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Max Payne, the New York police detective, has had a bad time of it recently, and it's time for payback. Three years ago, junkies high on a mysterious new narcotic called Valkyr slaughtered his wife and child. The tragedy drives him on a prolonged path of vengeance. It turns him from a detective looking for easy work to a deep undercover vice cop infiltrating the Mob to a hardened vigilante. Max Payne is a film-noir-inspired game about revenge that is unflinching in every way possible. It's dark and moody, extremely twisted, and turns PC action gaming on its ear by featuring state-of-the-art graphics, audio, and cinematic action.
Aside from its inspired use of photorealistic graphics and unique graphic novel (comic book) panels to further the plot, the game also features something called Bullet Time: a slow-motion toggle, usable for a limited time, that re-creates the awe-inspiring diving maneuvers made popular by director John Woo and, of course, The Matrix. At the touch of a button, Max can go into slow motion and leap forwards or back, and side to side, while pumping generous amounts of lead into his enemy's bodies. This toggle isn't just eye candy, it's a strategic device that evens the sometimes staggering odds the game throws at you. The action is made even more visceral by the interactive environments (glass shatters, plaster puffs into dust, and wood splinters) and generous amounts of blood.
The game carries a Mature label, and this should be taken very seriously. The game doesn't pull a single punch, whether in flashbacks showing Max's reaction to his gunned-down spouse, or even, somewhat tastelessly, flashbacks that include his slain infant daughter. And he mows down a virtual army of hackneyed Joe Pesci-style Italian mobsters or ski-mask-wearing terrorists with extreme prejudice. The plot is predictable, the script is humorously bad (intentionally so?), but the action will definitely make a shooter fan drool. Max Payne is the übershooter, and as such, it should be kept out of the hands of kids. But mature action fans will love it. --Andrew S. Bub
- Fantastic graphics and unparalleled action
- The slow-motion Bullet Time is The Matrix or Hard Boiled come to life
- It's a little on the short side
- The script is, at times, hilariously bad