on 4 February 2004
Max Payne 2 is the kind of satisfying, brain-free blasting action that console gaming was invented for. It's a rain-soaked, noir-styled thriller that follows the titular Payne through yet another life-or-death, intrigue-filled trawl through the seedy, underbelly of New York City. The game's premise is as shallow as it gets, but thanks to the excellent plot and cinematic stylings you'll forgive it's 'shoot, run, shoot' mechanic and learn to appreciate it's no-holds-barred take on the genre.
But, of course, no game is perfect, and Max Payne 2 has it's fair share of flaws. Firstly, it's too damn short. You'll love every minute of it, but when the end arrives you may feel a little short changed. Secondly, the ragdoll physics, although mostly excellent, occasionally glitch and end up looking a bit, well, crap. A shame, as the rest of the game looks stunning. Otherwise, everything's as tight as a drum. Some say the bullet time is flawed, but with proper mastery, wiping out a room full of goons never gets old - especially with a pair of Ingram sub-machine guns in your posession.
Gameplay highlights include the funhouse level based on a TV show that plays throughout the game (an excellent parody of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, I might add), and is gloriously surreal. The hand-drawn sets and cardboard-cut-out characters are sheer genius. In fact, the whole game is one big highlight, and thanks to the Havok physics engine, each playthrough can differ depending on how you interact with the environment. Offed bad guys stumble into chairs, fall over balconies and get their limbs caught on stuff - it's completely overblown and unrealistic, as is the nature of the game. The major improvement over the previous game, however, is the upgraded Bullet Time system that now allows for more varied use of Max's slow-mo abilities, and just looks cooler, which is the most important thing, right?
There are a hundred unique touches that make Max Payne truly unique including chattering enemies, hilarious, self-depreciating humour and self-referential TV shows that mirror Max's life. And then there's the graphic novel wherein the game's plot is advanced between levels on the pages of a comic book; gritty, hard-boiled voiceover and all.
So, let's get down to the nitty gritty; should you spend forty hard-earned notes on this? Well, that depends. If you're expecting depth and longevity, look elsewhere, but if you're cup of tea is pure, unadulterated fun, then Max Payne 2 is the game for you. Entertaining but short-lived.