Every once and a while, a game comes into your sights and you wonder where it has been all of your gaming life. As someone who has only been in PC gaming for the past few years, I missed out on the chance to play this awesome game when it first came out, I regret it. I always read rave reviews and amazing accounts of this game and for some reason or another, I just never picked up this game. Then the Steam Winter Sale came and I had no excuse to pick it up, especially since my year long project would provide me the perfect opportunity to play it. So this week I finally got around to playing Max Payne.
Max Payne was released in 2001 by Remedy Entertainment for Microsoft Windows as a third person shooter adventure (Rockstar Games would later port the game to other consoles). In the past few years the game has also been rereleased on the PS3 and Xbox360 systems.
This game follows the story of Max Payne, a former NYPD officer and DEA agent who has gone rogue. The gameplay is mostly Payne’s flashbacks on events of the past. He comes home one day to find that someone has broken into his house and murdered his wife and child in cold blood. The criminals were high on a new designer drug called Valkyr which has begun to terrorize the town. This wave of drugs and crime is what makes Max want to transfer to the DEA after his family’s funeral. Coming back to the present, Max is undercover in the local mob family who is responsible for the distribution of Valkyr. This is where the game picks back up and the player is thrown into the storyline. The first Chapter has Max tracking down and killing those in charge of the drug trafficking and trying to find the person who killed one of Max’s associates. The remainder of the game follows Max’s three night long tirade to bring those gangs to justice.
The predominant feature that sets Max Payne apart from other games was that it was one of the first to include the Matrix-like bullet time function which allowed the player to make slow motion diving and twisting shots while avoiding enemy fire. As anyone who has played the game knows, this feature was half of the fun of the game. I spent so much time just diving and twisting in mid-air, trying to land in the bed or chair in the correct position. The game actually heavily relies on this slow motion shooting as any attempt to just run and gun will get you shot quickly. To further improve the fun of this feature, many people have designed modifications that allow you to do more of the wall running, back flipping kung Fu from the Matrix.
The game offers a rather small range of weapons to choose from with two pistols, two shotguns, a machine pistol, grenades, and some melee weapons. Though it seems like a short list, realistically a roué police officer would only have access to so much in terms of arsenal. You can also dual wield the Berretta and the Ingram machine pistol which allows for a much higher rate of fire but you go through ammo much more quickly. I’ve found that effectively using melee weapons can be a bit of a challenge when the combat is based on the slow motion shooting feature but with some practice it can be done. There is actually a mission that starts with you having nothing but a bat and you must find some weapons to use. To heal you, the game has painkillers hidden around the level that will remove about one fifth of the total damage. What I enjoyed about this game was the challenge of the limited health. It made planning out your moves mean more because you never knew when you would find the next cache of pills. Of course this challenge was sort of limited by the ability to quick save.
The game was developed back in 2001 with the MAX-FX 1.0 engine and it is hard to rate a game of such age on its graphics. The game is obviously no comparison to the life-like graphics that are the norm but at the time of its development, the developers were doing well with the technology given to them. The game is fairly expansive, giving the illusion of an open world when in reality you are constrained by the story’s direction. Another aspect well noted was the apparent reactiveness of the AI to actions of the player. After some research, I found that the AI was actually all pre-scripted (in terms of ducking, hiding, etc.) but written in such a way to seem like real reaction.
I thoroughly loved this game. I do not know why I took so long to get around to playing it, but I look forward to playing the rest of the series. I know that many of you have played it but if you are someone like me who is just behind on the times, get this game, play it, and love it. IT is one of the better games I have played, though most of that might be because the slow motion 360 degree shotgun blast to the chest never gets old….ever.