Super Adventures in Gaming Replay 2014 - Game 4
I suppose this one's not actually technically a replay, seeing as first time around I was mostly talking about the GBA version instead, which is a great deal more isometric and a great deal less 3D. It wasn't all that terrible either (genuine huge surprise there!)
Here, have Max's theme tune to listen to while you read: youtube link, it's one of my favourites.
(Click the images to view them at a fascinating 1280x1024 resolution.)
It starts in New York City, 1 hour ago, with police being called in to Aesir Plaza as shots have been fired on the rooftop and an officer is in danger. The camera flies around the skyscraper, circling up to the roof to reveal...
"They were all dead. The final gunshot was an exclamation mark to everything that had led to this point. I released my finger from the trigger and then it was over."Max is our deadpan narrator for the game, doing his best impression of a private eye in a classic film noir. His character model doesn't talk so much though as his mouth is locked in a permanent pained smirk, his face a photograph of the lead writer projected onto a low polygon mesh.
"To make any kind of sense of it I need to go back three years-- back to the night the pain started."
THREE YEARS AGO.
Instead of animating the cutscenes in-engine or going with expensive pre-rendered CGI, Remedy decided to use with Graphic Novel pages to tell the story. And instead of hiring expensive models, Remedy decided to make their own staff pose for the photo references. That's why it's the image has got a bit of a 'photo of game developers hanging around the office with a Photoshop filter over the top' kind of look to it.
Honestly though I think it really works; the characters are way more expressive than real-time 3D technology could manage at the time and it gives the game a really distinctive look.
The camera flashes to a photo of him and his wife, scattered baby blocks, a bathroom door and finally a ringing telephone. Can't say that the signs are good.
I walked over to pick up the phone and found that the woman on the other end of the line was less than helpful, despite Max's pleading that she call 911, and soon hung up on him. No idea why it doesn't occur to him to put the phone down and try ringing them himself.
Max is so distraught that he cradles his dead wife in his arms... and shows some actual emotion in his voice.
NEW YORK CITY. PRESENT DAY. TWO NIGHTS AGO.
I could've gone with a page from the graphic novel to go with that info or a perhaps a picture of the Max coming in on the train, but in the end I couldn't resist this screenshot of cars in snow. This is a pretty impressive looking street for 2001 in my humble opinion.
And here's 20 screenshots of streets from other video games released around the same time to compare it against:
... uh, actually I'll let you guys off this once. Anyway, Max steps off the train to find that the platform is abandoned and the exits are locked. Also there's a dead guy in the maintenance room.
I'm not complaining though as it gives me a chance to take part in a little gameplay at last. Max Payne has the rare gift of being able to perceive time at a slower rate, the world slowing to a crawl while his aiming is as fast as ever; meaning that he can arc through the air like this for a second or two, carefully choosing his shots. Though this 'Bullet Time™' is fuelled by the lifeforce of others, so I have to keep getting kills to recharge the gauge afterwards.
Painkillers are my health items in this, each one restoring maybe a fifth of my health silhouette in the bottom left corner. I do have a small amount of health regeneration, but that only empties the hurt down to shoulder level, enough to for me to survive a single minor hit perhaps.
Personally I don't bother with 'em though, as even with full health I'm incredibly fragile. I quick save every now and again, and if I get hit twice in one encounter I just replay it until I don't get hit twice.
PART 1, CHAPTER TWO: LIVE FROM THE CRIME SCENE.
Here's another fun fact: rats are tiny and hard to screenshot (sorry).
But here's some good news: I've met up with Alex at last, in an actual in-game cutscene! Though the bad news is that he gets shot in the back and killed. Oh well. Not all of us are blessed with a health bar I guess.
Actually I should mention that the enemies are fairly resilient in this and when you combine that with my impaired accuracy when moving, it means that I can never rely on a single shot from any gun to get the job done. There is an auto-aim option though, which might help with that in exchange for your dignity.
Anyway, losing his old friend does nothing for Max's already fragile state of mind and he goes off to pay Jack Lupino a visit in person. He doesn't exactly know where he is right now, but he has a few ideas and with his cover still in place he should be able to walk right in without suspicion.
PART 1, CHAPTER THREE: PLAYING IT BOGART.
Wait hang on, he used his real name while undercover? Seems a bit... unwise somehow.
It's just lucky I had some ammo left after my epic killing spree on the last level or else... oh, they're dead already? Wow, I was expecting that to be a massive pain in the ass. Uh, no pun intended.
Okay Lupino is a mob boss, Vinnie Gognitti works for him, the Finito's worked for Vinnie, and there's a Valkyr drug deal going on. Got it. I don't think any of this is relevant to my 'take down Lupino' mission though, except for the fact that there's going to be a lot of locked doors and nervous thugs standing between me and the hotel exit.
I have to make sure I have the element of surprise when possible, because reflexes alone aren't enough when bullets are modelled as physical objects that take time to reach their target. Even if I can catch sight of an enemy first and then immediately shoot him dead with a single perfectly aimed shot to the head, I can still end up getting killed by his returning fire.
A FEW HALLWAYS LATER.
Well there's no way back into the corridor from this secret side room so I guess I'm leaving via the window, same way I came in.
There's not much scope for wandering off the path in this really, aside from some unlocked rooms, though it's very much worth my while to search every corner, open up every cupboard, and smash every box for ammo and painkillers.
PART 1, CHAPTER FIVE: LET THE GUN DO THE TALKING:
Max decided that his next stop should be Jack Lupino's slum tenements, seeing as he wasn't at the hotel and there's no one left alive there who'd know where he is. There's no one left alive there at all really. Unfortunately the tenement buildings were rigged to blow, thanks to the Russian Mob, so now I've got to get in and out before the whole place comes down.
Oh and there's another two names for my list. Vladmir is the leader of the Russian Mob, Don Punchinello is Jack Lupino's boss. Man, I should be drawing up a chart.
I've also been shooting a bunch of people, but you've seen that already. Just assume that there's a dozen enemies between each screenshot.
PART 1, CHAPTER SIX: FEAR THAT GIVES MEN WINGS.
Speaking of talking, this isn't the kind of game where I can go and trigger a conversation with someone. I do exactly two things in this game: look at my graphic novel and shoot folks.
It has a backwards talking pink flamingo in it and that's got to be a reference to something, dammit. Creepily one of its lines is "The flesh of fallen angels", which is what that junkie said to him three years ago after killing his wife. I guess he must've been a fan.
Man, I am so glad I'm not playing on Dead on Arrival difficulty, with only seven save games to last me the whole level. Then again that difficulty is locked until I've finished the game on medium mode, which itself is locked until I've finished it on the easiest skill level, so it wasn't really an option for me. Incidentally, locked difficulty levels is not a concept I'm fond of, for obvious reasons.
PART 1, CHAPTER SEVEN: POLICE BRUTALITY.
Max figured that Vinnie would know where Jack Lupino is (seeing as he's his boss) so we're chasing him down. He's surprisingly fast for a guy with an open gut wound; in fact I'm amazed he can move at all.
There's something very... 'The Matrix' about this short interlude somehow though.
PART 1, CHAPTER EIGHT: RAGNA ROCK.
This is the Ragna Rock nightclub, where Jack Lupino is definitely hiding out this time, or so Vinnie assured me after a bit of encouragement. No exploding oil trucks needed this time as they've started me off locked inside the building.
Then I just have to hope that there's no one left waiting to shoot me in the second it takes for Max to pick himself back off the ground.
That's all I get. Two ticks as the grenade lands and bounces and that's both my warning and my countdown to detonation. Honestly, it seems that there's only two ways to avoid grenade deaths: foreknowledge or pure luck. Of course it's not a huge problem with my quick saves, but I kinda didn't want to rely on them too much.
As the bullets actually have a travel time it's possible for me to simply move out of the way of them by predicting where they're going to go. Though this also works both ways, as I can accidentally dive right through incoming fire. And by 'can' I mean 'always do'.
Oh in case you were wondering, yes Max does hit those drums if you activate them. He draws the line at karaoke though.
PART 1, CHAPTER NINE: AN EMPIRE OF EVIL.
There's that line again, "the flesh of fallen angels". I suppose Max could've tried asking Lupino how he knew that he was a cop, but I'm sure a lunatic apocalypse-obsessed demon-worshipping drug-dealing psychopath high on his own product would sooner carve out his heart than give a coherent answer to any question. Plus Max really really wants to just shoot the fucker right now.
PART 2, CHAPTER 0: PROLOGUE.
Mona is the sister of Lisa Punchinello, who is married to Angelo Punchinello, Lupino's former boss and the man who apparently set up Alex and Max to be at that train station in level one. More names! It looks like his roaring rampage of revenge is going to have to continue higher up the chain... except Mona drugged his drink to get him out of the way, so he's actually going to lie unconscious on the floor in Ragna Rock as Angelo's goons come to investigate what's going on. Thanks Mona!
This is a distorted version of Max's house, where the corridors never bloody end. Only one of these paths leads to the exit, the other two send me in a loop. Though all the hallways look the same so I have no idea where I am at any time. Oh plus Max's wife is crying and yelling things like "Max, no! Please Max, why? I didn't mean to, I'm sorry!"
But wait, it gets better!
Fortunately I remembered that I can jump across to a different line near the start of the maze and skip the whole thing more or less... but there's another dream sequence like this after part 2 as well, and you have to do the same thing there as well! So I think I'll quit here.
Nostalgia tells me that Max Payne is one of the greatest games I've ever played. Nostalgia is such a liar. Not that it's a bad game though, it's just not quite as entertaining as it used to be for me. I found compensating for the bullet speed a little awkward, and it threw me off how I couldn't rely on being able to kill an enemy in a certain number of hits. Sometimes I could nail a target with a single shot from down a hallway, other times I could hit some point blank in Bullet Time with the same gun and still need a second or third shot. In a game where I'm often surrounded, I'd like to be able to put an enemy down and switch to the next target as soon as bloody possible.
I have to admit, I was completely lost by the storyline first time around, which is weird because it's not that complicated. Part 1 is basically just a remake of Super Mario Bros., except the princess is a murderous Mafia boss and the castles are mob-owned clubs and tenements full of junkies. I think the game just threw out too many names for me too soon, leaving me confused about where I was and why. But hey, I had to love the game anyway for the gameplay alone. Plus it doesn't really matter so much what Max is saying anyway; it's all about his turn of phrase and the sour delivery.
Do you want to prove to the world that you exist and that you also have opinions about things? Perhaps you want to point out all my mistakes and prove yourself to be a wise and knowledgeable person on the subject of [video game title here]? Or maybe you'd just like to say 'hi' and throw a little thanks my way for taking the time to assemble these words and images in such a manner purely to brighten up your day? Well... I guess you could use the message box below to leave me a comment if you're really THAT bothered. I mean, that's what it's there for I suppose.