by Take 2 Interactive
The most stylish PC game of 2001 has arrived on the PS2. 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 cheat a little. 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.
One of the main attractions with Max Payne is the feature that goes by the name of Bullet Time. Bullet Time, activated by using the L2 button is Max's special ability to make everything, except his aiming, go into slow motion for a limited amount of time. This feature 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.
Graphically the PS2 version is up to scratch. The resolution is perhaps not as high as on a decent PC but it looks good and the textures remain detailed. One thing you may notice is the frame rate. For the most part Max Payne maintains a steady, if unspectacular frame rate. However when you walk into a hectic gun battle the frame rate takes a nose dive and it appears only slightly quicker than when you are in Bullet Time. Of course this is no fault of the game. It is probably more accurate to say that this slowdown is more to do with the restrictions of the PS2.
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 and his health is lower). 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 control system employed in this PS2 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.
Is it suitable for the deaf gamer? Well the answer to that question is maybe but there are some disadvantages that you will face. The story of the game is relayed for the most part through a comic strip which is excellent for the deaf gamer. However, there are still no cutscene subtitles (lets hope they make it into the Xbox version) and Max sometimes makes comments and has conversations which are also not subtitled. This is infuriating as Max often give 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? The comic strips or objectives can't be recalled like in the PC version which again dents the playability for the deaf gamer. Occasionally you are disadvantaged because you not able to hear oncoming enemies, talking or approaching, as the interface doesn't depict these sounds in any way. Thankfully 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 though.
Overall Game Rating: 8/10 Max makes a successful conversion to the PS2. The look and feel of the game is excellent and as shooters go Max Payne deserves to be up there with the best of them. Unfortunately the lack of text feedback within the game prevents Max Payne from being a classic for the deaf gamer.
Deaf Gamers comment: It is a shame that subtitles were not added for this PS2 conversion. The comic strip carries the story line but the lack of subtitles take some of the experience away for the deaf gamer. It is also a shame that the ability to recall the comic strip and your objectives, which you could do in the PC version, has been removed. Despite this though Max Payne is still an enjoyable experience although not as enjoyable as it should have been for the deaf gamer.