Released less than two months ago for the PC, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne will shortly hit the Xbox, followed by a release for the PlayStation 2. We've hunkered down with the Xbox version and found that it's largely a very faithful translation of the PC version, offering the same spectacular shootouts, though without quite as many graphical bells and whistles. We'll have a full review soon, but for now, read our first impressions and check out some new media of the game.
Max Payne 2 is a direct sequel to the hit 2001 shooter and follows many of the plot threads set up by the original game. If you've played the first Max Payne, then the gameplay of the sequel will also be familiar to you. Like the first game, Max Payne 2 is a linear, heavily story-driven third-person-perspective shooter whose most obvious gameplay feature is "bullet time," which allows you to shoot it out in slow motion. This essentially gives you heightened reflexes compared with all the bad guys, and it enables you to successfully duke it out against tons of them at a time. Max Payne 2 is also one of the first games to extensively use realistic physics, so you'll routinely see objects (ranging from boxes to bodies) getting flung around or blasted about during the game's stylish, dynamic gun battles.
The Xbox version of Max Payne 2, at a glance, looks identical to the visually stunning PC version. Closer inspection, though, reveals that some of the little visual touches from the PC version didn't make the cut here. For example, there are no longer any reflective surfaces, such as mirrors, in the game. Weapon effects, environmental damage, and lighting effects have also been slightly toned down. Some of the textures appear noticeably blurry, and the colors overall don't look as rich. Despite all that, Max Payne 2 still looks quite impressive by the Xbox's own high standards, though its visuals--admittedly, one of the game's main draws--definitely aren't quite as remarkable on the Xbox as they are on the PC. On the other hand, the audio of the game, including the excellent though hammy voice acting used throughout the game's cutscenes, seems to be fully intact.
Max Payne 2 controls well on the Xbox, and anyone who has played the original or any first-person shooter on the console should be able to pick it right up. One small issue with the controls, though, is that Max turns quite slowly when you use the right analog stick, and there seems to be no way to adjust the sensitivity of the controls. Fortunately, a "quick turn" feature is available if you press down on the right analog stick, but we're finding ourselves having to do this more often than not. Weapon switching is handled via the directional pad, with which you can also equip a secondary weapon--usually either grenades or Molotov cocktails. This means you can effectively use explosives in battle without having to fumble through your weapon inventory to access them.
Though we really enjoyed the PC version of Max Payne 2, it should be noted that the Xbox version apparently has the same shortcomings. One is that this is a short game. There's some replay value to be found in the higher difficulty settings and the "dead man walking" survival mode, but the main storyline can be blazed through in less than 10 hours. That's partly due to the second issue, which is that Max Payne 2 is relatively easy. Bullet time gives you a huge advantage over your foes, often allowing you to take out multiple enemies before they can squeeze off a single shot. The Xbox version seems even easier due to a default auto-aim feature, which causes your targeting reticle to snap to your enemies when you're aiming near to them. It's not very difficult to aim precisely when things are moving in slow motion, so our first impression is that the auto-aim feature is a little too convenient.
But we're nitpicking here. Most importantly, Max Payne 2 for the Xbox does capture the excitement and intensity that made the PC version such a blast to play, for as long as it lasted. Read our full review of the original version for more information, or stay tuned for our full review of the Xbox version. Also look for new media of the game in action.