Max Payne Still Packs Revenge and Intensity in Classic Shooter

Posted: April 13, 2012 in Action, Shooter

Bullet Time, pulp fiction, New York Minute…sounds like Max Payne’s back in the house.

Max Payne is in many ways an icon in the video game industry you just knew would eventually show up for the iOS party. Like the Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog, he’s the kind of guy you want on your side. In this latest reincarnation for our revenge seeking vigilante hero, Max Payne in his dated glory is still the man when it comes to a story-driven, intense third-person shooter.

Ported to the iOS by Rockstar Games, the story of Max Payne opens with gut-wrenching, emotionally-charged scenes that set the tone for the rest of the game. A tale that involves the demise of his family, the search for the truth and ultimately, the hunt for revenge, I would argue that the story in Max Payne remains as strong as it ever has been compared to many of today’s games where storytelling is so secondary. Even the voice acting from a decade ago helps to build the anger, desperation, and hatred that transform Max Payne into who he is.

As a third-person shooter, Max Payne has all the elements you want. From dodging and jumping to stealth and Bullet Time slow-motion, the game provides an involved and engaging experience. The adventure follows a nine-chapter storyline and offers a number of modes including Fugitive, Hard-Boiled, Dead on Arrival and New York Minute. Fugitive mode offers relatively easy gameplay where Max suffers less damage, finds ample supplies of painkillers to repair health, and has more ammo than you can shoot a mobster with. New York Minute is a great game mode where Max is challenged to clear out levels within a limited time period.

While the game has been around for more than a decade and I know most reviewers like to review based on nostalgia, it’s probably fair to look at Max Payne from the perspective of today’s gaming audience. Visually, Max Payne is a good looking game with detailed environments that draw the player in. The story is presented in comic book cut scenes accompanied by what I consider really excellent voiceover. The voiceovers are worth pointing out because there is a certain talent involved in coming off convincingly. Believe me, it’s night and day when listening to good and bad voice actors and Max Payne fortunately did them right.

The graphics and animation look terrific on the latest iPad, and they look fine on older generation iPads and the iPhone. Remarkably, while the graphics are from a 10+ year old game, they look comparable to many of today’s game. Don’t get me wrong, Max is showing some wrinkles. Besides some of the low resolution images which aren’t really bad, the other hitch is that the faces of people look pasted onto to square-like heads which can look awkward and even a little freaky. However, most importantly, Max Payne runs rather smoothly on the new iPad, although there is an occasional minor lag on the original iPad.

The game has a tutorial which I suggest for new players that gets you familiar with the various controls. Speaking of the controls, the devs do a rather nice job converting a PC mouse-controlled game to touch screen. Moving and turning done by tapping and dragging on the screen are more than adequate, although they can feel a little loose at times. For more specific actions, buttons are provided for jumping and opening doors and moving while jumping will generate other actions such as rolling for example. A shooting button is also provided, and an Auto Aim function is included that you can turn on/off. In general, I suggest turning on the Auto Aim function because I found shooting lacked accuracy otherwise. A Bullet Time button activates slow motion and generally works well especially since you can see bullet trails galore (ala The Matrix).

Everything is neatly integrated into a simple HUD. The HUD displays everything from weapons and ammo levels to the amount of bullet time in the form of an hourglass. Switching between weapons is as simple as swiping the weapon icon to shuffle amongst your arsenal. There is a good degree of customization and button placement, although I found the default placement more than adequate. But, if you desire, you can move and place buttons where you like.

In terms of the gameplay, Max Payne benefits greatly from the atmospheric, mood-setting storyline. For new players, Max Payne starts off rather slowly, but the latter part of the game is really where things liven up. Whether you’re in a lonely subway or in a seedy brothel, the game does an effective job of establishing and building a good amount of tension and intensity. Even as you peak around a bathroom stall door, you feel a bit of paranoia creep up on you.

Also, there is a good mix of heavy action as well as stealth activities. The gun battles with the mafia are wild and persistent, and can be quite graphic (for an iTunes game). Humor is a big part of Max Payne so there are plenty of situations where you may actually enjoy eavesdropping on some of the funny conversations between mobsters before you blow them away.

While they work more than adequately, the touch controls can offer a fair share of annoyances keeping in mind that this game was originally PC mouse based. One general annoyance is the lack of precision. There are a number of platforming elements in the game (i.e. jumping between subway trains) that can be tedious. Other times, turning and moving can require more tweaking than you’d like.

Aside from the good, albeit temperamental controls, and the occasional lag, the game inconsistently implements Auto Save. For a game such as this, checkpoints and Auto Save are almost mandatory. Unfortunately, players will need to manually save progress. Otherwise, you’re looking at a lot of pain by Max Payne. Also, there is a slight load time of varying lengths in between chapters which can slow things down.

Instead of GameCenter support, Rockstar has implemented its Social Club which currently provides 41 achievements. I actually like the layout of the Social Club, and it’s a nice change of pace from GameCenter. Of course, this means achievements here aren’t tracked elsewhere.

Max Payne may be from another era, but he can still give today’s games a run for their money. This third-person shooter has something that other games still struggle for today—personality. The terrific voice acting, engaging storyline and atmospheric tone throughout is still one of Max Payne’s biggest differentiators. For old school gamers, Max Payne will bring back memories of sitting in front of your PC monitor with mouse and Cheetos in hand. Those new to Max Payne will enjoy the intensity and humor and just maybe have a better appreciation of what old school means.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (excellent port of a classic with great storyline; atmospheric game with personality the delivers intense gameplay; touch controls are more than adequate but can temperamental and require tweaking; inconsistent auto save function means relying on manual saves; Rockstar Social Club achievements and tracking)



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