What can I say? Millions of you own this game already, and if not, then reading this has probably reminded you that it's now available for the PS2 and Xbox. The profound and controversial Rockstar Games can sit back and watch the money roll in. While the differences between the two versions are noteworthy, all Xbox owners need to know is that the game looks prettier on their console, and sometimes even prettier than the PC version.
The game of course, gained fame for two reasons: Bullet-time, and for refining the process of in-game story-telling to a level of detail never seen before. Now I don't mean that in a, "Oh my God, look at those cinemas!" manner, or anything like that. I mean immersive story-telling that doesn‘t take you out of the game. Things go on around you that are usually reserved for pre-rendered cinemas. Mobsters will desperately try to deactivate a bomb before you turn the corner and blow them away, while a corrupt bartender will be getting a favor from a lady before you bust in and blow him away. These scene's are sprinkled liberally throughout the game and really keep it all flowing.
Now I stress the word(s) - "in-game", because the comic strip story-telling going on in-between levels is really just unnecessary. A step backwards that detracts from the experience. Luckily, you can just hit the start button if you get the general idea about what is going on.
Bullet-time. It's what makes the game, really. The process of slowing down all the action on screen to a crawl, when things get sticky (and they get sticky a lot), while allowing you to aim in normal time. You can see the heat trails the bullets leave as they wiz by your head. You'll feel like your directing your own action movie.
Max Payne won't win any awards for graphics, but they get the job down and are mightily superior to It's PlayStation2 cousin which suffers from frame drops and runs in a lower resolution. Indeed the resolution in the Xbox version of Max Payne is so high that comparisons to the PC version (running on a high-end system) are feasible. In some places the Xbox version wins out (mainly for It's consistency) however, the PC version is still king. The PC also wins out in the battle for control.
Not to say the control in Max Payne is bad, it really isn't at all. But you can tell this game was meant for the accuracy of a mouse/keyboard combo, and option that the Xbox just doesn't have right now. A game like Halo was made with the clunky Xbox controller in mind, and was fine tuned to take advantage of it to the fullest extent. The same amount of detail was just not put into this port, and as a result, things just don't feel right sometimes, and you'll find yourself in situations where you could have pulled off some beautiful John Woo style gunplay, if you hadn't been filled with lead.
The muffle effect on bullets and other sound effects when you activate bullet-time is almost tear inducing, as is the level of detail in the sound effects. Fully taking advantage of the Xbox's unheard of sound options, Max Payne is one of the best sounding games I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. Music is appropriate and moody, with just the right amount of grit, and cynicism.
All of these things come together to make a very enjoyable (and refreshing experience), in which easily could've been a mediocre title at best. However, the game leaves you wanting a little bit more to the Bullet Time feature besides pushing a button just to enable you to make precision shots in a slowed time frame. Perhaps, Remedy can develop more practical reasons for the sequel. But for now, Max Payne stands as a remarkably solid port of the PC version, and trounces its PS2 cousin.
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