Max Payne (Windows) 2001
Advanced third-person shooter graphics, advanced bullet time (you can see every bullet)
Magazine preview - PCXL (2000)
Review - IGN (Jul 27, 2001)
"If this is what Payne feels like, then I'm a self-proclaimed masochist.
You know Max Payne...you've been hearing about it for years now. Originally slated for a Spring 2000 release, Max Payne has been in development for a while, and has gotten a lot of media attention -- but I can honestly say that, after playing it, Max Payne lives up to the hype.
The game itself is a third-person shooter that recounts a dark and dirty flashback of undercover DEA agent Max Payne. And when I say dark, I mean pitch black. It's so gritty it almost made me sick at times -- but I mean that in a good way. The story is so well told and so involved that it's like you're playing a John Woo action film on your computer -- something the folks at Remedy have no qualms about admitting since they scattered Woo references throughout the game. Within the first 20 minutes of the game, your wife, baby, and boss are dead. Seeing as how you don't have much left to live for, you go after the Mafia drug syndicate where you've been working as an undercover mole, exacting justice on the people you think are responsible for your family and friend's deaths.
To say the story in Max Payne is intense is an understatement. It would be like calling Dom Deluise husky. In following with the story, you have a rag-tag group of thugs, heavies, Mafia Dons, junkies, hookers, and other members of my family that you'll interact with. The story elements are handled through a variety of means, presented through in-game cutscenes, conversations during gameplay, and narrated graphic novel-inspired panels that fit the game perfectly, and really add a lot of style and character to the game in the process.
A lot of the action in the game revolves around "bullet time," a slow-motion state where Max gains super-human reflexes. To be completely honest, when I first saw bullet time back in the Max Payne preview days, I thought it was just going to be a stupid gimmick inspired by The Matrix that would be completely useless and overused in the game. But I have to admit...it works impeccably. Although it is used a lot in the game, it's a very innovative approach to a shooter, and it's a substantial part of what makes Max Payne so good. Being able to control your aim in real time while everything -- including yourself -- is slowed to a snail's pace not only adds to the over-the-top cinematic feel of Max Payne, but really makes the game what it is, and sets it apart from the slew of other action shooters that we're all too familiar with by now. In keeping with the John Woo style, Max can jump out of the way of oncoming bullets, that you can actually see moving past you in slow motion. Overall the effect is very well done, and super-cool to boot.
Although the game will take the average gamer about a dozen hours to complete, it's a non-stop thrill-ride the whole way through, and you never go for more than a few seconds without seeing a gangster who's ready to take you down with extreme prejudice. I'm personally getting tired of shooters running out of steam and just becoming tedious to complete, and I was satisfied with the game's length. The use of bullet time comes in very handy during the game as you'll rarely run across just one gun-toting thug at a time, and more often you're up against three or four foes at once, which would make the game extremely difficult if it wasn't for bullet time -- and at times the game is still damn hard, even on the easiest difficulty level. While bullet time helps, it's Payne's impressive arsenal -- which includes close-range weapons, pistols, shotguns, sub-machine guns, an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and explosives -- that really gets the job done, especially when you're using the ever-satisfying double Uzis.
Third person shooters have traditionally been plagued by awkward camera work, but the view in Max Payne was handled really well, and I never encountered a time when the camera was stuck in a wall, or angled so I couldn't see the action. I did occasionally block the camera with my character's shoulder when I was crouched in a corner waiting for an unsuspecting goon to walk past, but all in all the camera work was some of the best I've ever experienced in a third person shooter.
Overall the AI is pretty good, as enemies will take cover, surround you, and attack in packs. Everything is dynamic, so your opponents will actively react to your actions. If you go in aggressively, they're going to come right at you, but if you're a little more careful, you can sometimes lure an unsuspecting victim around a corner and blast them before they know what hit 'em. There were a few instances where the dynamic pathing didn't seem to work quite right and a thug would be running into a wall, but they were rare and far between. I was a bit disappointed that the enemies seemed to know where I was before I did. Sometimes as soon as the door would swing open a grenade would fly right at me, blowing me to bits. Other times I would be way down a hall around a corner standing still listening to a conversation that a few heavies were having, and a horde of Uzi-toting thugs would come running at me saying, "It's Payne! Get 'em!" Well how in the hell did they know I was there, huh? The AI does seem a little "hyper" at times, but it does keep the action flowing, and the game upbeat.
As good as the game plays, it looks even better. Even though the game has been in development for years, the graphics in Max Payne remain cutting edge. The high-res textures in the game are some of the best I've ever seen, and make the game environments look super-realistic. This is only enhanced by the exceptional lighting, muzzle flash, and fire effects. Character models are also first-rate, although Max's arms do seem a bit long for his body and he always has a grimace on his face that makes him look constipated, but it certainly doesn't detract from the game. I did encounter one of the strangest bugs I've ever seen in a game with Max's character model, though. Obviously the character models are made of separate pieces, because on more than one occasion, Max's head and hands would become detached from his body and float around, following the torso in a kind of dance macabre. It was rather funny to see Max's head hang a bit in mid-air whenever I would jump or crouch, and made me think of what a Rayman shooter may possible play like (if anyone from Ubi Soft is reading this review, that's my idea!).
All in all though, Max Payne is a visual, as well as visceral, treat. Of course, all of this graphical power does come at a cost -- high system specs. There have been some worries about Max Payne's high system requirements bouncing around the Internet lately, but it ran well on a 600MHz machine at 1024x768 with 32-bit full detail, so I think the average gamer will be able to run it with no problems.
In matching with the graphical realism in the game, the environments themselves react like you would expect them to react, further immersing you into the digital world. Almost everything in the world is interactive, meaning you can flush toilets, turn on sinks and showers, shoot cash registers and watch them explode in a shower of sparks, break glass, and even blow out speakers in elevators that pipe caustic easy-listening "musak" (trust me, you should always do this...you'll thank me later).
Although musak should be exterminated with extreme prejudice, like the rest of the game, the sound work in Max Payne isn't just good -- it's exquisite. Everything from the sound effects to the background music to the voice work is flawless, and I suggest playing Max Payne on a surround sound system or with headphones to get the full effect. While the dialogue is cheesy and heavy-handed at times, it encompasses the atmosphere of an action-packed film wholly, and achieves exactly what I imagine the designers envisioned -- unless they were going for a Shakespearean comedy, and if that's that case, they failed miserably.
There's no multiplay in Max Payne -- the mechanics of bullet time would pretty much make multiplay impossible, and without it Max Payne wouldn't be Max Payne -- but those of you who want more Payne shouldn't have to wait long as the game ships with a full set of editing tools, albeit no textures. However, Remedy is supposed to release a texture set later next week, and hopefully some documentation for the editor, as it isn't the most intuitive set of tools I've ever messed around with. If we figure it out, we might even make a replica of the IGN offices, but since it's basically just a big room with cubicles, it might not work so well since 20 rabid IGN editors might be jumping you all at the same time -- we'll just have to see. I do expect to see a mass of user-created mods and levels very, very soon, which should extend the playing time of Max Payne to infinity.
Well, as you can tell, I was pretty damn happy with Max Payne. It's got plenty of style, and enough action to have you hopped-up on adrenalin for hours after playing, leaving you saying, "I can take more Payne. Give me more! More!" It's not deep, but Max Payne is more than a satisfying experience the whole way through, and it's a title you absolutely must not miss if you're an action gamer. Max Payne, you are a delight.
-- Tal Blevins"
1) Most advanced game graphics at the time.
2) The gameplay is heavily influenced by the Hong Kong action cinema genre, particularly the work of director John Woo, and it was one of the first games to feature the bullet time effect popularized by The Matrix, a form of slow motion — when triggered, the passage of time is slowed down to such extent that the movements of bullets can be seen by the naked eye and enables Max to perform special moves. Although Payne's movement is also slowed, the player is still able to position the aiming reticle and react in real time, providing an advantage over enemies. Likewise, the camera may follow the path of a bullet fired from a sniper rifle. (this was featured first in Requiem: Avenging Angel (1999).
3) Max's bullet time abilities seem to mirror these of the berserkers, Norse Viking warriors who drove
themselves into such a frenzy when they entered battle that they seemed superhuman-strong, fast, untiring, and unable to feel pain.
4) As a result of the inevitable comparisons to The Matrix, the designers have included several homages to the film in order to capitalize on the hype (for instance, the detonation of the subway tunnel door to gain access to the bank vault is similar to the cartwheeling elevator door in the movie, while the introduction "Nothing to Lose" level is similar to the lobby shootout scene in the film). Futuremark, which licensed the MAX-FX graphics for their 3DMark benchmark series, included a Matrix-like lobby shootout as a game test in the 2001 edition.
5) Early on, the V drug was not only a mind-warping drug, but also body-warping. It fact it made its users grow into hulking giants with glowing green eyes. In fact, early script drafts deal with super soldiers. There were even work in progress screenshots which shows Max fighting these super soldiers (see picture below). All this was scrapped as it looked silly and was too similar to "Sin" game.
6) In Part I, Chapter Six, Max Payne enters a small flat. There is a gun lying on the counter, and a gangster can be heard whistling in the toilet. The toilet doors are locked tight, unless the player picks up the gun, which makes the adversary flush the toilet and come out. This is a reference to Quentin Tarantino's movie Pulp Fiction: (!Pulp Fiction spoiler) - This area closely resembles the scene of Vincent Vega's death, when Butch sneaks into his apartment and shoots Vic with his own gun which he left on the counter in the kitchen.
7) In the first level, Roscoe Street Station, Max overhears two thugs talking. After a moment of conversation or two, a phone rings. The ring tone is The Ecstasy of Gold from the film The Good,
the Bad and the Ugly, composed by Ennio Morricone.
8) In the skyscraper mission, in one of the elevators, if you stay and listen, you will hear some guards talking about how it would be cool if you could see your moves in slow motion. The guard concludes by saying that he will name this effect Bullet-Time.
9) In one part of Max Payne, the graphic novel jokes about Max being in a game (this happens in one of the
10) Max Payne features a lot of Remedy (developer company) employees as characters in the game, including screenwriter Sam Lake which face was a model for a Max Payne face himself (see picture below)
11) Max Payne kills literally hundreds of people in this game. The total count for the entire game is 662,
but one kill is included for a dream sequence.
12) Max Payne is named in reference to Max Rockatansky from the 1979 film "Mad Max". Like Max Rockatansky, Max Payne is a policeman whose wife and child is murdered.
13) The death of Alex Balder in Chapter 1 Part 2 was the longest and most difficult cut-scene for the Remedy team to accomplish. After many different attempts they could not make the death look convincing enough from any exterior angle. Finally, in a shot of brilliance one of the developers decided the death should be witnessed from Alex's perspective as he fades away -a nod to film Leon: The Professional (1994). This was the only way they could've gotten the scene to work.
14) Game runs on Windows 10 with patch.
15) Originally the scene of the death of Max Payne's wife was to be witnessed through a cut-scene, but the developers could not get the effect they wanted with the technology available. Instead, since they had excellent voice work, they decided not to shift perspective from Max, and have him listen only to her screams as she died. The sound files for the scene are still present in the final version of the game, but are not used.
Early screenshots 1998
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