A short ode to Mr. Payne
The early 00’s were a great time for gaming. It was still during an age when games came out finished. They had content and didn’t require Season Passes to get the most out of your product and if a title was a multi-platform release, you could be damn sure they were all nearly of the same caliber, regardless of the console. This type of development and releasing strategy started to decline with the release of the 7th gen consoles.
2003 gave us such wonderful hits as Beyond Good & Evil, Freedom Fighters, Silent Hill 3, The Hobbit, KOTOR, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and of course Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. The last one being the topic of this post.
To this day, it is my personal belief that this is one of the most polished and best developed games of all time. Its got an intelligent plot, ultra-tight gameplay and voice-acting that is barely rivaled to this day. The Finns really knew how to make a game!
Few PC games have such creative and developed mods that keep on evolving years after the games initial release. A large modding community gathered around the title thanks to the developers being very mod-friendly and supportive of fans trying to improve on their already fantastic game.
The story of Max Payne 2 must be one of the best-written game narratives I have EVER come across, honestly. A fantastically written crime-mystery that gets tied up neatly by the time the credits roll. The plot is constantly developing, keeping the player on the edge of their seat. Its glorious Noir themes and almost poetry-like metaphorical monologues by the protagonist are extremely impressive and deep.
One of the best parts of this game is its audio presentation. It has some of the best voice-acting and remember, this was back in 2003! Game developers at the time were barely starting to take voice-acting seriously and not all of them were incorporating it in their products at all. Some really talented professionals were hired for the task, when it game to Max Payne. Plus, it has a fantastical ambient score, mixed in with a now synonymous song to the game by the Poets of the Fall. Both the voice-acting and music is seamlessly integrated into the game to give you a fully immersive experience. For example, every now and again, you get a chance to get the jump on your foes. Now, you can fly in and start blasting right away or you can stay in the shadows and listen to their conversation. Mostly it’s just some silly but interesting banter. Often times however, chunks of the games backstory can be attained by just being patient and letting your enemies spill the beans.
Max Payne is one of those few magnificent games that has ultra-tight controls with natural and intuitive button-mapping, at least on the PC version. The greatest feature of the combat is bullet time, which the Max Payne series pretty much single-handedly made the staple of the games industry for quite a while.
The game is quite generous with the amount of time and frequency you get to spend in bullet time. This all means you can pretty much go through every skirmish, while being in slow-mo, which allows for the precise lining up of shots. Though honestly, if you try to take on your foes any other way, you’re quickly going to realize why there’s a whole bunch of painkillers lying around the whole place.
While being very popular and a critical/commercial success, I can’t help but feel that it still didn’t get enough recognition. Then again, it was a different time, a different era, even though only a little over 10 years ago. Just goes to show how fast the things change.