Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

Review

posted 2/13/2004 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: Xbox
When we last left Max Payne, he just racked up a body count equal to a small third world country and sent Nicole Horne to a fiery death in a helicopter. It’s been a few years but he’s back to create more mayhem and unleash more bullets into bad guys. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne continues the bullet time action goodness and this time, the sequel does outdo the original. The version I am reviewing today is for the Xbox and what you’ll read here about the main game pertains to all versions of the game. I’ll get into the specifics of the port in a little bit.

The second game has come out with a lot less hype than the first one. In fact, it was pretty late in the game when it was announce at E3 and showing up on store shelves. To Remedy and Rockstar, I give them much credit for not making a big deal about the game long before it was finished. If you played the original, then the second game isn’t that much of a stretch. What Remedy did though was produce a very stylish game, refine the engine, and great levels. It is a very, very short game though and you can beat it in around six hours. But for those six hours, it’s a very enjoyable game.

Like the original, the game unfolds in a somewhat non-linear fashion. You’ll start out waking up in a hospital in a less than tip top shape. From there you’ll relive the past leading up to your current state and then finish in a stand off against the main bad guy. In between missions, you’ll be treated to the nicely drawn graphic novel cut scenes like the first one. This time around, you’ll also be controlling Max’s love interest Mona Sax. Mona’s a bad girl and she’s not shy about taking out anyone that gets in her way. Max, of course, is drawn to her naughtiness and spends most of the game chasing Mona around while uncovering twists and turns of the story. All the while, you’ll be unloading a small armies worth of lead into, well, a small army of bad guys.

Bullet time has some improvements in that you’ll be normal speed while everyone else slows down. The more you kill, the faster your bullet time reserve refills. Max and Mona do have this bullet time spinning dance that reloads your weapon quickly. I’m sure you’ve seen movies where a character decides too do a backflip or spin around for no apparent reason other than to look cool. Well, you get the same here but at least it reloads your weapon and it can be cool looking in the right situations. The bullet time dive is also back and will take out of bullet time when you land. It takes a little time to get up so if you have some bad guys still alive and gunning for you, you’re pretty much toast.

From the beginning, you can tell the graphics engine has gotten a nice upgrade. Gone is the annoying smirk on the face of Max. In place is a lot more realistic version with facial movements and realistic modeling. From the close-ups during cut scenes, you’ll see the impressive job Remedy did in improving the look of Payne. The improvement in Payne also translates to every other character in the game. Each model has greatly improved detail and better modeling when compared to the first one making them much more lifelike. The motion capturing also enhances the lifelike appearance of each character. The graphics on the Xbox is pretty comparable to a low resolution PC version and seems to be better than the PlayStation 2 version. After playing a lot of the PC version, I found the Xbox graphics to be more than fine in comparison. Framerate also seemed pretty good and I didn’t experience the slowdowns that I would’ve if I were playing the PlayStation 2 version.

A major addition to the engine that greatly enhances the way the world and characters interact is the Havok physics engine. If you saw the E3 presentation of Half-Life 2 and how physics in every object make the world much more realistic, you’ll be able to experience the cool effects in the world of Max Payne 2. Objects and bodies react to other objects and bodies with impressive effects. One example of this is on one of the levels there are some painkillers that are high up out of reach on top of some boxes. Taking out a gun, I took aim and shot at the boxes. Each bullet caused the boxes to move until the stack finally tumbled in realistic fashion, reacting to other objects on the way down. Once the stack fell, I now could pick up the much needed painkillers. Some of the greatest moments in the game involve going into bullet time, unleashing a barrage of bullets at the enemy, and seeing him flip over a stack of barrels behind him. You’ll get into more than a few instances where you’ll want to turn on bullet time and witness the impressive physics display of a body being sent backwards in slow motion over objects as you unload on them. During a shoot out with a camping bad guy, I saw a toolbox through my gun sights that was blocking the person’s head. With a well placed bullet, I knocked the toolbox off revealing a nice clear view of the enemy’s head in which I promptly placed a nice single bullet for the kill. The Havok physics engine really helps make the world come alive with realistic interactions.
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