Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne Review

Max Payne, the brooding and violent detective with the ability to slow time in a firefight, is back, caught in the middle of a mob war, precinct politics, and his own fascination with a mysterious femme fatale assassin known as Mona Sax.  The story takes place after the events of the first game and completing that game will certainly help you catch numerous references made to it in Max Payne 2, but you'll still be able to enjoy Max Payne 2 without having played the first.  Max Payne 2 even includes a cinematic sequence that you can play if you need to know the storyline of the first game or just need a memory refresher.  Like the first game, Max Payne 2's film noir inspired storyline is masterfully played out through the use of both in-engine cutscenes and graphic novel style comic book panels.  The story is narrated by Max himself and although his deadpan delivery and heavy introspection may seem noir cliché to some, it works well in establishing the game's mood and atmosphere.  The game features far more story elements than in most shooters out there and the twisting plotline can be a little difficult to follow at times.  Action gamers just looking to start shooting can skip the cutscenes, but those willing to spend some of their game time watching the game's story elements will be rewarded with more of an interactive movie experience.

Max is back and is as heavily armed as ever.

Max Payne 2 is a third-person action game with a heavy emphasis on the action in the form of violent gunplay.  There's not much in the way of puzzle-solving and only a little conversation (outside of the cutscenes), so you'll spend most of your time gunning down the legions of thugs determined to take you down.  Control is similar to that of a first person shooter and you use an on-screen dot to aim your weapon - just point and shoot.  In addition to moving in all directions, Max can jump as well as dive and roll.  He also still has the amazing ability to slow time known as bullet time.  Clicking the right mouse button causes everything to move in super slow motion except for Max.  He moves more slowly himself, but still faster than anyone else around him, and he retains his ability to aim and fire in real-time.  Max is not a superhero, so chalk up this ability to his heightened sense of awareness earned by surviving many shootouts.  As long as you keep moving, bullet time makes it difficult for enemies to hit you and with it you can survive gun battles in which you are outnumbered and outgunned.  Bullet time was a feature of the original Max Payne, but it has gone through some tweaking in Max Payne 2.  Max moves faster during bullet time, so he can effectively run and gun during bullet time now instead of using it to buy time while diving for cover.  In addition, there are now two stages of bullet time.  Killing enemies first fills the bullet time meter and then turns it to yellow.  While drawing on bullet time from a yellow meter, Max can move even faster - not quite full speed but close enough to give you a very decided advantage in gun battles.  To compensate for your extra ability the game puts you in larger shootouts than in the original, making you sometimes wonder where your enemies can find so many goons to send after you.

Even with bullet time in your favor, the enemies you'll encounter are no pushovers.  The enemy AI in the game is excellent and your adversaries will act realistically.  Sneak up on them and you'll see them going about their business and hear them carrying on conversations.  As soon as they are aware of you, though, they'll make effective use of cover, try to sneak around and come at you in different directions, and try to flush you out of cover by tossing a grenade at you when you're trying to keep your head down.  They'll even go so far as to shout insults at you should you try to make a strategic retreat from the fight.  To keep things from getting too frustrating for players with poorer action gaming skills, the game automatically adjusts the difficulty level as you play.  If it sees that you are getting killed frequently, it will slow enemy reaction and add more health power-ups in the form of painkillers to the level.  It does a pretty good job of keeping the challenge level the same for everybody, but  for those looking for a tougher challenge the game provides higher difficulty levels which become unlocked once you complete the game.