I remember pretty vividly when Max Payne originally came out. It was 2001, and I was 11 going on 12. I remember reading about how it was this great, anticipated game, and I remember hearing my dad talk it up and even some people at school. My parents, however, had some common sense. I was not allowed to play M rated videogames at this time, and so it would be a while before I finally got to play Max Payne for myself. Now 11 years later, I received the game as a donation, and honestly...what was all the fuss about?
Max Payne is a third person shooter from Rockstar - a company with an awesome track record. I think this fact alone was part of the hype. In this game, the main character who's name is featured in the title is an uncover police officer in the NYPD. He returns home from work one night to find his wife and child murdered, the culprits still in his house. In this opening level, there was a lot of tension. It was really built up by the audio, and just the sheer panic of the situation. as I suspected, there were many more moments like this to come, but I was going to have to trudge through some extreme repetition to get them. As any good action hero would, Max sets out to find out who caused the murder of his family, and return the favor.
Max Payne is really gritty in its presentation, and the whole story is narrated by Max himself, who is apparently quite the eloquent speaker. He describes each situation as if he is a novelist, and his scratchy, stressed out voice adds a lot of emotion to the situations. If there is one thing Max Payne did right, it was tell an engaging story with lots of finesse.
Most of your time in Max Payne is spent killing people, blunt as that description may sound. You go in a room, clear it, then proceed to the next room where there are yet more New York gangsters for you to blow away. By use of the bullet time mechanic, you can at least do it in style. The first few times you go into a slow motion dive, and kill multiple enemies, sliding to the floor as they fall into their own blood, you feel like the ultimate action hero. after you do it 10 more times, you feel like you're going through the motions.It reminds me a lot of a more recent release, Wet, in that record. Wet had lots of great action moments, but in the end you were just going into slow more every other half minute to shoot things.
While the sound helps build the game up, the graphics are such a huge mixed bag that it's difficult to really know what to make of them. a lot of textures are bland and muddy, meanwhile others look quite fantastic. Perhaps worst of all is the faces, and the worst of them has got to be our hero Max. He just always has this goofy grin on his face no matter what's going on. Standing over your wife's corpse? Goofy grin. Just blew a guys head in? Goofy grin. Almost dead? Goofy grin.
Max Payne tells a tragic story in a beautiful way, but it's really boring after the first couple of levels. It doesn't help that this game is sort of long for its genre. If it were shorter, perhaps the pill would be easier to swallow. Max Payne both introduced and perfected bullet time in video games - an epic cinematic feature seen in movies for years. It deserves all credit for that, but in this day and age it's really hard to truly enjoy Max Payne. Perhaps if I'd been able to play it back in 2001, I would see it differently, but somehow I doubt it.