Max Payne

Max Payne is a typical gumshoe in the tradition of Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe, though with a rather more bloodthirsty outlook. His life has been as tough as he is, and after seeing his wife and child slain by criminals, he takes on the underworld. It all sounds corny – and is – but Max Payne is still excellent. Despite having a clichéd story line seen many times before in movies and video games, it’s still fun to play. Avenging his family’s slaughter, a cop on the run from cops, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, yaddah, yaddah, yah. Before long, Max Payne is plugging mafia bosses, pimps and druggies like there’s no tomorrow. Payne is following the trail of the designer drug that made the culprits of his family’s murder do the horrible deed. There’s no reference to their damaged upbringing in poverty and abuse the villians may have endured; there are no shades of grey here, and everyone is a bad guy. Max isn’t here to listen to them – he’s just going to kill ’em all. Bottle it
Talking of druggies, Mr Payne is no stranger to a little chemical enhancement. Despite his one-man war on drugs, and pretty much everyone, his health isn’t bolstered by resting or food. No, I can reveal that Max is hooked on painkillers. When he gets shot, which is often, his pain meter rises. Instead of seeking medical help, Max hits the bottle… of pain killers. It isn’t the story that makes this a good game; it is the addition of bullet time. Bullet time is a kind of live slow-motion accessible to Payne at the touch of a button. You get that kind of cinematic diving and shooting seen in The Matrix. It is also handy to be able to dodge bullets. It would be easy if you could use bullet time all the way through the game, but it is a limited resource, topped up every time you drop a crim. There is no explanation for this sci-fi ability, but who cares – it’s only a game. There are other cinematic goodies in the game, for example when you’re confronted by a gang of hoods. Once you’ve sprayed them with bullets and kill the last guy, the last one goes into slow motion as he hits the deck. The cut scenes are shown in stark novel-style graphics. Nicely done, but really they only delay the action. The environment is typically gloomy, but very detailed. Everything works, from the Coke machines, the water fountains and TV sets, right down to the hookers’ vibrating beds. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, the story line has a fairly adult theme. If the blood-spattered violence doesn’t make you hide this from your kids, then the hookers and addicts are likely to. Of course, grown-up kids will enjoy all the gory detail. But if you’re going to let your kids play, or are of a nervous disposition, there is a parental lock for a milder version of the game. A final innovation in Max Payne is the sliding scale of difficulty. I like to set my shoot ’em ups to Easy. That way I can squeeze maximum killing from minimal time. There are no difficulty settings; the game adjusts to your ability. I found the game pretty easy to play, which means I suck. But if you like to play games in their hardest modes, then you’ll notice Max becoming harder the better you are at the game.


Max Payne isn’t an original game, though it has its moments. If you like the shoot’em-up genre, then this is one to add to the collection. If you’re looking for a new kind of game, this isn’t it – though the bullet time undoubtedly adds to the thrills. It could do with a multi-player option.

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