Hands-onMax Payne

The gritty third-person shooter finally hits store shelves. New screenshots and movies inside.

After nearly four years in development, Remedy Entertainment and 3D Realms' long-awaited action game Max Payne has finally arrived, and we had a chance to run through a few levels today. The game starts with a brief comic book-like opening sequence, in which Max talks to one of his coworkers and then heads home to his wife and child. When he does arrive at his house, you're able to take control of Max and explore the Payne residence. Almost immediately, though, you hear gunshots and screams from the upper levels of the house, where you eventually discover a gruesome murder scene--Max's wife and his infant child have been killed by a group of thugs who broke in. Some time after the murders, Max undertakes the task of infiltrating the local mob scene to uncover their plans for pushing a new drug out on to the streets. At this point, the action starts to pick up, and one of Max Payne's most vaunted features--"shootdodging"--comes into play.

Quite often, you'll find that you have to go through or escape from rooms that are filled with at least four to five enemies. Doing this in real time is a nearly impossible task, and you frequently die in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, shootdodging slows the onscreen action to a crawl, letting you fire off a few rounds before the enemy even gets a shot off. It's especially helpful when you're at a blind corner and can hear two enemies speaking somewhere in the area--you can dive right in and catch them by surprise. Shootdodging's an easy ability to use, and you can recharge its meter by simply killing additional enemies, but it can be somewhat difficult to time your attacks in the early stages. The more powerful weapons, such as the shotguns, require slightly different timing than the pistols, but when used correctly, they can do some serious damage in a single shot. This feature doesn't have to be used only for offensive purposes. In fact, you might find that you're using it just as often to find cover behind walls, couches, or other objects within the background.

Visually, Max Payne has some incredible looking textures and environmental details. Walking through the halls of a run-down hotel, you can actually see the wallpaper beginning to fade and tear away in areas, and parts of the ceiling are water damaged. In the subway, rats scurry around the ground, tiles crumble from the walls and ceilings, and mist seeps through air vents. The fire effects for the Molotov cocktails are especially impressive. It's reasonable to think that with all these details the game wouldn't run very well, but on a Pentium III 600 equipped with a GeForce2, the game runs solidly in 1024x768 resolution with all the default settings. Even at higher detail settings and higher resolution, the game runs well; slowdown occurs only in larger gunfights.

We'll have a full review of Max Payne soon.

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