Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
From All The talk post-E3 you might be forgiven for thinking that there's only one game worth talking about. In fact, one magazine went as far as to wipe out the entire catalogue of PC games past and future with the brilliantly misinformed tagline "Half-Life 2 - The Only Game That Matters.." We weren't prepared to accept that and searched high and low for another PC gem. even delving into the lower depths of Kentia Hall to brave the portaloo stands staffed by troubled individuals who hadn't seen another human since the show had begun. It took us until the last day though to see a game that could quite happily hang out and drink with Gordon Freeman and it took lengthy negotiations before we were allowed past the security cordon that had been set-up to protect Rockstar's latest release, the sequel to one of the coolest games of all time. Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne.
Led away from the main show, privileged with the knowledge that I was the only journo from the UK to get to see the game. I was dragged through a labyrinth of corridors, stairs and escalators, to end up blinking in a huge room draped with white sheets, facing the sort of air conditioning that would keep milk fresh for a week, and a panel of top-end representatives from Remedy and Rockstar. As I started to open my mouth, I was shushed, the lights dimmed, a huge cinema screen dropped into place and the sequel was unveiled.
And what a demonstration. The new engine is staggering, bursting with detail and a sense of realism that borders on the photo-realistic. When the original Max Payne was released the visuals were a cut above everything else but they look horribly ragged now compared to the sequel. Forget the look of a man who hasn't eaten a piece of fresh fruit in weeks, the new Max can blink, is lip-synched and can express emotions by altering his expression. Likewise, the rest of the characters you brush up against look totally realistic and behave in a more lifelike way, with totally rewritten Al routines in place. Just look at the screenshots. These aren't doctored images, but actual shots from the game, but before I got a chance to say "look at the whiskers on that" Max was fighting for his life in a ballet of slow-motion bullets.
Bullet-Time is the innovation that Max Payne hung his coat on and despite being so obvious you wonder why no one thought of it before, it worked like a dream. Most of you would agree that without it Max Payne would have been just another bog-standard third-person action game, albeit an extremely goodlooking one. Bullet-Time transformed it into a massive hit, introducing a piece of gaming vocabulary that has been copied many times but never equalled and creating a unique experience that, for most people, turned the game into one of the most enjoyable games ever.
And, before any of you write in, I know that Bullet-Time wasn't for everyone. For every ten people that wanted carnal relations with the game there was one naysayer that was left cold. Take the office. Payne fans down to a man, apart from our very own man-mountain, Martin Korda, who was just nonplussed by the whole thing seeing as he rates The Matrix as one of his favourite films of all time, but there you go.
Three Is The Magic Number
This is going to change, according to Sam Lake, lead writer on both Max Payne and the sequel. "The script for the sequel is three times as big as the original. It's going to be a much deeper game and we're taking a big risk by putting him in a love story this time around. In the original we kept the story separate so that you could blast through the game even if you didn't want to spend time with the graphic novel but this time around we're working hard to incorporate the story into the game."
Subtitled The Fall Of Max Payne, the title hints at another playful feel-good romp through the streets of New York, although it's also set in New York in the fall (read autumn), so the title isn't necessarily as dark as it sounds. Set a year after the end of the first game (all the characters that were lucky enough to survive the original are back for the sequel), the story starts with Max back in uniform, but once again standing accused of killing his former partner. Instead of shrugging it off, he confesses to the murder, which setsup the whole film-noir love angle. But don't worry, Remedy hasn't gone soft on you. According to Sam Lake, The Fall Of Max Payne is "dark, tragic and violent, and mostly in Bullet-Time of course. Love hurts, and you just know there isn't going to be a happy ending? Or is there?"
A New York Minute
But a script that's three times the size doesn't mean the game is going to take three times as long to complete. Some of you felt that, at around 10 hours, the original Max Payne, was too short. It's a debate that we're willing to entertain but most of us at ZONE thought the game was the perfect length - it told the story, let you shoot as many guns as you wanted to and left you with a fitting finale on top of the skyscraper. The relatively short length also meant pretty much everyone who played it completed it, a concept that's dear to Remedy's heart and especially the lead writer Sam Lake. "It's really bad for me if people don't finish the game as they don't get to finish my story." Petri Jarvilehto agrees: "We feel strongly that it's better to have a compressed amount of excellence, rather than diluting it across 26 hours. We want to keep people playing until the end."
And he's got a point. How many games feel like they've been padded out to provide the seemingly obligatory 20+ hours of gameplay? Sure there's a place in this world for games like Morrowind that require life after death to complete but surely there's also room for the tightly structured cinematic piece like Max Payne? From research we've done it's obvious that a high percentage of you don't finish every game you play and if you take an analogy it's like watching a brilliant film but deciding that you've had enough halfway through and walking. It just doesn't happen. So yes. The Fall Of Max Payne 2 is going to be a compact experience but that's no bad thing. Hey. I've spent my whole life convincing people that size isn't everything and I'm not about to have a change of heart now.
And, in what seemed like no more than a New York minute, the demo was over. As I was being led away I had time to throw in one last question. There's going to be no multiplayer element to the proceedings -like watching a film it will be a single-player experience. There's only one Max Payne and there's only one of you - how you spend your time together is down to you, but don't expect an anodyne relationship. From what I've seen of the game, the ride is going to be rockier than the original and, if you shed a tear along the way, deal with it like a man. Brush it away on your sleeve, reach for your holster, hit the button marked Bullet-Time and take out all of your frustrations on the people around you. That's what they're there for.
So, You Wanna Be A Porn Star?
If You're Going To Survive In This Business Kid You're Going To Need A New Name...
Everyone knows that the classic way to come up with your porn name is to take your first pet's name and your mother's maiden name and stick them together. It works every time - mine's Bramble Washington, which might not immediately cause a stirring in the loin, but does at least point in some obscure way to the male genitalia. Sometimes though it unearths some real gems, like Mona Sax. A name that works on almost every level imaginable (come on... moaning, playing the human saxophone, etc), Mona is Max's love interest, which in itself marks a huge departure from the first game. If you haven't played it, Max's wife and daughter are killed at the start, leaving him with his immortal 'nothing to lose' tagline. This time around it looks like he's got everything to lose, including his modesty, if Mona lives up to her promise.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode