First for the obligatory "need-to-know" information:

Title: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (sometimes referred to as "the FOMP")
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Date Published: October 15, 2003
Platforms: Available now for PC; PS2 and X-Box versions due out on December 2, 2003.

For the purposes of my review, below, I assume that you have played Max Payne on your home PC; and therefore some things may not "click" for you and/or I may spoil the plot of the first game for you.


Plot: Max Payne, the intrepid DEA officer from the hit PC game of the same name, is now "off the hook" for the crimes he committed in his last installment. Now, he has self-demoted himself to a detective with the LAPD and goes to checkout some gunfire at local warehouse.

Inside he finds, as well as a mob, the beginnings of a deep storyline, and a bunch of guns and ammo, a recycled character from the last game - the femme fatale, whom Max slowly falls in love with.

Max and his girl both romp throughout the city, tracking down a string of killings and finds the corruption in NYC goes right up to the President.

The climatic ending levels pit you against a suprising foe (by way of an old and tired plot twist) in the mansion of a powerful Senator; the one, in fact, that got you off the hook for all the havoc you wrought in the last game.

My Opinion: This game is, in essence, a souped-up version of the original game, and not really worth the time unless you are intrigued by having new maps, weapons, etc. However, if you never owned Max Payne, it is worth it to only get this, the second installment.

One of the great things about Max Payne (the original) is that there are plenty of mods out for it - including ones that give you super-slow Bullet Time, new map packs, new weapons, and even complete redesigns, practically making new games that could stand on their own. A particularly popular modification was the Kung-Fu mod, which pretty much turned Max Payne into the equivalent of what is now Enter the Matrix.

If you've ever looked through and installed the available mods designed for Max Payne, you've probably seen all the new features Max Payne 2 brings.

Arguably, of course:
  • "But what about Bullet Time 2.0," you ask.

    Well, the premise behind Bullet Time 2.0 is that it works very similarly to the original Bullet Time, but as you kill more and more people, time slows down even more... but only for the bad-guys. If an external viewer was watching events unfold in real-time, it would appear that Max was running around faster and faster, eventually nothing more than a Hummingbird blur of a cop.

    The downside to Bullet Time 2.0 is that, first of all, you never have enough. I was constantly running it empty; but then again, I played the original (modified) the whole way through in slow motion. I'm a slow-motion freak. I love the stuff, and get high off of it. The second biggest downfall is that you don't see the 2.0 enhancements until you've killed 3 or 4 badguys (I think it tops out around 3 badguys dead within 10 "realtime" seconds, but I'm not sure on that), and the game rarely has more than 4 badguys coming at you at once. There's no giant "mob" of oncoming baddies that really lets you take advantage of it.

    If you already own a copy of Max Payne, you can get the same effect by installing a bullet-time-slower-downer-mod, and then install a make-max-run-faster-mod. Now you don't have to kill three people to slow time down a heck of a lot; it's super-slow by default. You can even augment this further with an increased-bullet-time-mod so that the fun doesn't end in 30 seconds.

  • "But what about all them flashy graphics and new textures and everything," you ask.

  • Well, I'm not one to preach to you, but I value video games for their gameplay, longevity, and just plain overall fun value. Graphics are a part of the equation; just not a big one.

    I found the graphics in Max Payne to be perfectly fine, and the graphics in Max Payne 2 a bit better, but not enough to write home about. All the fancy shading, shadows, and the (completely useless) mirrors, only slow down my video card and don't add too much to the immersion. There is some value there, but I'd rather increase my framerate and turn off those stupid mirrors (I think there is ONE badguy you can take advantage of with a mirror; the rest of them are purely aesthetic).

  • "But I heard the ragdolls were awesome," you exclaim.

  • The "rag-doll" special effect is that thing when you kill somebody, their body goes all limp and tumbles around, well, like a ragdoll. It really adds to the immersion and makes for some spectacularly cool visuals and death flails - but it is under-utilized by the game. The slow-motion close-up deaths you are rewarded with periodically through the game cut the animation short, so you miss all the exciting "ragdoll" action. This is the one major feature, however, that put this game on my "keep" list, as I thoroughly enjoy watching people flail around and die (like the sick bastard I am). It really is truly awesome.

  • "The new physics engine looks ultra-cool," you slobber.

  • Well, yes, the physics are mighty cool, and are run by the critically acclaimed Havok physics engine. As was mentioned by mixuk, an employee of the creators of Max Payne 2, "Physics was added only a few months before the release of the game. To be honest, the physics does not really play a big (gameplay relevant) role in the game, but should add to the immersion factor."

    This is quite the perfect statement to sum up the physics effects. They are neat to look at, but occasionally an oddly-thrown grenade can lodge so many boxes in a stairwell that you have to lob another grenade before you can clear them all out.

    The game is also missing the ability to shoot through objects - so that stack of lightweight, flimsy-looking cardboard boxes are impenetrable to your Desert Eagle, and they act as a constantly-shifting shield for the badguys. Don't worry - if you hide behind the boxes yourself, the constant stream of seemingly-infinite-ammo enemy fire will move the boxes around, exposing your body to the pain.

    I am, however, a big fan of realism and physics in games, and I did enjoy this feature.
One of my biggest beefs with this game is that it is short. I can live with this, however, as the game was so gripping and fun that I sat at my computer and beat it (on the easiest skill setting, the only one available for first-time players) in one sitting of about 6 hours. Also, I'm a freak.

My freakyness aside, this is a hallmark of an excellently scripted game. There are no real "downhill" moments, and even the crazy and frustrating dream sequences from the original game were made much more simpler, and focused on advancing the storyline instead of making you do silly puzzles. The plot is gripping and well told in a nicely-written film noir style. The artwork is so good that I half-beleive it is just painted-over photographs, and the music is tastefully and nicely done (though not as riveting as it could be).

All criticisms registered and filed away, the game still is good - as good as the original, maybe slightly better - and I am still going to keep it on my computer. I just wish I never bought the first game.

I have high hopes for some crazy and interesting mods to come out for this game!

Extra Fun Stuff: After beating the game once, you unlock the other two or three skill levels and you can play the game again, or you can engage a "Dead Man Walking" game mode. In this mode, a plethora of weapons and painkillers are sitting in a pile in front of you, and enemies start pouring in... One after another... And they don't stop until you're dead. The game records how long you survive as a high score, and it's a neat little mini-game.

HOWEVER, I am very upset that the enemies just "beam in" in one of several pre-determined locations on the map. After you clear out a dead-end corner, you can't turn your back to it because a badguy might just "warp in" behind you. Very annoying! Couldn't they just make them run in through the doors, or jump over nearby walls or something? Argh! Makes for a very frustrating game, sometimes.

System Requirements:
   - 1Ghz PIII/Athlon or 1.2Ghz Celeron/Duron processor 
   - 32MB AGP graphics card with hardware transform & lighting support 
   - 256MB RAM 
   - 1.5 GB hard drive space 
   - Windows 98/ME/2000/XP 
   - DirectX 9.0 
   - Keyboard and mouse 
System Recommendations:
   - 1.4Ghz Athlon or 1.7 Ghz Pentium 4, Celeron or Duron processor 
   - 64MB DirectX 9 compatible AGP graphics card with hardware T&L support 
   - 512MB RAM 
   - 1.5 GB hard drive space 
   - Windows 98/ME/2000/XP 
   - DirectX 9.0 
   - Keyboard and mouse