Friday 8 February, 2008
As I got deeper into the story, the audio began to have a massive effect on the game. Even at the start menu, the crime-story piano sets the tone for the film-noir theme. The "mobster" character from films such as Goodfellas and The Godfather have been imitated perfectly both in the cinematics and gameplay. If Max is to sneak up on some thugs seated around a table, he'll hear a disturbing story about how "Vinne got sent to the freezah" or an argument over handgun preference, tastefully ending in "fuhhghheetabautit." Of course, such conversations can be interrupted by the fugitive cop, and the thugs shout "Whattda hell? Its Payne!" Classic.
The dark atmosphere and authentic New York mobsters made the progression of the story feel like just a movie. The game has short in-game cinematics, but the best dialogue is seen in the graphic novel scenarios between each level. Max's narration and interaction with key characters is seen in the framework of a comic book. This adds a compelling and unique way to depict events and plot twists outside of the action.
The environment is highly interactive and somewhat free roaming - if a room or location is blocked off, it always makes sense to the story why this is so. For instance, in the subway system, the bad guys have sealed the station shut, and so the raging storm outside keeps the action indoors instead of on the streets. Vending machines will dispense sodas if used, which blow up in a crackle of fizz if shot. These sequences don't have an effect on the game, but its quite interesting to explore how far the developers wanted to go with making Max Payne as real-to-life as possible.
Max Payne is proof that third-person shooters can be brought to new levels, and that carnage and intellect can make an awsome pair. The game added incredible narrative with the comic-book like scenes with authentic dialogue to compose them with. Max's poetic nature is experienced nearly every time his inner dialogue speaks; his sentences are chock full of metaphors and the poetic elements of his circumstances.
The game moves very quickly and hence an additional feature is added to the combat system to keep up with the action - the ability to engage enemies in bullet time, or slow motion. When activated, the combat zone plunges into an almost underwater-like flow of movement - bullets zip by and the player dives into thin air, even gunfire flashes at a slower rate. The first few levels were rather challenging until I mastered the technique of diving in rooms and around corners. Lunging into a room in slo-mo with double pistols, mowing down a cluster of mobsters and thugs... its a kind of combat style that would make John Woo wince like a little girl. The bad guys even limp or clutch their arm when shot, and the game goes somewhat easy on the gore, even if the game has an M-Rating. Its primarily the situations and references which contribute to the games 18-only rating, as prostitutes, pornography, and drugged up junkies all make an appearance. But hey, its New York.
The real driving force of Max Payne is its dark nature due to the fact that it is from the perspective of a man who has lost everything. The storyline, as well as the immediate surroundings, set the tone for the kind of level design and atmosphere. The levels never see the light of day - they always take place at night, and the game is therefore constantly in a red or black tone. There are even levels where you play Max's nightmares as he relives the murder of his wife and child in a dream.
Max Payne is practically an interactive movie, which is my personal definition of a what makes a game immersive and authentic. I don't think theres a thing I would change about Max Payne - if theres one cheesy aspect of the game its the graphics, but if I changed that, I wouldn't be able to run them on my laptop...so there, its perfect.