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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Max Payne 2 (PC)



By Jim McHugh

The sequel to the one of the most original an entertaining PC games has arrives on store shelves, ready to entice us once again. Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne encompasses all of the excellent gameplay attributes that the first game possessed, including an excellent story, fast-paced action, and superb graphics. As a matter of fact this sequel is almost an exact clone of its predecessor. So, should you spend your money on a game that you've already played or save it for something else? Check out the full review of Max Payne 2 right here at The Laser and make up your own mind.

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is a gritty, noir filled 3rd person action/adventure shooter that plays out like a crime-novel right on your home PC. The only problem is that we played the exact game a few years ago…it was called Max Payne. With this in mind, there really isn't too much that has been changed up with this sequel to the now classic original. All of the bells and whistles that made the first game such a hit have returned to lay the foundations of Max Payne 2, giving gamers more of what they loved initially.

Two years after the brutally violent conclusion of the first game, we find our hero Max in a dire, life or death situation. Blamed for the murder his current police force partner, Payne's life is thrown into chaos as his past and present collide into a maelstrom of murder, deceit, and betrayal. Now wanted by the NYPD, Max Payne must sift through the clues from a gangland battlefield that stretches across both the poor and elite sections of New York City in order to solve the current mystery as well unchain the ghosts from his haunted past. That is, if he can survive long enough.

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne essentially provides the same experiences as the original game, though the developer Remedy has been able to improve upon several of the aesthetic and design mechanics of the game. But as my grandpa used to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix", and MP2 definitely sticks to that adage. The combat scenarios in this third person action/adventure game are just as fast paced and brutal as the first Max Payne game, keeping to the same formula save for the additions of some newer weapons to the arsenal (such as the sweeper shotgun and a few other surprises). The 'patented' bullet-time effect (used to dodge bullets in a slow motion style akin to effects found in the film The Matrix) has been improved slightly with the advent of new technology. The characters movement patterns when executing a bullet-time move are more fluid and realistic. Also, the in-game camera will even do a nifty 'fly-by' of the extreme near-miss shots, mimicking again some of the more memorable scenes from The Matrix.

The three years of PC game advancements haven't gone unnoticed with the other aspects of Max Payne 2. The designers have improved upon the games' models and texturing, giving everything a nice modern makeover. Much more detail can be found in the character skins of the game, giving them a much more realistic feel to their overall look. Everything from the facial expressions to the clothes has definitely been improved over the original game. This also goes for the buildings, vehicles, and other aesthetics game: again, much more believable than in the previous Max Payne game. The in-game physics have also gone through several remarkable improvements, allowing for more precise damage to pretty much every object found in the game, from walls, buildings, cars, windows, people, etc. If you see it, you can cause realistic damage to it in Max Payne 2. Also of note is the improved A.I. with the game's hordes of nasties (and a few of the good guys too). A more intelligent opponent means a more interesting game.

Probably the most notable point in the game isn't necessarily an addition to the gameplay. Actually, it's something that's been removed. Gone forever are the extremely annoying mini-puzzles that popped up during the course of the original game, the same ones that caused so many people grief and anxiety. Instead of the crappy drug induced maze puzzles from the first game, Remedy opted to give gamers several interesting plot moving 'respites' from the overt gunplay found in the majority of the game. Several dream sequences give players a surreal jaunt through our hero's jaunted psyche, not to mention a really cool funhouse walkthrough later on in the game. Pretty much useless in a gameplay fashion, but not too bad for a change of pace during a game.

With all of the various improvements found in the game, the one thing that Remedy didn't do was tweak the noir-like story presentation of Max Payne 2. All of the tongue-in-cheek pulp fun that the original brimmed with can be found in the sequel. This includes the famed risqué writing, over-the-top voice acting, as well as the homage to graphic novels with the ingenious plot moving cut scenes. Dark, riveting, and slightly tongue-in-cheek aspects are all the trademarks of the story-telling style found in the game.

The main portion of Max Payne 2 provides something over15 hours on continuous gaming over roughly 6 main locations (albeit large and diverse in their mapping). In the traditions of console gaming, the designers have incorporated several different levels of difficulty into the body of the main game, allowing players to unlock more difficult and intense forms of gaming after completing the initial run through. More interesting that re-treading the entire game are the other gameplay options in the main menu. Maybe we missed these on the original release, because they came as a complete surprise to us after exploring the main menu. Included are a few 'running the gauntlet' games, allowing you to retrace your steps through some of the more spectacular combat scenarios in the main game. The one element that took us by surprise was the 'New York Minute' option, something that again was totally unexpected. Starting off in one of a half dozen fixed zones found within the main body of the game, players must simply try to stay alive as long as they can. The may not sound as simple as it seems though. The longer you stay alive, the harder the A.I. becomes to beat. Not only that, but as time progress, more enemy units begin to come at you from the various transport pads located throughout the various maps. So, if you kill one baddie, another one will materialize a moment later. Kill that one, and two more will show up. And so on, and so on. Power-ups, such as the infamous pain-killers and caches of weapons are strategically placed around the maps. Getting to them in once piece is another matter all together, since you'll be striving to keep alive with your wits, weapons, and conserved bullet time.

While one wouldn't consider Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne to be a groundbreaking piece of computer gaming, it does have its merits. The gameplay is excellent, recapturing the magic that made us enjoy the original release so much. Also, with the improvements on the technology found in the games engine, we're treated to not only a better and more realistic form of A.I., but also better graphics and physics. Remedy also stuck to the same noir formula that made the original MP storyline so entertaining and engrossing, giving a nice side-bar to the intense action and violence found in the game. All in all, Max Payne 2 is an excellent game that should not only entertain fans of 3rd person shooters, but also die-hard loyalists of the original game.

Grade: A

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