If John Woo wrote computer games they would look like this. Max leaps in slow motion, his blazing guns spitting hot lead towards his flailing victim. The bullets rip through flesh and bone. Blood is spattered on the tiled wall of the subway station as the thug slides to the floor with a final exhalation. Tiny chips of ceramic fall from the gracefully drawn arc of bullet holes. Why is there no action replay in this game? I wanna see it again! This is a well executed (pardon the pun) game with a very basic premise - if it moves, shoot it. Shoot it lots. The interface and mechanics are carefully thought out and designed to allow maximum use of the mouse as an action controller. If that turns out to be something of an innovation in a third person perspective game you can't help but feel that it's more of an emergent property than anything that was consciously determined. It's nice to see it, even if it is the way things should have been all along (space combat game designers take note). But the really deliberate innovation here is the invention of Bullet Time. Why did this take so long to discover? Just when you thought real imagination in games was a thing of the past, along comes this stunning use of 3D space to remind you just how mind blowing games can be. Forget trying to simulate reality and cast aside any silly justifications as to exactly why Max can do this. Why doesn't matter. He can do it and it's immensely cool. Sub zero, in fact. If you haven't experienced Bullet Time yet then there's no point in trying to explain the feeling you get from successfully implementing a carefully thought out sideways leap whilst delivering fifty slugs to the face of some drug crazed mobster. You just have to try it to realise how intuitive a system it is. Hit the right mouse button then the direction button, aim and blast. Max and everything around him momentarily slows to a crawl but Max retains the ability to aim in real time. Expect other games to implement similar time stretching functions in the months ahead. It's not all relentless and mindless gunplay though. There's a story being woven to cradle the action. It's not exactly an original plot but it suffices and it's driven along by game engine cut scenes and a tacky graphic novel presentation both of which feature suitably OTT voice acting. There's a definite waft of self parody drifting by here, especially when, during one of his more vulnerable moments, Max begins to question the nature of his game bound reality. Generally, the narrative doesn't take itself too seriously and is played for laughs. But when it gets heavy it manages to pull it off with some truly hair raising and genuinely moving moments. Some of the scenes that are played out are actually distressing, dealing as they do with the loss of Max's family and the depths of his guilt about the way they died. The gameplay itself isn't all shooting either. There are a couple of levels where Max has to navigate his inner psyche in search of some sort of redemption. But mostly, it's shooting. The few puzzles are well thought out and add a little variety but they ain't gonna fox the Tomb Raiders amongst us. There are one or two moments of tricky scenery navigation as a token nod to Lara's skillset but, aside from a couple of vertiginous jumps, any truly platform-esque elements are carefully and thankfully absent. Max Payne is gaming's next big star. I expect to be going to see the film in a couple of years time. No doubt I'll be moaning then about the Max Payne series' lack of originality and progression but until then I'll be lapping it up. If this is the B movie to Creative Realms' forthcoming Duke Nukem blockbuster we really do have a treat in store. But my money is on Max.