The first person shooter genre has come a long way since its inception with Wolfenstein 3D, and others. FPS’s have become the jewel of the gaming industry, often pushing computers and consoles past their limit. As these games gained popularity in the PC world they have gradually made the transition to the console realm. Max Payne takes the genre one step further, although taking place in the third-person it inherits much from the FPS style of gameplay. Max Payne on PS2 blends an excellent story with interesting gameplay, decent graphics, and a couple original twists producing a unique gaming experience that is both a hit and a miss.
The graphics in the PS2 version of Max Payne show some of the limitations inherent in the PS2 hardware. Textures are overly dark and sometimes appear muddled. Characters models are detailed but still overly blocky compared to titles such as Metal Gear Solid 2 and Final Fantasy X. I did like the use of many special effects such as muzzle blasts and the exclusive Matrix-style “bullet time” mode. It is especially invigorating being able to see each bullet whiz by your character’s head. The story line is held together through the generous use of graphic novel cut scenes, however the loading times for the cut scenes are a bit too long and I felt that they became a somewhat obnoxious interlude as the game progressed. The game does manage to hold graphically true to its dark roots, but I feel that it is overly dark at times and causes some difficulty in seeing what is truly going on. Frame skip is a frequent occurrence and I felt that the game’s engine was way too complicated for what the PS2 can support in this iteration. Overall the graphics show promise but I feel fall short of what they had been before.
The sound in Max Payne is a high point; weapon noises are very realistic, and the voice acting definitely helps set the mood. I enjoyed that noises slowed down in bullet time mode which really helped add to the atmosphere. Once again the voice acting is excellent and at times can be downright terrifying. Sounds carry well from room to room, however sometimes they feel like they were way too loud from where they originate from. Max Payne carries an excellent sound engine and I feel it is one part of the game that truly excels.
Max Payne represents the fruit of many years of careful tweaking and development. Bullet time mode is an exciting addition that allows your character to slow down similar to The Matrix. Bullet time is essential to beating the game. The story is in-depth and has numerous twists and turns that lend to the gritty, cinematic feel of the game. For a console shooter the control in Max Payne is easy to learn and fairly functional. Using both analog sticks is tricky at first but I was soon able to quickly move and shoot with ease. The third person view takes a little bit of time to learn as well; while the camera angle is well done it did confuse me a few times. Overall Max Payne features solid shooter gameplay and adds story elements that have never been seen before in a shooter.
Max Payne is a solid game on many levels but I hesitate to fully recommend it due to its engine shortfalls. Graphics need slight improvement and I even would be willing to see less detail in some areas in exchange for a smoother framerate. Sound work excels and I enjoyed the spooky feel of Max Payne. If you are looking for an action shooter with a solid story then pick this one up. It’s a shame that the PS2 version didn’t live up to the PC and XBOX versions, but if it’s your only resort to play on Sony hardware, you shouldn’t pass this great game up.