Hey readers! Last week, I tackled a Genesis cult favorite.
This week, I replayed a sequel to something I covered way back, right on New Year's Eve.
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (which I'll be referring to henceforth as just Max Payne 2 because that title is long and redundant) is, of course, the sequel to Max Payne. Here's my article on that.
Max Payne 2 continues the story of gravelly-voiced grump detective Max Payne. Having emerged from the first game's events as a hero (thanks to the involvement of an Illuminati-esque organization), Max returns to the NYPD to work as a homicide detective. Responding to a "shots fired" call, Max runs into a group of hitmen who dress as cleaners, and also Mona Sax, the assassin from the first game, thought dead by Max. From here, the story kicks off into a hot mess of mobsters, double-crosses, and tons of film-noir goodness.
In my Max Payne article, I spoke about the gulf between gameplay and story that is presented in the first game (and, though much less so, in Remedy's later title Alan Wake). That gulf is even wider here, for while Max Payne 2 ups the film noir content, which I love, it also ups the ante dramatically in terms of Hong Kong cinema style action. Both styles are excellent, but both don't exactly mix well-or, at all, really.
For example, the game plays more or less like the first game. Max has a few more weapons this time around, and he can remain prone after a dive so you can keep shooting without waiting for Max to get up. The majority of the game is: shoot bad guys, collect and use painkillers to manage your health, a couple of sniper bits, and so on. But then there's Bullet Time.
Bullet Time, better known as slow-mo, gives you the ability to slow down time to take out the almost limitless enemies that plague you throughout the game. In the first Max Payne, time would slow down while you retained your normal aiming speed.
Max Payne 2 changes things even more, and it certainly doesn't help close the gap between gameplay and story. Activating Bullet Time puts the game in sepia-tone and slows time slightly. Shoot a bad guy, and time slows further. Shoot another bad guy, and...well, you get it. Time moves slower and slower while Max retains his speed.
They gave him a super power.
It clashes with the whole comic-book aesthetic, brought back from the first game for the cutscenes. The scenes are much better done here; there's a kind of grainy painting-feel throughout. It nails the film noir feel much better than the last game did.
The story's great if you liked the first game. It's more psychological this time around, and features more of Max's heavy-handed, hard-boiled narration, if that's your thing. It's just more believable this time around, too, as they kind of dialed it back (a little) on the first game's Mafia/government-drug-conspiracy/secret government society plot. This time, the focus is squarely on Max and Mona. Max Payne 2 plays that "Film Noir Love Story" tagline for all its worth. And the end result is a story better told than Max Payne, and Max Payne 3 even.
But again, these days, as games become more cinematic, the disconnect between gameplay and story is becoming more apparent. And Max Payne 2 is entertaining on both ends. Don't get me wrong; I love the game. But it feels like Remedy had two teams working; one on plot, the other on gameplay. And then they just kind of glued them together.
On the other hand, maybe there's not a whole lot of other ways to do a game like this. It'd be kind of crappy if you spent the game brooding and investigating. Sure, there's a pocket of people who seriously think that would make a brilliant, groundbreaking game.
Brilliant? Maybe. Groundbreaking? Surely!
And that's really the main point of a game like Max Payne 2. You're still having fun with it either way. Every game requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. Some more than others. This is of the latter group, sure, but Max Payne 2 remains fun to play. That's the most important thing, in this case.
Thanks for reading! Hit the comments section! Suggest games for future GOTW articles! And Tweet me @WingZero351
Next week, we play another high-octane game where you dual-wield pistols. Big sword and long, red coat also required.