by Take 2 Interactive
Seldom has a game caused so much anticipation. After what seems like an eternity of waiting Max Payne is here and perhaps the most amazing thing about the game is that it lives up to all the hype that has surrounded the game during it's development.
Unlike most shooters Max Payne is played from the third person perspective but before you think that's a little strange it must be made clear that it plays exactly the same as a first person shoot 'em up with the main difference being that its easier to perform jumps and rolls. The only problem with the third person perspective is that it allows you to cheat. Placing Max next to the corner of two walls, you can move the mouse around to reveal what's around the corner. This is simply an amazing advantage that you wouldn't have in a FPS.
Graphically the game is excellent but this does come at price. A PC which has a CPU of around 700MHz+ is recommended just for medium detail. This is only half the picture though and a powerful CPU must be coupled with a strong graphics card in order to fully appreciate the graphical splendour of Max Payne. The minimum requirements are OK if everything is set to low detail and you have a strong 16MB graphics card such as a Voodoo 3.
One of the main attractions with Max Payne is the feature that goes by the name of Bullet Time. Bullet Time is Max's special ability to make everything, except his aiming, go into slow motion for a limited amount of time. This feature has been much hyped and I can tell you now it is fantastic. The effect is very movie like and I consider it a ground breaking effect that makes the line between the movies and games even less distinguishable. Because of Bullet Time, Max has another trick up his sleeve, Shootdodging. When in Bullet Time Max can jump to the side, roll out of the way and dive and the real beauty of this is that you can still accurately aim. Both of these features definitely prove that Max Payne in many respects, can lay claim to being the first of the next generation of shoot 'em ups. Of course, the use of Bullet Time has to be restricted otherwise the game would be a cinch. Bullet Time is limited to a few seconds which is depicted by an hour glass. The only way to regain Bullet Time is by killing enemies so in effect you can't use it continuously.
The game itself lasts around 15 hours which might sound a little short and indeed would be criticised except that the extra features guarantee far more gameplay. Once completed the game can be played in three other modes. First there is Hard-Boiled (Max heals slower, his health is lower and the auto-aim is scaled down). Secondly there is Dead On Arrival (no auto-aim, enemies are a lot stronger, Max heals a lot slower and you can only make seven saves per map). Finally there is New York Minute (each map has a timer and if it reaches zero its game over, the only way to gain more time is to kill enemies). The game also features a self adjusting difficulty level that matches the game difficulty with your level of play and in case you're wondering it does seem to work. Max Payne also features an editor so expect the Internet to soon be awash with customised games that you can download.
Is it suitable for the deaf gamer? Well the answer to that question is maybe but there are some reservations. The story of the game (which incidentally is of the classic movie 'A man wanted for a crime he didn't commit' variety) is relayed for the most part through a comic strip which is excellent for the deaf gamer. However, there are cutscenes which are not subtitled and Max sometimes makes comments and has conversations which are also not subtitled. The comic strips can be recalled at any time by pressing the F1 key and you can also press the F2 key which reminds you of your current objective. Occasionally it is an advantage to be able to hear oncoming enemies as the interface doesn't depict these sounds in any way. But the game is much less confusing than Half-Life and the quick save feature, if used often, can save you a great deal of frustration especially as the game has a very fast quick load feature as well. When Max enters a room and comes across something he can interact with, an exclamation mark appears above his head and he usually tips his head to signify that the item is of interest as well. Such a visual depiction seems at odds with the lack of subtitles. Let's hope Take 2 release a patch that give the option for subtitles.
Max Payne is a very unique experience and it is no surprise that the gaming world is hailing the game as a classic. However as it has no subtitles it is difficult for us to label the game as a classic as it does put obstacles in the way of the deaf gamer. Having said this though Max Payne is excellent and we really hope the game is subtitled through the release of a patch. If you are a fan of shoot 'em ups then I would say go for it but be warned that the subtitles are missing and be prepared for a lot of quick saving.
Overall Game Rating: 8.1/10 Subtitles would have made it a classic.
Quality of text: 6.5/10 The inclusion of the excellent comic strip is marred by the omission of subtitles.
Graphics: 10/10 They're as good as your hardware will allow.
Interface:9/10 Very slick and easy to use.
Gameplay: 7/10 Would have been fantastic with subtitles but it's sometimes bewildering because of their omission.