by Take 2 Interactive
After being a big success on both the PC and the Playstation 2, Max Payne was always going to arrive on the Xbox. Out of all the PC shooters Max Payne appealed to gamers because of it's solid storyline, great gunfights and it's innovation. Yes Max Payne brought us that wonder Bullet time, where you could temporarily activate a slow motion mode but yet still aim normally at your enemies. This added a very cinematic feel to the game and gamers loved it because it gave a new dimension to a genre that was in a rut.
The Playstation 2 version was released a couple of months ago and to be honest fell short of the PC version in a couple of ways. The framerate often dipped in the PS2 version of Max Payne and you couldn't save the game at any point that you wished so that meant if you were killed you often had to repeat sections of the game again which put a bit of a dampener on the proceedings. Fortunately these problems have been resolved with the Xbox version. The framerate remains constant, in fact as smooth as a top specification PC, and you can save or instantaneously quick save any time you wish, just like the PC version.
In case you don't know the story behind Max Payne I'd better fill you in. Max Payne is the hard boiled undercover cop who is on a mission to eradicate the lethal drug Valkyr from New York. Of course Max has ruffled some of the Mob's top brass and not only is Max's family killed but he is framed for their murder and that of Alex, his friend. All of this is too much to take for Max and vengeance is the name of the game.
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 be a little sneaky. Placing Max next to the corner of two walls, you can move the right analogue stick around to reveal what's around the corner. This is simply an amazing advantage that you wouldn't have in a FPS.
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 it's 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.
As mentioned earlier one of the key features is Bullet time. The left trigger on the game pad will activate a temporary slow motion mode that enables the action to slow down whilst still allowing Max to aim normally. This allows you to take out the enemies in a very professional manner. Bullet time is limited and the only way you can restore bullet time is by killing enemies. Another trick up Max's sleeve is Shootdodging. Shootdodging is performed in Bullet Time. 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. It not only looks great but it plays great. These innovations make Max Payne one of the most influential shooters in years.
The control system employed in this Xbox conversion makes good use of the gamepad. The left analogue stick controls the movement while the right analogue stick controls the turning of Max and his view. Obviously aiming is not as accurate as using a mouse on the PC but it is still fairly good. Should you find it a little bit awkward then enabling auto-aim in the options menu makes things a lot easier. In fact with auto-aim on, it seems a whole lot easier than the PC version and I often found myself with an abundance of the pain killers that Max uses to heal himself.
Graphically the Xbox version is better than the PS2 and as good as anything a top PC could muster. Of course the original game on the PC was not of the same standard as games such as Halo on the Xbox but nevertheless the game looks very good and gives a clear indication that PC games that come to the Xbox can only improve in looks, which is very good news.
We mentioned in the PC and PS2 reviews that the cutscenes weren't subtitled and that we hoped the Xbox version would have subtitled cutscenes. Unfortunately the cutscenes remain unsubtitled. Max sometimes makes comments and has conversations which are also not subtitled. This is infuriating as Max often gives hints on what to do and as they are unsubtitled the deaf gamer is oblivious to this. What makes this even more crazy is that the tutorial mode has been subtitled, so why wasn't the rest of the game? An exclamation mark appears over Max's head when he is close to an item that can be interacted with and a comic book style storyline is shown before each level so it does beg the question as to why weren't the cutscenes subtitled? At least the mission objectives can now be accessed during a level. This is something that you couldn't do in the PS2 version.
Overall Game Rating: 8.1/10 The Xbox version of Max Payne is better than the PS2 version and is certainly as good as the original PC version.
Deaf Gamers comment: Again subtitles are missing from the cutscenes and some of Max's comments. This is annoying to say the least but at the end of the day it is playable for a deaf gamer and if you are a shoot 'em up fan then there is no doubt you will find enjoyment with this title. Thankfully the quicksave function will allow you to be cautious and not have your game ruined by walking round a corner into a group of enemies which a hearing gamer would have been alerted to because of their talking or other noises.