Max Payne uses extremely realistic graphics to showcase a gritty film noir-inspired New York City. Payne stalks subways, tenements, nightclubs and even government installations as he takes his vengeance out on a horde of gun-toting bad guys. Taking a page from the visual style of famed director John Woo, as well as The Matrix, Max Payne lets the player launch into a slow motion mode generally known as "Bullet Time", which makes dodging enemy fire and dishing out your own in return, while leaping side to side, a breeze. While this looks extremely cool to do, it also evens the odds and can only be used for limited amounts of time, making it a strategic as well as aesthetic option.
And speaking of aesthetics, the game is packed with exciting moments, weapons and locations, even if the enemies get a little redundant after a while. The level design ranges from inspired (a multi-level parking garage) to humdrum (a warehouse) and several levels actually take place in the twisted wonderland of the hero's warped psyche. The graphics are state of the art, though admittedly the PlayStation 2 doesn't have the power to render them as well as the Xbox or PC, but most people won't notice the difference. The introduction scenes are painted photos presented graphic-novel style, which is a stylistic choice that pays dividends, even if the writing is hilariously bad and the voice acting is, if possible, even worse.
Needless to say, all this is violent, disturbing and not at all for the kids. Pay attention to the 18 rating, it's not there for decoration.--Bob Andrews