Friday, 1 August 2003

Archive Review: Max Payne 2

(PC review)


I'm in a serious mood today. I've got no time to play games, well I have, but not in the context of my review. I'm going to get straight to the point and sum Max Payne 2 up in one simple sentence:

"Short but sweet."

MP2 is to gamers what tipex is to a glue sniffer... a quick fix. Like the original Payne this is very enjoyable and fast gameplay. The basis to this game is a third-person shooter with the novelty of being able to slow down time and gain an advantage over the enemy via the use of this cool feature. This system is known as bullet time since it allows you to dodge bullets and fight in slow motion. MP2 incorporates this Matrix inspired system very well. Infact it does it infinetely better than even Enter The Matrix - the official game to the Matrix franchise.

Give me a gun and call me Payne. The first thing you realise when you play this game is that it is alot like the first Payne in many ways. Actually... it's the same except for two important features. They are that MP2 uses the Havoc physics engine and the Karma death animation system. Now let's first talk about Havoc. This physics system is quite simply amazing. It basically allows you to interact with virtually every object in the gaming world. An example of this could be that whilst in a gunfight you might do a slow-mo side dive and hit a series of boxes - all piled up in a typical John Woo effect. Now in Max Payne this would result in the slow-mo dive ending short due to the collision. In MP2 however the Havoc system allows for those boxes to get knocked down as Payne races through them. This is cool because it looks very cinematic which is surely a great thing. This applies with anything too. See that water dispenser? Well hit it a few times and watch as water flows out, then shoot it to watch as the liquid wets the carpet. Almost anything can be moved, and often destroyed. It's just a shame that not "everything" can be moved or destroyed in true realism. They got close though and it really does kick a$$.

Now we go to the Karma death animation system. Well I'm sure that many of you are already aware of what this is. Raven Shield uses it and it rocks. It came from Unreal 2 but was improved upon in MP2. Karma in this game is the best ever. Whenever you shoot an enemy they die in total, almost shocking, realism. Their bodies react to bullet impact in a way that simply must be seen to be understood. Ha! They don't just fall down and die you fools! They fall over tables and knock Pepsi cans off the tabletop as their legs dangle. They roll down stairs James Bond Style and even will deflect from walls with a thud before hitting the deck. Unlike other Karma based games in this one they also look like they took a round and end up on the floor in a way which resembles a dead body - not an example of high level contortionism.

After one considers these neat aspects then the realisation comes along and the player will discover that this is all that this sequel really boasts. The A.I is slightly improved but still pretty weak. They will often die from throwing grenades at you and simply being killed by their own nades due to either an appalingly bad throw or running into the explosion radius instead of seeking cover once the nade is thrown. This gets annoying but I guess street punks aren't particulary clever are they? These guys are mostly on drugs anyway... They are all crackheads or just plain dumb. This certainly merits a good excuse... not! If they fire guns as sophisticated as MP5's then hell... they should be pretty clever. This game also makes no effort to add anything that the highly popular Kung-Fu Mod for the original Max Payne added. In this respect anyone who played that mod will simply miss not being able to run up walls and lay some jabs into the baddies. You can now use guns to hit people but it is impossible to pull off - and there is no longer a base ball bat! Oh well...

Feel the Payne! Ha! Get it?

Graphically this game is stunning with an improved engine which is better than the original's in every way. Lighting, textures, it's all good. The sound was hardly a strong point in the original and although it is better in this game it's hardly anything special. The music is very good though, with a harrowingly haunting main theme which was also in the original game. One thing I was annoyed about though was the fact that this game has no diagetic music. That is, when the action kicks off the ambient music does not change to that of a fast-paced piece which gets you in the mood. I just dig it when this happens in games. It really adds to the feeling of being in some important situation and adds to the drama.

This leaves me with the low points then and unfortunately Maximus Paynuel (a sort of Greek/Biblical translation) has them. For a start the game is short, so short you could cough and violently cause the wheels on your crappy office chair to slide back as you bow down, vus making you fall down flat onto the floor infront of your PC desk, and you would actually miss the entire game. It's even shorter than the original... which was well short mate. Infact, this game is so short you could go out to the cinema and see The Matrix Revolutions, walk out within the first 10 minutes, get home and the game would be over.

This really is a shame but the game is brilliant in it's shortness. The levels are nice with one that I was so stunned by I had to replay it over and over. This was the stage in an old abandoned funhouse type place. There were no enemies here, just atmosphere. You walked through the level as if you were simply entering the ride like a paying customer. The old thrills of the place still work although the dust has set and the radio voices coming from the high speakers crackle with age. I loved this stage. You will too :)

My gripe with the levels was the last level to the game. Now I don't know about you but whenever I watch a movie or play a game based on the premise, "the good guy was screwed and wants payback," I want to see a really climatic last stage, like a big building with loads of guards or some huge F off robot - get me? Well in Max Payne 2 the last level is a kinda anti-climax, a little like The Matrix Revolutions actually. I won't give any more away though.

Summed up this is a great game yet short. This is a cool game yet hardly a game of depth. It's fun yet will soon become dull. I think that this is really good game and really fun to play but just a little too linear and a little too short to be seen as anything more than a" pretty good" game.



Havoc! Karma! Sounds like some dodgy Satanic club members list.


WTF! Was that it? Pretty bad A.I, Personally I thought the story was overly complex.


If only it were a little longer, then it would have hit the high 9's

(Important Side note: The Matrix Revolutions is absolutely rubbish)

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