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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Rockstar

 

Developer

Remedy

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

December 12, 2003

 

 

- Still some of the best action gaming around
- Great storyline and writing

 

 

- Crappy framerate and various technical glitches
- Not a whole lot different from the original

 

 

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC)

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (Xbox)

Grand Theft Auto 3: Vice City (Playstation 2)

 

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Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

Score: 7.6/10

 

Let me start off by saying this: if I were reviewing the Xbox version of this game, I'd be saying something like "Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is an outstanding sequel that follows pretty much the same conventions as the original to the same result: complete awesomeness." Alas, this here is the PS2 version, and that statement is only a half truth. Don't get me wrong - at its core, Max Payne 2 is still an excellent game, but much like its PS2 forbearer, some technical issues stand in the way of its glory.

 

project-gotham-racing-2-a1.jpg (15505 bytes)          project-gotham-racing-2-a1.jpg (15505 bytes)

 

The first thing to know, if you don't already, is that Max thinks targeting lock-ons are for goddamned losers. You have to aim manually, so the basic gameplay has a similar feel to first-person shooters. Much like all great games, you've got to do a bit of thinking, as running blindly into any situation will get you killed pretty quickly - only by skillfully using the environment and weaponry to your advantage will you be able to survive beyond the first few levels.

 

On a whole not a lot has changed since the original Max Payne, though you could argue that it probably didn't need too. You still a spend a lot of your time jumping around corners in slow-motion (dubbed Bullet Time, more widely known as The Matrix Effect), mowing down enemies with submachine guns, blowing them up with grenades and taking cover from their never-ending stream of gunfire. Theoretically some people could find this type of gameplay repetitive, although I'll never get tired of diving into hotel rooms and emptying my shotgun into some evil goon, watching as his body, cold, lifeless, and soaked in his own blood, slumps against a wall. There are a couple instances where you get tossed into some interesting situations, like playing as an alternate character providing cover fire for Max at a distance, or running through a hospital completely unarmed while being inundated by bad guys, in a mad scramble to find something to protect yourself with. And while the quest isn't terribly long, it's difficult enough that you'll probably be spending a bit of time with it before you reach the end. There's also quite a number of neat touches in the game, mostly in the form of some amusing satire of society's reaction to violent video games (after all, guns don't kill people, video games do) and silly, self-referential melodramas that play on the televisions scattered throughout the game.

 

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Much like the first one, much of the plot is told in a flashback, as Max not only investigates the usual mob shenanigans, but also gets involved in a passionate affair with sexy assassin Mona Sax. The writing, while almost overwrought with vaguely goofy metaphors, is otherwise excellent and well acted to boot, as Max's gravely voice provides constant narrative for the player. The comic book cutscenes also now look a lot better since they fired that sideburned-coiffed clod 

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who played Max in the original, and the character models have improved somewhat as well. The bullet time mechanics have changed vaguely too - slowing down the action puts everything in a cool sepia tone, and you can now go into Bullet Time and dive at the same time without draining your meter.

 

Unfortunately, due to the game's framerate, this is something you're going to have to do, a lot. While Max Payne 2 runs at a passable 30 FPS most of the time, the mere presence of a single enemy will cause the game to stutter. And when there are five or more bad guys coming at you? Well, if you're not in Bullet Time, you're pretty much dead, because there's no way to aim with any remote precision. It feels like that in addition to fighting the game's hordes of goons, you're also doing battle with the incompetence of the game's 3D engine.

 

project-gotham-racing-2-a1.jpg (15505 bytes)          project-gotham-racing-2-a1.jpg (15505 bytes)

 

There are a variety of other minor technical issues that abound as well. The speech occasionally stutters, and skipping a cutscene will bring you to a load screen while the data streams. Quick or auto save option are nonexistent, so you'll have to do it manually quite often. And while this isn't too bad, the 30 second load times after you die get a bit grating. There's also a few isolated incidents of sloppy game design - in one level, I attempted to backtrack instead of follow the given directions. Instead of leading you in the right direction, the game merely decides to explode your character, with no explanation.

 

The mediocre performance of the PS2 port of Max Payne 2 never makes the game completely unplayable, but it does noticeably hinder it. If you're into action games and only have a PS2, there's an excellent game mired in here, and worth checking out if you're willing to put up with it. If you've got an Xbox or gaming PC, you're much better off purchasing one of those versions. Here's hoping that maybe some companies will put stronger efforts into porting PC games to the PS2 in the future.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(January 9, 2004)

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