PC games: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

A direct sequel to the 2001 original, Max Payne 2 continues the storyline and takes you farther into his gritty underworld than ever before. Remedy Entertainment talked up updated graphics, a new physics engine, and an engaging plot — and they certainly delivered the goods. (If you are new to this series, before you dive into the second offering you are advised to pick up the original for the back-story and to understand the references found in MP2.)

The plot sees Max hook up with his latest love interest, Mona Sax, a contract killer from Max’s troubled past, who has survived a bullet wound to the head and surfaces as a murder suspect in the case Max is working on. Max has now been promoted to detective amid rumours of corruption, embezzlement and murder. Fighting to clear their names, Max’s and Mona’s paths intersect throughout the story as they help each other in their fights for justice. There is an opportunity to play the Mona character in a few chapters.

Employing a third person over-the-shoulder view, the game is made up of three main sets that each contain a prologue and six chapters (the third set features two additional chapters for the final mission). As opposed to the action gameplay in the chapters, the prologue gameplay follows a dream-like state (as in the original) and sets the scene for the upcoming chapters. Remedy seems to have taken the criticism on board from the first title and made these prologues less annoying and more intuitive. The classic graphic novel storyboard-telling style has been retained from the original, helping the gamer to stay submersed in the plot. The new-look physics engine, Havok, has been added to the franchise and this title benefits greatly. The rag-doll physics provide realistic deaths as you see enemies crumple and flay in every direction after being shot.

As you would expect in an action title, Max has a large cache of weapons available. The weapon set has been improved from the original. The grenade launcher has been omitted, replaced by the MP5 assault rifle with scope, which is a great tool for mowing down a room full of baddies. The bullet time move has been upgraded, giving you more control during a firefight. During a bullet time sequence, Max can easily draw a bead on multiple enemies in slow motion while aiming the weapon in real time. The improvement is most noticeable when taking down numerous enemies; the bullet time hourglass indicator turns shades of yellow and gives Max faster movement and extended bullet time.

The gameplay, immersive plot, audio and visuals are all of excellent calibre. One weakness: MP2 is a little short in length, taking approximately six to eight hours to complete. However, the inclusion of the development kit and tutorial (available for download from the official Web site) extends longevity, allowing gamers to create their own levels, weapons and tweaks. Max Payne 2 is excellent action title, a must buy.

Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Publisher: Rockstar Games
URL: www.rockstargames.com/maxpayne2

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