He's hard. He's fast. He's got a square head.
The original Max Payne, released for the PC, was visually wonderful. Well-plotted. Immersive. Perfectly-balanced. Gritty. And above all, utterly, utterly, brilliant; standing proud astride the whole PC action genre like a great gaming Colossus. Or at least that bloke from Gladiator. Hence my excitement at learning that soon our console brothers and sisters would be able to enjoy it too, on Playstation 2 and Xbox. Well, the Xbox sadly hasn’t reached the green and pleasant hills of old Blighty, so we’ve decided to take a gander at what Max looks like on Sony’s dark gaming wafer, what we found was a slight disappointment though still undoubtedly educated ay the Max school of gaming… So what has changed then? The plot? Nope, that’s just as Hollywood as ever; telling a gritty tale set in New York drabness, as Max hunts Drug lords to avenge the murder of his Wife and child. The gameplay? Certainly not. Max Payne still boasts all the spine-tinglingly realistic and rich gameplay that made the original such a joy, such as ‘Bullet-Time’ (which I’ll talk about later). So what’s the difference in the PS2 outing? Well, it’s the graphics, sadly – and Max has definitely seen better days. I would definitely have to recommend gamers to pick up a PC version; for Mr Payne is certainly looking a bit peaky. It’s just not as vivid and immersive any more, the environments being far-less crisp and sharp; the frame-rates being far from fluid at times. It’s just a bit of a let down. The deficiency of the PS2 hardware versus the PC (or at least the programming of this version), can also be witnessed in the sometimes ridiculous load-times between levels. These are at their most irritating when you’re killed in combat, and are forced to sit through cut-scenes again, the ability to skip them for some God-awful reason being overlooked. Oh dear. Gripes over. So apart from the graphical disappointment, does Max Payne PS2 suffer in any other way? Well, no, actually. It’s excellent apart from that. Though this flaw does harm the game, as many will recall the much lauded polish and fantastic balance of the original, which is left looking a little tarnished on the PS2. If you can own it on the PC, then this may be your best bet to appreciate Max Payne at it’s glorious best; though rumour from the other side of the pond has it that the Xbox version is looking better too. So where does that leave us? The gameplay is certainly still up to scratch, (apart from the frame rate, but I said I wouldn’t mention that again), but otherwise the action is top-notch; especially the wonderfully implemented Bullet-Time feature, which allows us all to wallow in the cinematic glory of the moment, recreating our Matrix / John Woo style fantasies. The convergence of plot and play is implemented to perfection once again too, the brilliant set-pieces and diversity of experience once again only marred slightly by the slightly ‘granular’ visuals and the lengthy loading times (sorry, I just can’t help mentioning it). The sound is great once again, which is a relief, and the voice acting just as gritty and Tarantino-esque as ever. A few new modes of play are included too, which are good for once you’ve completed the fairly short singleplayer experience; and these include the frenetic New York Minute mode, which necessitates the completion of levels against the clock. It’s all good fun, even if it doesn’t hide the fact that you’ve essentially completed the game already. All in all PS2 gamers should welcome Max into their lives with a contended smile; though own it on PC if they have one. The graphics are a let down in a game otherwise worthy of it’s PC original, and include all the glorious innovations and subtleties we’ve come to expect. A case of so near, yet so far…