Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 07/23/01 | Genre: Action
So many games are being rehashed these days, and so few of them actually offer anything beyond what the original incarnation of the game offered. In fact, a good percentage of those titles being ported over to NextGEN systems are actually inferior to the original! For examples of this you need look no further then Grandia 2, Star Trek: Elite Force, Giants: Citizen Kabuto or Crazy Taxi. However, proud Xbox owners know that rehashed-games on their system will be as good if not better then any other iteration on any other platform. Max Payne and the Xbox truly is a match made in gaming heaven.
Rockstar made this game with the architecture of a PC in mind, so it should come as no surprise that the Xbox is more then qualified to do justice to Payne. Short of 256megs of ram and a GeForce 3, you will not find textures this slick, or load times this quick on any other platform. And even with boatloads of ram and the newest most powerful video card on the market (as of the time of this review), you'll still come up a little short. This is the version of Max Payne to own.
Sadly, this port of the game offers nothing new in the way of extras. Max Payne has been screaming 'multi-player' since its original release, but alas, it is nowhere to be seen. Controls are tweakable to the max and as expected you can customize various other elements of the play control (crosshair cursor, sensitivity, etc). Play-control with the gi-nourmous Xbox controller is somewhat clunky however, but only at first. Running, jumping, evading, shooting, are all performed with relative ease once you get use to the disproportionate size of the controller.
It would seriously be in Microsoft's best interest to release a keyboard/mouse combo for the unit, MS has been using the excuse that the 'Box is intended only for games and releasing a mouse and keyboard would be adding to the argument that the system is a PC in a box. Well I got news for you Billy G. it is a PC in a box (and a rather large, almost computer-sized box at that) refusing to release a superior method of gameplay is not going to change that. But I digress.
As Max Payne, you will play the part of a hardened, ruthless NYPD ex-cop. By now I'm sure we all know the story; Family gets murdered + major mob syndicate + graphic novel approach - standard courtroom proceedings = one hardass mutha who is out for blood. As the anti-hero of the game, Max Payne, you'll find yourself cappin' baddies in a plethora of different environments, from Hell's Kitchen's battered and bruised back alleys to long-abandoned New York subway systems. Max's philosophy is to shoot first, and shoot last.
Max Payne's method of unraveling the story is done primarily through gritty and dark comic-book cutscenes. I cannot say that this adds a ton of excitement or intrigue to the story but it certainly does not detriment it. Voice acting is generally passable, although dialogue can be, at times, over the top.
The most celebrated (and perhaps overly hyped) aspect of the game comes in the form of 'Bullet Time'. Bullet Time slows down the surrounding action while retaining the ability to aim in real-time. The result is a way cool looking, almost cinematic scene, not to mention a better chance of survival. In addition, you have the option to 'Shoot Dodge'. Shoot Dodging consists of slowing down the action while Max does a matrix-esque dive in whatever direction you are pressing.
The level of depth found in this game is awe-inspiring to say the least. Environments are almost wholly interactive. Nearly every object is blow-up-able, and bullet holes do not magically disappear over time. From volumetric lighting effects, to surface detail only possible by cranking up texture quality to the max on the PC version, this game will floor you with the level of detail it presents. The game does suffer from slowdown at times, however.
The developers did not rest on their laurels in the sound department either. Max Payne fully supports 5.1-surround sound. And often you will find yourself relying on directional sound to figure out where the enemies are coming from, or where you are supposed to go. The sound in the game is comprised primarily of environmental sound effects, from far off rail grinding trains to realistic overhead bird chirping. Although a high-intensity music track does set in during the more adrenaline filled scenes of the game.
As previously stated, Max Payne offers up very little in the way of extras. Completing the game on the easy or normal mode unlocks a higher difficulty mode, which is basically the same exact game but tougher because damage inflicted on your person is more devastating. Beating this higher difficulty mode unlocks yet a higher difficulty mode. Slaving your way through these intense modes will result in 'The New York Minute', which is in essence a race against the clock on every level. Ho-hum bonus additions all and all. You will enjoy around 10-15 solid hours of gameplay in Max Payne, which is not too shabby considering the beautifully rendered, diverse gameplay environments. Although people will inevitably complain that the game is too short.
Max Payne is quite simply one of the best shooters out there for the Xbox. If you've already plowed through Halo on legendary mode and you are still itching for some heart pounding, adrenaline inducing, underwear ruining gunfights then Max Payne will more then deliver the goods.