Max Payne is having a pity party, and you are all invited. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. I actually found myself thinking at one point “Oops, I’d better pick up the controller, I might have to do something soon.” This was not some insane deathwish I had for Max. This was a reaction to the lengthy early story cinematic cut scenes. At first, everything looks kinda crappy. At first, the lack of control by the player is a little frustrating. At first.
Max Payne is on a path of destruction. Not just in a literal sense, but in a much more personal sense. Still deeply haunted by the horrific events of his past, he drowns his sorrows with drinking and prescription pills. His state of mind seems to effect how we view the world of Max Payne, with a stylistic flicker and grainy outlook. As he is pulled from his seedy life in New York to work security for Sao Paulo aristocracy, everything becomes clearer. Max’s drive returns, the world around him sharpens, everything starts to make sense in a frenetic, fast paced way. This is where the real fun starts.
In combat, Bullet Time® is a cool effect that allows you to slow down time to line up a series of shots, often necessary to take down a group that are trying to riddle your body with bullets. The ability to use Bullet Time® runs out, you have to earn more power by killing more bad guys. Using Shoot Dodge whilst in Bullet Time® does what the name implies. You can move out of the line of enemy fire, fast. Together they work really, really, well and can totally save your bacon in a tricky situation. When it’s Max Payne against an army of enemies, you’ll be glad you have them.
Single handed and duel wielding options provide some variety in gun play, and when you run out of ammo there are still a number of melee attacks to keep you going. Targeting can be customised to suit your own style and skill level. Hard lock provides the most aiming assistance and with soft lock you need to at least be looking in the general direction of the enemy first. Targeting assistance can also be completely turned off for those who want complete control. The right place to find cover is so important in this game, but you can’t stay anywhere for long. The enemies will try to flush you out by any means necessary.
Max’s addiction to painkillers actually becomes useful during gameplay, becoming a life-saving health boost. If you are about to die and still have a painkiller in your stash, you are given a chance to take out the enemy who shot you. If you can kill him, you take the painkiller and live to fight another day.
Nearing the end of an intense battle you are rewarded with a beautiful cinematic slow motion of your last kill. The graphics for these wounds are brilliantly violent and beautifully detailed. The sequence is also quite useful for letting you know it’s safe to move on.
The single player story develops into a complex, interweaving full blown crime mystery action thriller. Max himself can’t keep up with who is trying to kill who and why in more then one instance. The soundtrack is engaging, the voice acting convincing, the characters realistic and the plotline is gripping.
I’ll be posting a review on the mulitplayer element in the next few days.