Max Payne 2 has been for years a game that I have played atleast once year and yet I still keep getting back to it. I have memorized almost every move and every enemy position and what not and yet I just love playing it. It is for me one of the perfect mergers of technology and art ever created in recent times. When you are playing the game, you tend to forget that you are actually accessing a software. The film noir genre which was made popular by such great films like Chinatown, Touch of Evil and Double Indemnity is brought refreshingly to life on the platform of computer softwares by this series. While Max Payne was very much similar to what you have here, my love for the game is banked mostly on the factor that it takes everything that I loved about the first game and amps it up two times.
The story starts two years after the events of the first game. Max Payne has been reinstated to his position in NYPD and is tasked with looking into certain murders involving a gang of killers who are dressed as cleaners. His investigation takes him to a place where he meets Mona Sax under strange circumstances. Mona, as you might remember was presumed dead after the first game. Following her, Max lands up in a lot of typical gun fights which are just beautiful. She is however captured and brought back to the station even tough Max is not convinced that she is guilty. While she is being interrogated, the cleaners attack the Police Station and Mona escapes. Max is now left to uncover the mystery surrounding the cleaners and Mona’s part in the tale. His search takes him through some visually stunning topographies to the wolf’s lair where an old acquaintance is waiting for his return.
Max Payne’s forte was its engrossing narrative, terrific visual style and breathtaking presentation. The narrative builds up through a series of cut scenes, comic book panels and the gameplay. The three components are mixed and presented as a seamless chain of events. That is exactly the way Max Payne 2 proceeds. Beginning with a flashback and then proceeding to the real-time events. Flashbacks and visions keep popping up from time to time giving you interesting and thought-provoking looks into Payne psyche which also happens to be a major contributing factor in making the gameplay and experience engrossing. However they make it a point to never overdo the style which was a great thing to see here.
The gameplay is revolutionary. I haven’t had as much fun playing a game for as long time as this one. There are practically no glitches. The controls are beautifully mounted and even though there are a few things which are left unexplained and is left up to you to find a way around it (I was stuck for a while on how to see through the scope of the sniper), the controls and gameplay is solid. The advice would be for you to go through the tutorial before you start with the game. That way, you can actually avoid some of the inconveniences. The bullet time aid is something that this game introduced the world to and till date is probably best used in this game. The way the character swirls and bends and dodges bullets and then shoots his own is a treat for the eyes. After you are done killing all the enemies the final one dies in great style and that also informs you that you have cleaned up the mess.
The game has varied difficulty levels but with each level, the AI adjusts according to the gameplay that it is facing. For instance if you die too many times in a level, the AI soften downs and if you are playing proficiently, the AI really comes down at you. At the highest level of difficulty, the game can be quite a handful. I particularly had a tough time in two stages. The first was when I had to play as Mona Sax and save Max from the warehouse. The other being saving Vinnie when he is dressed in a clown suit with a bomb attached to his head. Every time he would get shot, he would blow up killing Max with him. With the furious onslaught of the cleaners from all sides and the characters dying away within just a few shots, these two levels took the longest to clear.
The game is not only stunning to look at but also sounds terrific. Apart from the dialog “you coward!” and “die!die!” which are used by all cleaners and appear odd at many junctures, the sounds and dialogs remain consistent. The background score is terrific and is in strong keeping with the mood and feel of the story. The signature tune is still something that I humm from time to time. The gun shots, the explosions and the mad house sounds are all but too real. The voice talents essaying the characters of Max, Mona, Vlad and Vinnie are great. Max has a weight attached to his voice which gives strength to every word that comes out of his mouth. Same can be said about Mona. The comic book panels are beautifully design and they were a better bet to use than the cut scene primarily because the graphics hadn’t reached the pinnacle of perfection in those years. However the use of the comic book panel style not only gives a better look in terms of visuals but also instills a noir-ish seriousness to the graphics.
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is one of my all-time favorite games. Everything just worked wonders in this series and even though I am told that Max Payne 2 was a bomb in terms of sales, I just love it. Superb story, great gameplay, terrific music and loads of action make this game an instant classic.