Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne Review

This review was originally written for Sudhian Media, I had even invented a watermark to place on my screenshots… I pulled this from an archive and wanted to share what I could. Enjoy my original 2003 review of Max Payne 2!

Having been a huge fan of Max Payne’s first adventure two years ago I had been watching this game like a hawk. Commercialism be damned, this game has been overlooked in the midst of Doom 3 getting more press, Half-Life 2 being important enough to make CNN Headline News, and Halo for PC being whined about by all gamers this side of the Xbox for not living up to their expectations. While I’ve got something to say on each of those topics, I’ll stick to the task at hand.

image lost in archive

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne had me in its grips before it went gold. Hours after it went gold, I believe I wet my pants. About a week later, October 15th, the day the game went on sale, I went to Wal-Mart, whimpered something about “forty dollars! That’s more than my weekly paycheck!” and then plunked down the coinage. Face it, $39.93 actually is a good deal for a brand new game… but it still hurts the pocket book of a college student on work-study pay!

So I snagged the game brought it home and drooled over it for twenty minutes. First thing I saw, of course, was the attractive packaging. The full color box features everything you could hope to see: screen shots, quotes from the game, quotes from reviewers, system specs, and a lovely “Mature 17+” ESRB rating with more warnings than the first Max Payne dreamt of! Now we’ve got everything under the sun in this game: “Intense Violence, Strong Language, Blood,” and last but certainly not least, “Mature Sexual Themes.” Let’s hear it for pushing the limits in a hopefully tasteful fashion! Remember, Rockstar Games did both Max Payne 2 and Grand Theft Auto III. While GTAIII was an amazing seller, some called it tasteless and many parents were out for blood, outraged at the game… did they turn Max Payne 2 into GTAIV, or will they keep Max Payne alive in a more realistic setting (face it, how many mob bosses do you think say “friggin'” all the time?).

Back from my little rant, there is still more to the packaging. You slide the ‘book’ out of the box, and fold it open, revealing two CD’s packed with the game. The discs are of the lovely black and white cover art, while the backing of the CD book is full color scenes from the game. Looking through the manual you also see more full color pictures. The packaging is well worth it, unlike this time last year when I plopped down $50 for Unreal Tournament 2003 and received three discs in paper sleeves (I get higher quality packaging when I download abandon ware games to floppy disk.) No free mousepad, like with the first one, but that’s fine. That’s the packaging, that’s not all we’re paying for now, is it?

Installation
Install process is relatively quick for a two disc game, and the second disc is required in the drive at all times to play the game.

I start the game, and to my surprise there is a “Previously, on Max Payne” button in the menu. For those who haven’t been replaying their Max Payne, or those who never had a chance to experience the first game, this is an excellent place to start. A little addition to the graphic novel, reminding you just how you got to this point, and even filling in a little to the prologue of this game.

You start the game in the classic Max Payne way with three non-linear jumps through time in twenty seconds! After being puzzled, the game lets you rampage your way out of the first level and into the rest of the game.

The engine really is the same as that of Max Payne’s MAX-FX, but with additional enhancements from the Havok engine ( http://www.havok.com ). First generation Payner’s noted the lack of coordination their hero must have had, when they could not jump and shoot simultaneously. A few thousand complaints later, these words rang loud in developers minds while MP2 was under development, and the feature was added. Whether in bullet time or not, you can now jump over an obstacle, and not be a floating duck!

Another nice addition is the ability to dive or bullet-time dive and remain on the ground, firing your weapon until your clips are empty, if you so choose.

Cool changes to the engine itself include new flame effects that give Molotov Cocktails a new life, tons of physics revamps detailing everything from boxes, to two-by-fours, to little rubber balls on the floor, to the addition of “rag-doll physics” much like those seen in Unreal Tournament 2003. These are an important addition to every new game and a feature I’ve been waiting for since the days of Castlevania on my NES (only my toe is touching the platform… why don’t I fall?).

Without giving away too much of the story, a lot of our old favorites are back, including Jim Bravura, Vinnie Gognitti, Captain Baseball Bat Boy, Mona Sax, and Vladimir Lem. Max Payne may look older, but he’s still got all of his old moves, and some new bullet time tricks to boot.

Gameplay Modes
There are several modes of play in Max Payne 2 which are sure to keep you interested as long as possible. From the instruction manual:

Detective: default game play mode is the only mode available after first installing Max Payne 2… (the others are unlocked after you beat the game in this mode). [In this mode], game play is altered by a self-adjusting skill level system. Enemies adjust their behavior according to Max’s progress through the game.

Hard Boiled: For more of a challenge [this] mode is like Detective difficulty without the benefit of self-adjusting skill system. Enemies are always set to their toughest level.

Dead on Arrival: The ultimate challenge! The player… has a limited number of save games available per level.

New York Minute: Each map starts out with a timer ticking. Take out enemies to reduce the time… the faster you are, the better.

Dead Man Walking: Death is inevitable, the question is how long can you keep going. Stay alive as long as possible in this fast paced deathmatch… the map has a single enemy, and as time progresses more and more enemies are spawned into the map…. The longer you stay alive, the better your score.

Sound
Max Payne 2 supports EAX sound and even with my now meek Creative SBLive 5.1 / DTT2200 combo it was still very impressive. The surround sound techniques are amazing, the environmental audio is truly astonishing, and the extra attention paid to effects is incredible. When you walk into a building and you hear the ran ‘pitter-patter’ off of a tin roof, or when you listen to an echo of a voice down the hall… these are the sounds that set Max Payne apart from all competition.

The voice acting is, again, superb. I haven’t check the actors list, but I think some of the characters’ voices my have changed. Even still, amazing skill and talent has gone into this and everyone of the characters, even those who you only know for two lines, or the ‘filler’ voices of “gangster #1” type characters – attention was given to every last voice you will hear in this game.
Graphics

The game looks just as good as the original, although not entirely different. A lot of people are somewhat upset that the game took so long to bring a sequel to store shelves, based on the fact that the engine is, for the most part, unchanged. If the game ended with a cliffhanger, you had to think they knew where they were going, so they couldn’t have taken so long to write it, but with few changes aside, the graphics really are still superb. Enough changes (such as the afore mentioned “rag doll physics”) were made to the engine to make it feel truly like a title from 2003, not just a delayed 2001 game.

Hardware
Max Payne 2 boasts a “recommended hardware requirement” of a mere 1.4Ghz Athlon or 1.7Ghz Pentium 4, Celeron, or Duron CPU. Relatively low end specs for today’s games. The biggest ‘recommended’ detail was 512MB of RAM. While a lot of gamers do have this, 256 is still pretty standard. This is stated as the ‘minimum system requirement’ – but I think the game should work fine with 256 MB, especially once you get the patch.

Updates
A patch for Max Payne 2 was released shortly after the game was released. It drastically improved load time on low-end (and even high end!) systems. After that, the “modding tools” were released on the web, allowing players to make their own modifications to the game, which will, I’m sure, include more ‘Matrix Payne’ mods like the first game did! And finally, the bonus chapters were released. Don’t get too excited, it’s really cool of the company to release an addition to the game so soon, but they aren’t so much new “CHAPTERS” as you would think of additions to the single player game, but rather two new levels added to the “Dead Man Walking” play-mode that is, again, added to the game once you’ve beaten it once. Additionally, another major boost was given to the modification community in the form of sources for maps and models to be used in maps. To quote the 3D Realms website on these Example Levels:

The set includes source .LV2 files for a _huge_ amount of different physical objects, ammo boxes and whatnot as well as the first Dead Man Walking .LV2 file.

All of these can be found at almost any of your favorite 3d-gaming related download sites.

PROS:

  • The sound effects and voice acting are superb.
  • The story telling is excellent.
  • The new features that players wanted in Max Payne one are now included!
  • CONS:

    • Max Payne 2 is shorter than Max 1. Players complain a lot, it’s not that bad, but it is short.
    • The engine doesn’t contain any major new surprises.

    Max Payne 2 has a storyline that will suck you in, much like the first Max Payne. Your old friends are back, the graphic novel art is back, and once again you’ll be swimming in metaphor soup. The game play boasts the few new features some of us have been begging for, and the sound will have you wanting more.

    The brief ‘sexually explicit’ scenes may ward off some parents, but believe me, I’ve seen worse on prime-time television. The more gratuitous use of “The F-Word” makes the game more realistic in a sense, but may also be a warning sign for parents looking to buy this game for their 13 year old for Christmas. If the violence is something your household is okay with, be sure you know what you’re getting into with the language – the warning is right on the box, don’t say nobody told you.

    It may be slightly shorter than the first, but it’s certainly a worthwhile investment. Games with storylines this well thought out have been unseen since 3D graphics became all the rage… with Max Payne 2 you can have your cake and eat it, too.

    The COMPATIBILITY TAB in Windows 2000

    This tip was one I had originally posted in the X3dfX forums and has been archived on NuAngel.net for posterity:


    Just like the one in Windows XP, you can now enable it for Windows 2000 (SP 2, 3, or 4).
    http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=279792

    1. 1. Log on as Administrator.
    2. 2. Click Start, and then click Run.
    3. 3. In the Open box, type the following command, and then click OK, where %SystemRoot% is the drive and folder in which Windows is installed:
      regsvr32 %systemroot%\apppatch\slayerui.dll
      -( i.e. regsvr32 C:\winnt\apppatch\slayerui.dll )


    Now you can re-enable Windows NT, 95, and 98 layer compatibility modes to get your older Windows (perhaps even DOS!) games & applications to work again!

    I/O Magic

    This article was originally published over a decade ago, I am simply adding it to my website for posterity.

    Nu’s News, issue #2.
    I/OMagic: a story… 8/20/2003

    Let me just get this out in the open: I AM NOT A FAN OF I/OMagic Hardware.

    Now, before I go any further, let me explain. I/OMagic, I was told, was the brand to go with if you wanted an affordable CD-RW drive that would work for as long as you’d have it. I had no idea, I’d used an HP 2X2X8X CD-RW drive when they first came out, and to this day I still use my LG 8X4X24X drive. And I will have to, for many many more years.

    In January, I thought it was time for my “three year life cycle” of my computer to come to an end. In fact, it was more like two years, but I don’t think straight in the cold Winter months. Anyways, my old Thunderbird 1.1Ghz and 3dfx Voodoo 5 5500 system was indeed past it’s prime, and I needed to move on in the world. So I built myself a new computer, from the ground up. I knew I wanted a CD-RW drive (I can’t afford a fancy DVD writer, no way!!), and I saw the perfect bargain in the Sunday paper in late December.

    OfficeMax had a bargain where I could pickup a $50 48X16X48 CDRW drive, I/OMagic, of course… and after all of the rebates: an amazing $20. What a bargain! I remember paying nearly $300 for my 2X HP burner! (Although I also remember paying $350 for my 4.2 GB IBM hard drive). So I arrive at the store, and as with every other time I’ve ever gone to a store to take advantage of a great deal, their products were out of stock. I had lost my voice, but I was at least able to… politely remind the manager that “bait and switch” tactics are no longer legal. My girlfriend insisted on doing the rest of the talking.

    Three employees, two desks, and one chair later I was able to get the manager to order me one personally, and have it shipped to my house at no extra charge. Lovely. Remember, this was the last week of December? Well, January 25th rolled around and my drive arrived. Guess what? I never got my rebates, to this day, thanks to OfficeMax having the drive out of stock.

    I pop the drive in my recently finished rig, and power it up. Hooray! I startup the latest version of Nero to give it a test run… the drive only wants to burn at 40X, instead of 48X. I figure it’s my media… the guy told me it was 48X, but it wasn’t labeled… I didn’t care! 40X was better than 8X! I’ll keep it, and not complain. During the burning of my FIRST DISC, my computer locked up. Froze. Reboot, pop the disc out, set my bottle of Jolt on it, pop in the next disc. This time it burns. Yay! For the next month I have this “off and on” problem with it killing my entire computer. One day it stops all together. It won’t read or write anything. I/O Magic kindly says I’m just an idiot who doesn’t know how to work a burner, but I persist and get my RMA.

    Six weeks later, the next drive arrives. Completely different physically from the one I had before, this one detects itself in the BIOS as “ATAPI 48X16X–“… I can tell it’s down hill from here. It will run “autostart” programs on CD’s, but when I try to browse the contents of a disc it locks everything up. I try to burn, it asks me why I haven’t put a blank disc in. My RMA’d “refurbished drive” was one they obviously haven’t even repaired yet! So I send this one in, too. However, when I paid $9.30 to send them the first drive (and remember, after rebates this drive was only supposed to cost $20!), I demanded they send UPS to my house to pick the drive up – I told them I would not pay for this second RMA.

    Finally the third drive arrives. I pull it out of the little brown box, and the front of the drive is silver and says “USB 2.0.” My friend (known to the internet as “The Xev”) is standing by, as I nearly pitch the drive through a Window. But as I look, the drive is an internal drive, just made out of so many spare parts it would scare you.

    This is drive three. I install it. I’ve had it since Late July, and it’s been working well, except for burning Audio CD’s. I’ve tried to get a BENQ firmware update, and I’ve switched to the latest version of Nero 6’s Trial software, and still the drive messes up audio CD’s. It puts extended gaps in between every track, sometimes over 15 seconds between tracks. And trying to skip track to track will either take an extended amount of time, or it will pick up in the middle of the song you tried to skip over!

    I/OMagic, of course, blames this on Nero – and tells me to check their trouble shooting guide. I burn the same CD with my 8X LG Burner, and everything works flawlessly.

    I can honestly say, and I feel I must warn the public, that I will never again buy an I/OMagic product. Or BENQ, for that matter, because they do actually make the hardware. But with my experiences here with I/OMagic (I finally have a 48X drive that burns @ 48X, just messes up Audio CDs) have driven me away from them. I cannot and will not support them, not even in their ‘media’ market for blank discs.

    THESE ARE MY EXPERIENCES – and do not in any way reflect those of the public or anyone who visits my site. I’m not here to whine and complain in hopes a hardware website, or another company will try to win me over and make me feel warm and fuzzy by sending me new hardware. I just needed to vent – because 3 CDRW drives since January (most of the time waiting for them to issue an RMA, and actually replace my drive) is just too much.

    The RIAA is going too far

    This article was originally published over a decade ago, I am simply adding it to my website for posterity.

    Nu’s News, issue #1.
    Written 7/31/2003, revised numbers 8/7/2003

    When I get bored, I browse. The internet has lost some of it’s flare to me, but I still like to just see what’s new out there. Sometimes I hit up classic sites, those that’ve been stedfast as the entire internet has expanded into a jungle of personal pages that will never go anywhere (much like mine!). So earlier this week I went to C|Net’s Download.com. I noticed some statistics of files that they host.

    The second and third most popular downloads, in ONE WEEK (week ending July 27) reached a whopping total 1,178,584… one point one MILLION downloads in a week for the 2nd a 3rd most popular files combined. Impressive, no? All this so people can talk to their friends; the #2 download of the week was ICQ Lite Beta, and #3 AOL Instant Messenger.

    But this is still small potatoes:

    The file in in first place is Kazaa Media Desktop… Kazaa is a file sharing program, for both of you who don’t know. Kazza clocked in with MORE THAN DOUBLE the amount of downloads of the 2nd and 3rd place programs, and an astonoshing 2,758,676 downloads. More than two and a half million downloads, in one week! This, only weeks AFTER the RIAA sent out all of the subpoenas.

    So listen, that’s what this whole thing is about. The Recording Industry Association of America hasn’t scared off anyone. The download rate of Kazzaa is not slowing, and this should be considered an indication that until every single person is slapped with a 10 million dollar lawsuit, they are not going to stop sharing music files.

    The RIAA is taking a approach to filesharing. I agree, something needs to be done, but why go after the users of a damn program? You shut down napster with one team of lawyers, why employ hundreds to go after hundreds and thousands of end users – who are merely being caught in the crossfire of progress?

    Napster is coming back with a pay-for-use service, allowing users to swap and share songs, by paying a small monthly fee. Apple has the best idea I’ve seen yet, with their iTunes online store. The downside is that it only applies to Mac users, which – I’m sorry to say – is by far not the majority of file-sharers.

    “iTunes 4.0.1 is required to share music with other iTunes 4.0.1 users. iTunes 4 is available for Mac OS X only”.

    The idea of downloading songs at $0.99 each is brilliant… you can stock a 15 song CD for 15 dollars, with music YOU WANT. Instead of paying for a $17 album with 10 songs, 1 of which you heard on the radio and liked. Apple has the right idea, but something needs to be opened up to PC users.

    Napster’s new rendition may change some things, but until then, why are we going after people who download Metallica’s music? Why aren’t we doing what was done in Napster’s case, and going after the creators of the application. Try and STOP the distribution of the client program, don’t try and destory the lives of the clients.

    The RIAA’s idea, summed up in my brain, is about the equivilant of buying a computer from a reputable company, but when it arrives it doesn’t work. So rather than trying to take the computer back to the company and asking them for an exchange or for it to be repaired, they’re taking it to another person who owns the same computer, and telling them that they MUST fix it.

    The kids on the internet are downloading music, and no matter how many thousands of songs some of them may have, they’re only doing what their peers are doing.

    Let me give you one more thing to chew on:

    Think about this random bit throughout your day:
    Source: South Carolina Legislature Online.
    “A person possessing or attempting to possess less than one gram of ice, crank, or crack cocaine… for a first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be imprisoned for a term of not more than five years and fined not less than five thousand dollars. For a first offense the court, upon approval of the solicitor, may require as part of a sentence that the offender enter and successfully complete a drug treatment and rehabilitation program;”

    Now consider this:
    Source:Dartmouth College.
    Depending on the number and value of the products exchanged, penalties for a first offense may be as high as three years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

    The MAXIMUM prison term for first time Cocaine possession offenders in South Carolina is five years. The maximum for infringing on the copyright of a digital music file? Three. Someone downloading MP3s as 3/5ths as bad as a coke dealer?

    Maybe this should be a lesson to kids? If you get a subpoena in the mail from the RIAA, you might as well start doing rock, it’ll only add two more years, and very likely the fines will cost less anyways.

    I hope your brains are working. Now go on out, and enjoy the rest of the day, while entire lives are being destoryed over a song that some girl was listening to in her bedroom before she was even old enough to apply to a college.

    (note: the State of South Carolina was randomly selected for the above example and was used primarily for the ease of access to it’s legislature’s site).