Wednesday, 09 February 2005
The first Max Payne title seemed to split the gaming community right down the middle. One half saw it one classy game. The fresh bullet time feature was a marvel to use, and surprisingly intuitive. The stylised comic book style cut scenes brought about a much more interesting way than some expensively purchased CGI, and the whole thing melded together perfectly. Unfortunately the other half (probably a smaller fraction than half in all honesty) saw it as a short, contrived piece of nonsense. Fortunately enough I was firmly in the former of those two camps. So when Max Payne 2 arrived, I was always going to be a happy chappy.
First things first. One big problem that many had with the first title was the gameís fairly short length when it cam to actual playtime. The first Max Payne was one of those that could easily be bought on a Friday afternoon, and youíd see the credits rolling before the weekend was out. For those of you that disappointed, Iíve got bad news for you. You see if anything the sequel is even shorter than itís older sibling. The difference is however that the high standard of gameplay through those twelve hours of the first title have been doubled when I we come to Max Payne 2. But then, would we have preferred to see Rockstar draw out the length of the game by throwing a few extra rooms filled with baddies to blow away which could dilute the storyline?
The problem I have with the storyline is there are no real surprises during play. The structure of the game as a whole, which sees the middle section of the game given away, first before you play up to that point may be part of that problem. The characters you meet during your first twenty minutes of play are the only characters that have any real importance during the entire game, and it can feel a bit lazy at points. Thatís not to say the story isnít up to par. While a little clichťd, the storyline most definitely boosts the gameplay. The comic book style cut-scenes make a triumphant return, looking better than ever.
The bullet time feature unsurprisingly returns, with little to no changes from itís last outing. The problem is that when last time it felt fresh, after a thousand copycat titles it loses that impressive feeling. The ability to stay prone on the ground after a bullet dodge until your clip is out of ammo is a nice little addition and can be used to great effect. But where as the first game placed more emphasis on this diving dodge move, itís now much easier to go about things on your feet. When you initiate bullet time, the whole world slows down apart from your aiming point. This time however the more enemies you kill during that time increases the speed in which Max moves around. Kill a few enemies and your bullet time meter will turn yellow and youíll find yourself with an even easier time dodging bullets and picking off enemies. Itís a nice addition, though it can place more emphasis on running straight at enemies utilising bullet time rather than taking a more tactical approach.
The Havok physics engine has been utilised to great effect in Max Payne 2. Itís best explained like this; you enter a room to find an enemies character blasting away at you from the opposite side. As you enter bullet time and dodge his bullets, you let loose with a shotgun blast from close quarters. This blast sends his body reeling backwards and into the stack of cardboard boxes placed behind him. As his lifeless body launches into those boxes, his body twists and turns as box after box lands on his body. Itís much in the same vain as Hitman 2 or Freedom Fighters.
One part which in my eyes has both itís plus and minus points is the fact that at a few (short) points during the game youíll find yourself taking control of Mona Sax. On the plus side it gives you an insight into just what Mona Sax was doing while talking to Max when they were both storming a building. At times youíll even see Max doing the exact same things as you experienced playing as he himself a few minutes earlier. The bit minus point is more of an opportunity missed than any real detrimental point to the overall game. You see, they way both Max and Mona feel during play is exactly the same. No differences when it comes to running speed. No differences in weapons. Not even a difference in jump height. It all feels like a feature missed.
Thereís a tonne of little touches in Max Payne 2, which Iím reluctant to give away as theyíre best experienced first hand. Just be sure to listen out for the sounds from the TV, listen into all conversations you can, and always be sure to play back and answering machine you can find. Thatís all Iím willing to give away!
Max Payne 2 is one of those rare titles that gives with one hand, and cruelly snatches back small parts with the other. Obviously the good far outweighs the bad otherwise Iíd have never given such a high score. But in the grand scheme of things Max Payne 2 just lacks that certain something that stops it being a game thatíll be talked about for years to come be looked back upon with such fondness as the likes of Mario 64 and Final Fantasy VI (yes, I said 6!). What that certain something is, Iím unsure of. Safe to say if I knew that, I wouldnít be sat here writing reviews, Iíd be making games for a living!