There are a lot of reasons why “Max Payne” of the PlayStation 2 remains a rather noteworthy game. For starters, it was one of the first series to actually integrate great graphic novel-style storytelling with very enjoyable 3rd person combat, among other things. Even though this is a port we’re talking about, the game shined rather brightly with its dark and sinister feel and the overwhelming sense of adventure it helped foster. Some have even stated that it was Max Payne (along with titles like Tomb Raider) that helped to influence development for future franchises, like “Uncharted”. Regardless, “Max Payne” rather successfully introduced a whole new way for audiences to experience the 3rd person shooter.
Arguably, aside from its knotty, heart-wrenching story of angst, the most noticeable factor of MP is the action itself, which is enhanced via the ability to pull off “Matrix-style” bullet time sequences. In effect, this allows you to engage in awesome gun fights that are both tense as well as rewardingly violent. At the same time, the game intentionally ratchets up the emotional level to try to place you in the mindset of this downtrodden NYPD detective as he looks for revenge. Payne’s family having been murdered, the whole film noir-style dressing the game takes on seems all the more poignant and appropriate.
Visually, Max Payne is still somewhat impressive looking as a (now) retro title. The character models, environments, weapons, sounds, enemies and cut away sequences really do an excellent job of immersing you in Max’s world of pain. The way certain enemies fall backward in rag doll fashion from a well-placed shotgun blast, and the subsequent pithy commentary from our hero, paints a very movie-like atmosphere that sucks you in and refuses to let go. Seriously, once you get started with the campaign you’ll likely become so entranced by its storyline that you absolutely must finish it off, just to see what happens. Of course, most will also delight in the action itself which is surprisingly satisfying and varied enough to keep things interesting throughout the length of the 8 ½ hour single player experience.
The main crux of the plot revolves around the revenge element; Max Payne of course seeking to bring down those responsible for his own personal tragedies. However, what really “sells” the game is the rather inventive way that the devs weaved in the aforementioned graphic novel segments. Not only do these deviations provide the details and depth of the story itself, but they also convey lots of characterized emotional inflection and instantly familiarize gamers with the mindsets governing the protagonist as well as his foes.
Many will probably point out that the PC version handles a bit better than its PS2 counterpart, but thanks to bullet time any discrepancies are dealt with easily enough. All in all, this is a linear game, but it manages to remain interesting because it succeeds on multiple fronts. Again, the way the story compliments the gameplay is of particular interest and seriously ups the game’s overall entertainment factor.