And the game itself is also very, very nice. You can nitpick, and the game definitely isn't perfect, but when I found myself up at 5:00am after playing the game straight for seven hours, I knew that I had a winner on my hands. Max Payne
is sharp, stylish, and perhaps the best thing to happen to the action game genre since the original Quake
The storyline of the game, unlike most action titles, is actually very well-done, and it's integrated into the action quite seamlessly. You'll overhear characters talking about various things, which may not make much sense until much later in the game. Indeed, part of the reason that I was up until the wee hours of the morning playing was to see just what was going to happen next in the elaborate story. It starts off with you (as Payne) witnessing your family's murder, and it just gets more interesting from there. Suffice it to say that the story will pull you in.
Fortunately, the gameplay is more than enough to make it worth being pulled in. At first you'll think the game controls like a fairly standard FPS game, despite the third-person perspective; you move around with the same sorts of controls. But then you find the things that makes Max Payne unique. By far the most self-evident is the 'bullet-time' and 'shootdodge' abilities, which are similar and use the same meter but can be used very differently.
When you press the right-mouse button without moving, the game slips into 'bullet-time'. Everything slows down, and all you hear is the beating of Max's heart and the bullets zinging by. You can still aim at full speed, allowing you to run around a corner and get shots off much 'faster' than you would normally. However, the more useful of the two is 'shootdodge', which occurs when you press the right mouse button while you're moving in a direction. The same slow-mo happens, except that Max flies through the air, dodging to the side or forwards or backwards. The important thing to note is that you can aim just as quickly as normal, allowing you to get off precise head-shots while the world nearly grinds to a halt around you. Watching the buckshot zip over your back never gets old, even after you've been playing the game for hours. Of course, if you had free reign to shootdodge you'd do it constantly, so you have a meter that depletes each time you do it. You only fill the meter back up by killing bad guys, so you have to learn the proper times to shootdodge and the proper times to just go in guns blazing. You learn all of the controls through an interactive tutorial, which is much better than most game's lame attempts to educate the audience.
There are a large number of weapons, ranging from pistols to a sniper rifle and the requisite grenades. To get items for use, you can rummage through just about everything: dressers, cabinets, boxes, whatever. Indeed, the environment is more interactive than just about any game I've ever seen. You can play with the faucets, you can bust up cans of gas, you can do just about anything you think you should be able to do in a game like this.
It's necessary to get nitpicky here, because there are simply no glaring flaws in the game. The environments are a little too monotonous. The game is short, but not overly short; indeed, it paces itself well. But some people may see its length as a problem. The enemies are also a bit too repetitive for my tastes. Because of the level of detail that they put into the characters, when you see the same person over and over in Max Payne it's a lot more jarring than it is in a game like Quake II. Because of the real-world setting of the game, you feel like everyone should look a little different. All of these are minor gripes, however.