Review: Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

After finishing Max Payne, one would think that there wouldn’t be a sequel. It ends rather satisfyingly, with most of the loose ends tied up, but however, the story didn’t end. Max Payne 2 manages to keep the spirit from the previous game and sends Max out to solve yet another mystery.

Released in 2003, just two years after the first game, it was published by Take-Two Interactive, who acquired the rights from Remedy Entertainment and 3D Realms in 2001. Take-Two moved quickly, and development started quickly, and the game was developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Rockstar Game. With the bigger budget and a new engine (RenderWare), the game was ready to start development.

The story follows our protagonist, Max Payne, years after the events of the first game. No longer in the DEA, he transferred back to his old job as a detective for the NYPD. While answering a call about a possible shoot-out in one of the warehouses, that belongs to Vladimir Lem (an “associate” from the first game), he encounters a group known as the Cleaners. Investigating the warehouse, Max encounters Mona Sax, who was presumed dead. This starts a snowball as a larger conspiracy begins to unveil.

The gameplay is relatively intact, although the game now has more “smoother” controls. The basics are still the same, you move and shoot and use bullet time to kill enemies until it’s either spent or you choose to stop it. Bullet time will eventually replenish when not in use, or by quickly killing enemies, to simulate “being in the zone”.
There are also two new additions to the gameplay. The first one is the introduction of a secondary weapon, and now Max can either throw a grenade or a Molotov Cocktail, or pistol whip enemies. The other one is the introduction of a friendly AI, that will can help Max in combat, but their deaths don’t impact the story or the progress of the level.
Just like in the first game, the first time you play it, there is only one difficulty mode. Completing the game will unlock other difficulty levels and two game modes: New York Minute and Dead Man Walking. New York Minute gives you a score based on the time you took to beat a level, and Dead Man Walking puts you in one of the five scenarios to see how long you can survive, against the waves of endlessly respawning enemies.

Max Payne 2, can also adjust the difficulty the first time that you play it. This means, that if you die too many times, the game will make the enemies weaker, and it gives you more health and painkillers. Painkillers are still the only way to replenish health, which keeps up the style of the first game.

The game naturally has better graphics than the original, but the presentation of the story is still the same. The story is told through comic panels, as developers decided that the panels were more effective and less costly to make than a full cutscene. There are some minor cutscenes in the game, but they are rendered using the in-game engine, usually to either introduce the level or give you a hint where to go next.
Max Payne’s character is no longer modeled (or drawn), to look like Sam Lake the series creator, and has now been remodeled after the actor Timothy Gibbons, and he is still voiced by James McCaffrey that reprises his role once again. The result is that the comic panels look more professional, and are now of higher quality. Voice acting has also improved, and the new actors managed to do an amazing job.
In a typical noir setting, New York is under constant rain, and the levels are all realistic looking, but you will visit some levels several times. This was probably done to save time during development, but as you visit the same levels throughout the story, there are usually small changes to acknowledge that some time has passed.
The biggest change in the game is the nightmare levels. No longer abstract with platform mechanics, nightmare levels now offer more insight into Max’s psyche and motivations. You cannot die in these levels, but even then these levels are still memorable and fun to play and will give you small details about the story.
The script for the game, is three times larger, than that of the original game, as Sam Lake wanted a more complex story, that would add to the replay value. The story is just like the original game, divided into several parts and chapters.

The music in the game also manages to give you that noir and dark atmosphere. Composed by Kärtsy Hatakka and Kimmo Kajasto, manage to create an amazing soundtrack once again. Also, the game’s end credits song “Late Goodbye” by Poets of the Fall, is based on the lyrics by Sam Lake. It’s also referenced and hummed several times in the game by other characters. The game is also full of references and jokes, but these aren’t obvious and don’t ruin the atmosphere of the game.

The game was very well received by both the audience and critics, receiving several awards. However, despite its very positive reception, the game sold poorly, causing Take-Two to cite Max Payne 2 sales as a reason for the company’s revision of finances for 2004. Modding tools were also made available by Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment, which allowed the players to create various mods. This move without a doubt helped the game’s longevity and replayability.

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is available for Windows, Xbox, and PS2. It’s also available on Steam and is very well optimized and works fine on most PCs.
In case you’re looking for a good third-person shooter or just want your noir fix, give Max Payne 2 a try. I would recommend that you play the first game as well because it’s also amazing, but it however isn’t required to follow the story. Superb graphics, story, and music that still hold to this day, will keep you occupied until you finish the game, and hopefully provide you with hours of entertainment.

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