Updated at 9:29 AM
Click here for Screenshots from Max Payne 2
Most people in the gaming scene are familiar with the story of a guy named Max Payne. He is placed in a film noir story that truly has very little happiness within (as stated by the developers themselves). It is not as though his character is all that complex, it's that the characters around him have more mysteries to be uncovered. This is how it played out in both games, though there are many connections between the evolved digital reincarnations and the original introducing roles. To truly grasp the drastic changes, you MUST play the original Max Payne. Although the second one has an option in the main menu where you can find out exactly what happened in the first, you just do not get the same feel. You've already made certain connections with the characters from the first part. These connections are what make the changes even more drastic. By having some type of feeling toward a named character, any type of dramatic change would completely shock you (or so you'd hope, anyway). Anyway, simply put: Max is back, and he's better than ever. So let's get on with this thing!
Have you played the first one? Then you should be on familiar grounds in the second. Very little has changed, though it seems slightly more polished than the first time around. Yes, the first was very well done, and most gamers know that, but if you pick up part 2 after playing part 1, it feels a little bit better. The only thing is, it feels like a slightly better polished first game. Sure, the story is obviously different, so it's not a remake or anything, but gameplay wise it feels like the same game. Before I mention the different types of gameplay, let me just say something regarding the weapons. For the most part, they are very similar. The grenade launcher is missing, but you have grenades and molotov cocktails as secondary weapons with any gun you choose. Now, let's go into some of the differences in the different areas of gameplay.
First of all, the most important factor that sets Max Payne apart from other games is the Bullet Time. It's back, and I'm glad to say it is better than its ever been. The guys that made "Enter the Matrix" could learn from the developers at Remedy. First of all, there are three different buttons that could affect the type of Bullet Time you go into. First, let's just go into the shoot-dodge. Depending on which button you assign it to, the shoot dodge is pressed in conjunction with a directional key. Time slows down and you go into a dive in whichever direction you picked (during which the mouse could still be moved a full 360 degrees). Here's the difference. Unlike the first game, the shoot-dodge in this one does not take any portion of your Bullet Time meter away. That becomes useful if you somehow run out of Bullet Time using the next mode too much. This next mode is the regular Bullet Time where you can run around in slow motion shooting down waves upon waves of enemies. As in the first one, every time you kill an enemy, the meter gets a portion added back. Also, as you keep killing them in this mode, time slows down more and more for your enemies so you get an even greater advantage (which is welcome in this game). If the meter is not fully recharged, it fills up on its own even if you're not killing the bad guys. That third button that activates a form of Bullet Time is actually a combination of both that activates depending on which action you are doing. If you're just standing there, it activates the normal Bullet Time, and if you press a directional key simultaneously, you'll go into a shoot-dodge.
Now, on to the game modes. You have the initial one, Detective (which corresponds to the easy difficulty), Hard-Boiled (medium) and Dead on Arrival (hard). I won't spoil it for you, but you'll want to play through all three modes. There is still that crazy New York Minute mode, in which you start out with a whole minute to beat the game. The more enemies you kill, the more time gets added on to your clock. Basically, it's a crazy killing spree until the end... since you barely have anytime to stop and smell the roses. Then there's the Dead Man Walking mode, which is just an arcade-style run 'n kill deathmatch. You basically see how long you can last (survival) against hordes of enemies that keep spawning from white circular pads on the ground. There are a few different levels to choose from, and the enemies are just as hard in all of them. It will be hard for many to get anywhere past 5 minutes on the levels, so if you do, consider yourself a good gamer =]
The sound is good. Some voices make their similar return in this game, so you'll have fun hearing some of your old friends and enemies. The gun sounds are alright in most cases, though sometimes I wish they had a little more punch to make me jump if I heard a gun shot. When you shoot the environment, usually the sound of the bullet hitting the material is fairly accurate (though softer than I'd like). To make this section simple - we'll just say you will not be disappointed in terms of sound quality in thie game.
If you've heard the main theme on the official website, you already know that it has high production values. Wonderful melody (from the first game) re-written to include more orchestral instruments with the theme by a solo cello. The music during the game, when it does actually come into play is also very good. I do have a problem with it, though. It comes in so rarely! Whenever you do hear it, I guarantee you will enjoy it. If it's from a TV set or some guy singing to a tune on his radio, you'll enjoy hearing the music.
The graphics are beautiful. I love the high-res textures they used in this game. The engine is just a little bit updated from the first one, but the textures used are just so much better. Everything looks better - the characters, the environment.. everything. It's very crisp and clean. Better than the first. I'm not sure what kind of an analogy could work here, but I'll just say Remedy did something right in making this game the way they did. Gearbox (Halo, 007: Nightfire) could learn something here. In Halo, for example, they shoved in a bunch of DX9 features that weren't even in the Xbox version, and then when people complained about bad performance, they blamed it on these new features. Remedy made a beautiful game without using all these special features from the latest DirectX. I'll just say that I run it with no slowdowns at 1600x1200, with every option that improves the video quality set to on. This is on an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro and a P4 2.4c @ 3.06 GHz. I've read people using much lower equipment and running this game well, so don't worry =]
I always wonder how I can make a good conclusion for anything - whether it is a review, an essay, an article, or anything else. But this time, it will be easy. Max Payne 2 speaks for itself. If you liked the first, there's no reason why you won't like the second. It's more of the first, but better and with a new story. Don't you want to see how everything turns out?! I mean Max's life is already so messed up from part one that you should want to see what keeps him going this time around. But let me say this: if you do buy the game, you MUST play through the three difficulty levels. I'm sure somebody might inadvertently tell you why, but try to ignore them if you can =]. If you weren't a fan of the first, then don't get the second. It's very simple! I played it... I beat it... and I actually wanted to start right over again. I'll say this to close the review: this is the only game ever that made me sit and stare at the screen all the way to the end of the credits.
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