I was going to make a Max Payne monologue styled opening for this post, but I would probably fail immensely. Anyway, I already gave away what games I’m writing about today. Max Payne 1 through 3. Let’s do this.
So I got all three of these games from pre purchasing Max Payne 3 on Steam. I figured that was worth paying 60 bucks so I went ahead and got it. It was especially interesting going through this and Max Payne 2, not just so I would be up to speed on the story, but just so I would know what it was about these games that made people love them so much.
Turns out, there’s a lot of stuff about Max Payne that people love, and for good reason. It’s damn awesome.
The biggest enjoyment I got from the game, and ultimately my undoing in a way was the shoot dodge mechanic. It’s been over a decade since this game and the Matrix came out, but diving through the air shooting at dudes in slow motion feels so awesome. It was a lot of fun, at least for the first half of the game. Eventually I kept dying over and over, most of which was from coming out of a dive, which leaves Max incredibly vulnerable. At first I thought it was just the game being annoyingly brutal, which is pretty much the case with all these shooters from the late 90s/early 2000s. A little while after finishing Max Payne and going back through some of the levels, I realized that diving into a room in slow motion and using that as my ONLY means of taking out dudes was foolish. Sometimes shooting with dual Berettas while standing or running around dudes gets the job done more effectively.
The other part of Max Payne that is very well done is the style and presentation. Story, setting, characters, everything about it is fantastic. Not really sure where to start, because there are so many moments and observations that I had while playing through this game. Even with the graphics being over a decade old, the image of Max’s smothered, dead baby daughter during the prologue shocked me. Hearing the baby crying as you’re trying to save your family from the junkies was bad enough, and in most other media they’d probably not show the corpse at all, but nope, here’s this baby dead, smothered in a blanket with an arm sticking out (and they show it to you again in a dream sequence, with the arm moving). I knew that Max’s wife was murdered before I started playing the game, but I didn’t know about there being a child involved as well. That just happened to really surprise me.
The other major part of the game that had me thinking a lot was reading into Max’s psychology, with the dichotomy between what he says in his monologues and what he actually does. Max Payne is probably the one every day man (like Nathan Drake) where the idea of that sort of person killing hundreds and hundreds of people after him came to the front of my mind, and is in itself addressed by the game, with the news reporting about Max’s one man war against the mob, all the way to his realization that Aesir was responsible for releasing the V junkies on his family. At every moment of reflection, Max has the option to quit what he’s doing, as he realizes what he's doing is ultimately murder; but of course, as the player, you’re still guiding him through the game shooting up everyone until you find Horne and kill her for the death of Max’s wife and child.
It’s a dark and grim story, but there are plenty of fun, interesting moments that lighten things up briefly. You get a couple of Captain Baseball Bat Boy comic strips, the “amazing” Lords and Ladies soap opera, Vladimer Lem being a bad ass and a mob boss that helps Max. Not to mention a couple of funny conversations between enemies throughout the game. There’s a lot of great details that when you come across them, you wanna stop and listen for a bit.
So I finished Max Payne the first time through on just the base game, and now I have the kung fu mod installed. To put it briefly, using it is pretty awesome. Especially with shotguns, as you can do a front flip forward in slow motion and not only does it give you some good elevation, but it makes quick work of enemies. Max still goes down easily with a few well placed shots, but the mod has made what I’ve replayed of this game way more fun.
Max Payne 1 was a very enjoyable game, even if it was brutal in spots (even when I was playing on the easiest difficulty). Coming off of that game, I obviously wanted to get right into Max Payne 2. And that’s what I did.
Went directly into Max Payne 2 following the first game, and got what I expected: more Max Payne. But better. Unlike Max Payne 1 where I got frustrated and used God Mode for the latter half of the game (which was my own fault and not the game’s) I had a better handle on the gun fights in Max Payne 2, thanks in part to easily being able to use bullet time without having to dive through the air. And that’s good, because coming out of a dive in slow motion always leaves you super vulnerable.
The story in this one didn’t grab me as much as the first game, or atleast not initially. The playable sequence in the hospital, and the occasional flash forwards to small pieces of the final scene in the mansion left me feeling disjointed at times. A bit odd, considering in the first Max Payne, you started at the top of the Aesir building, flashed back to the beginning, and ended right back at the top of the Aesir building. Simple to follow. The jumping in between points in the story’s chronology, as well as other parts of the story felt a lot more noir than the first game. And yet, a lot more bizarre.
Max Payne 1 had the 4 wall breaking “Max, you’re in a video game” moment, and the occasional Lords & Ladies or Address Unknown being nice distractions during the action, not to mention Captain Baseball Bat Boy comics for a couple levels. This game increases the hilarious stupidity of the soap opera Lords & Ladies, has a fun house based around Address Unknown, and Vinnie Gognitti is a collector of all things Captain Baseball Bat Boy, including a costume that is rigged with a bomb, which unfortunately goes off near the end. Such a shame, actually felt bad for the mob boss bastard. There’s quite a bit of irreverent fun to be had amidst what is still a serious, tragic noir story. What is it with Max and him failing to protect women from being killed?
I said at the start that I found the gameplay much better thanks to being able to go into slow motion without needing to dive. It was possible in Max Payne 1, but you basically had to stand still in order for it to activate, as the slightest movement would send Max flying guns pointed. The slow motion while standing helps in clearing out most enemies on all sides, while saving a few for a moment of bullet ballet as I fly down the stairs, over a table, or whatever object to launch off of and take out those last few goons quickly and effectively.
There’s not much else I can really say other this is more Max Payne 1, with very incremental improvements, along with a story that is still good, but not on the same level of impact and remembrance as Max Payne 1. Still a very fun game. Haven’t looked at any mods for this one yet, should do that sometime in the near future.
Well, this is it. The game that I bought that also came with the first two games. After finishing Max Payne 1 and 2 I was curious to see how Rockstar’s interpretation of this series was gonna end up. And finishing the first act of the game, I felt like the game had the gameplay of Max Payne down. You had painkillers to refill health, you got shoot dodging, basic gameplay is there. But the style, the look of it was not very Max Payne. You weren’t in New Jersey, where it was snowy and at night (except for a couple flashback moments), there’s no graphic novel panel cutscenes, and the glitch camera effects were a bit too severe on my eyes at times. And Max just looked like an older, piece of shit version of himself, with his monologues not carrying the same weight as they did in 1 and 2.
And then Act 2 begins. Rodrigo is killed without Max able to protect him. And then he shaves his head and gives up drinking alcohol. Max goes into a transition that solidifies somehow, in an almost contradictory sense at first glance, that this game is not the Max Payne you know from a decade ago, and yet it totally is a Max Payne game in its own right. Basically, shit gets real for the next two thirds of the game. Rockstar made a big deal of Max shaving his head, and the moment leading up to it and what transpires afterwards gives it the right impact that they were promising.
It was also the point in the game where Max became the sort of character where, even with his personality already the way it was, my emotions and thoughts lined up with everything Max was feeling and thinking. Just like I felt like I was Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2, I felt like I was Max in Max Payne 3. For as much the Brancos initially came off as rich dirt bags (especially Marcello), losing the members somehow no longer became a matter of keeping a job, but trying to protect people because that is something Max has struggled to do with people he’s known in his past. The murder of Fabiana was the first test of Max’s new resolve, and in a way my own as well. Marcello getting set on fire was kinda terrifying, as I felt sympathy for the dumb ass there. Learning that Giovanna was pregnant elicited a “are you shitting me?” response. Watching Passos fly off without you made me feel betrayed, and Max remembering Panama suddenly put the current situation in a different light. And then the game’s “conspiracy,” what was really happening under Max’s nose the whole time…you probably guessed it, I was about as fucking pissed as Max was at discovering the mass human trafficking scheme. I could probably go on and on, but all the moments in the game escalate the scale higher and higher, that from the moment Health is played in the airport level I could not have been more immersed in what I was doing. I was ready to stop Victor Branco and the UFE. And I did. And I pumped my fists up in victory after stopping his plane from taking off.
Max Payne 3 does its own thing, but along with making Max Payne a character that I felt completely in touch with, all the touches and details they put into the game, things that initially seemed odd or out of place, made sense, and all the small details that mirrored points in the previous games solidified it was still a Max Payne game. The cutscenes that have panels popping out of the sides are basically the evolution of the graphic novel panel scenes in the first game. I got used to the glitch camera effects, and saw that it was a good indicator of Max’s mental state, whether or not he just drank or popped pills. The throwbacks to New Jersey were absolutely phenomenal, and even then, the environments presented in Sao Paolo made sense as Max Payne levels, providing a bigger contrast between the wealth and the poor areas of living in the city than in previous games. It’s still a bit crazy, because it is at first glance a non Max Payne looking setting and style. But when you really play it, and start paying attention to all the details, this isn’t just a sequel being different for the sake of it. It is the evolution of Max Payne.
The first playthrough is fantastic, assuming you don’t die a lot and suffer from the bad checkpointing system. Replays through the game become more problematic when you care more about playing the game portions of Max Payne 3 than watching the cutscenes over again. And when you can’t skip through cutscenes, it’s very annoying. I primarily want to go back through it again just so I can have all the golden guns and find all the clues that I missed. Plus nail the requirements for some of the bullet time sequences that I didn’t get achievements for. As for multiplayer, I will actually be playing some with the good people in the Giant Bomb PC Gaming Community today. I was very dismissive at the idea of Max Payne multiplayer, because of trying to figure out how the bullet time mechanic would work with multiple people who would have the same ability to use it. At least I’ll be trying it with good people that I know.
I really, really enjoyed Max Payne 3. Didn’t expect to based on the first act, but after finishing the game, I found my second Top 10 GOTY contender for this year (the first was Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, even though I didn’t finish it). I’ve seen various complaints about this game from Max Payne fans, and even though I absolutely love this game, I can see the validity in many of the arguments brought up, be it the choice of setting, or writing, or just simply not caring for the way Rockstar makes their games. That’s all fine. For me, I appreciate the Max Payne games, but don’t have the sort of nostalgia that people who played those games back in the day have, so whatever style it’s in doesn’t matter that much in the end. What I expected was a game that played like Max Payne, and I got it, with the addition of an intense, serious story with a character that I haven’t found myself immersed in since Nathan Drake in Uncharted 2, and also is not a silent protagonist. Big win for Rockstar, to me.
And the Rest
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
On a visit to the store where I get a lot of my used games and occasional manga, I saw this on the shelf of Gamecube games and thought “holy shit, I haven’t played this game in 10 years.” And then I remembered “wow, it’s been 10 years since I first got a Gamecube.” So I bought it, been playing it, and I’ve been loving it despite it not explaining things very well and kicking my ass. And now it’s had me on a bit of a Gamecube nostalgia rush, playing bits of some of my other games, and even trying to get some GC games from Gamefly. Eternal Darkness won’t be shipping for a while, unfortunately, and I’m stuck with Geist. Oh well.
Things Other Than Games
Work continues to be hell on my legs, but I finally got my paycheck, something I should've asked for a week ago, but better late than never. Quite a big sum. Enough for me to probably buy two new terabyte hard drives instead of just the one I'm saving up for. But my parents want me to split up the money between what I can use for spending and what I put into savings, with savings being the bulk of it. It's understandable though, college is expensive, and I'll be moving into an apartment a year from now, and then will be moving out of state a year after that. Gotta have enough money. But I want that hard drive right now. So I can continue buying games that go on sale on Steam.
Also, I am by myself at home this weekend. My family is down in Spokane for a memorial service. My grandfather passed away a couple weeks ago. I didn't go, since I had work yesterday, and I'm never really comfortable in an environment that is super emotional with people crying. I'm sad that he's gone, but I don't linger on it. I already had another relative that died years ago, my grandmother on my mom's side of the family, so I've gone through all that stuff.
And that's it. A big write up on three games. That's more than the usual one or two. Expect that to be the case when I play through a series that is mostly three games or something. So once I get Mass Effect 3 (if I get it) and play through that, expect a similar blog to this one. In fact, next week's will be similar as I write about my experiences with Devil May Cry 1-3. Not the HD collection, but the original PS2 games. The value I got for it was most likely cheaper than finding a used copy of the HD collection.
And AhmadMetalilc, I hope you enjoyed this.