings, and blood splattering on
the wall behind your fallen foes.  The
addition of an improved lighting system casts shadows of Max as he walks by
street lamps, and makes the environments that much more believable.  But where the game does make a lot of
headway is in character models, which, in the case of Lisa, looks so good you
could kiss her.  The facial models, in
particular, really stand out as a place where Remedy games clearly took some
time to get right.  Almost every bad guy
looks unique, and few are clothed the same, save for a certain group within the
game.  Voice-overs match up exactly with
mouth movements during cutscenes, but sometimes leave the player wishing for
more emotional expression.  Even the
cutscenes themselves are works of art, as they fit in perfectly with the game
as it progresses, and incorporate interesting camera angles and effects to give
the entire game a cinematic feel.  The
most unique part of all, of course, is the graphic novel, which, by nature,
can't be innovative in too many ways, but does keep the concept fresh with
different cell layouts, and are well illustrated.

 

Max Payne II's sound is rather like the original, in that
there are few places to improve.  The
game does make good use of surround speakers, which can give you an advantage
in some levels where baddies will hit you from all angles.  Weapons fire, yours and hostile, is so well
done you could get yourself killed just stopping and listening to it.  As in the previous game, just about
everything makes a sound, from the clank-clank of a grenade hitting the floor
to the rattling of an empty MP5 magazine on the sidewalk.  Even moveable items, like wooden boxes and
pop cans, make their own noises when acted on by the player or by weapons.  Some sounds, like explosions, sound like
they've been imported from the original, which is just fine, as the sound
itself is great, but probably could have used a replacement.  Music is also well used, not overdone and
always used appropriately.  Veterans of
Max Payne will also appreciate the new version of the main theme (which is also
downloadable in MP3 form), as it will most likely bring back memories of the
gunfights of old.  Baddies will also
yell out various insults at you, the most common one being "Coward!", but is intermixed
with others.  Voice acting is one of the
highlights, as it was in the original, and is a huge factor of how the game
comes off as cinematic.  Voices are well
matched with their characters, like the monotone Max to the Brooklyn Vinnie
Gogniti, and the femme fatale Mona, and all do an outstanding job.  Max's monologues are still present, poetic
and melodramatic as ever, and, while it has some humorous moments, is still an
important part of following Max's development in the game.

 

The game plays much like Max Payne did, with combat
centering around the use of Bullet Time, the Matrix-like effect, allowing Max
to pull off spectacular shots during dives and dodges, and is a key factor of
the games combat.  However, where the
original encouraged the use of small amounts of Bullet Time at once, and
allowed the player to "turn on" (activate Bullet Time and leave it on while
walking around) Bullet Time only as a last resort, II encourages the player to
"turn on" Bullet Time more, and has shaped many gunfights around it's use.  Classic shootdodges can still be performed,
and the controls can be switched around to facilitate this, but the game has
several fights where the only way to walk away is to use the new favored method
of Bullet Time, which comes with some cool effects of it's own.  As Max kills people with Bullet Time on, his
Time meter refills, allowing the effect to last longer.  If Max should have to reload his weapons
while in Bullet Time, he does a dazzling reload sequence, and quickly gets
Max's guns blazing again.  How Bullet
Time is used in the game can be decided by the player, depending on personal
preference.  However, most veteran Payne
players I've talked to preferred to rely on shootdodging rather than the new
method.  The usual gunfights are broken
up with interesting scenarios, like taking control of Mona and using her sniper
rifle to cover Max as he moves about in a construction zone, and forcing Max to
run through hostile areas unarmed, using only painkillers (Payne style for
health) to survive.  The controls are
the usual WASD/Mouse configuration, and can be configured at the players
will.  Quick save and quick load
facilities are also made available in game, but sadly, can be heavily abused by
the player, as the game can potentially be saved after every kill is made, and
allows a player to rehearse a gun battle many times before proceeding.

 

The biggest complaint going against Max Payne II is it's
likeness to the original, and those complaints are not incorrect.  The fun factor of the game for returning
players basically comes to if you got enough of the Max Payne formula the first
time around, or if you couldn't get enough of it.  If you fell into the first category, then you won't enjoy II at
all, since it is, at heart, more of the same.  If you feel into the second, on the other hand, you will have a
blast with II, as it adds in just enough to keep the idea interesting while
still providing the barrels blazing fun you've done before.  And if you still can't get enough of the Max
Payne's gameplay after the single player is done, then other game modes, like
Dead Man Walking, can provide you with many more hours of fun.  The absence of multiplayer is not
necessarily a bad one, since playing a game like Max Payne online would present
it's own very unique technical problems. 
The writer is not disappointed in the lack of multiplayer, but rather
grateful that they decided not to take the time to develop it and instead
focused on the single player, which, sadly, lasts only about nine hours.  Compared to other FPS's on the market, this
is a pitifully small number, but Max Payne II's quality and intensity must be
taken into account when comparing gameplay value.

 

Max Payne II does a good job of bringing new ideas and
concepts to an already near-perfect game, and has a lot to offer for returning
players.  However, it also walks a fine
line between new game and expansion pack, as there is only small changes here
and there, and a new story, to differentiate II from it's original.  It is up to the gamer to decide if Max Payne
II is worth their 50 bucks, or if they feel that they could have more fun with
another $50 game.  However, if you did
enjoy the original in any amount, then you owe it to yourself to at least see
the game played, as there are few games in history that do such a good job of
making a great game even better.

 

Graphics: 19

Sound: 18

Gameplay: 20

Fun: 19

Replay: 15

 

OVERALL: 91 out of 100

 

Copyright 11/20/03 by Tyler Richardson