Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
|Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne|
|Developer(s)||Remedy Entertainment (PC)
Rockstar Vienna (Xbox & PS2)
|Engine||MAX-FX 2.0 (PC)
RenderWare (Xbox & PS2)
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows
NA November 25, 2003 (Xbox)
NA December 2, 2003 (PS2)
EU December 5, 2003
INT April 27, 2009 (XBL)
|Distribution||2 or 3 CD-ROMs (PC)
1 DVD (Xbox & PS2)
Download (Steam & XBL)
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne is a third-person shooter video game developed by Remedy Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and Rockstar Vienna for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 and published by Rockstar Games. The game is a sequel to Max Payne and is followed by the game Max Payne 3.
In Max Payne 2, the player controls Max Payne, a former DEA agent for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and a fugitive framed for murder of his best friend and fellow cop Alex, by the corrupted agent, B.B., in New York City during the events of Max Payne. Two years after the events of the first game, Max has cleared his name and is now an NYPD detective. He reunites with Mona Sax, whom he met in the previous game, as they set out to resolve a conspiracy of death and betrayal, finding the Inner Circle in the center of it all.
Video game critics gave Max Payne 2 highly acclaimed reviews. Praise focused on its action and story, while criticism targeted its short length. Despite the positive reception, the game sold poorly, leading Rockstar Games' parent company Take-Two Interactive to cite Max Payne 2's sales as a cause for the company's reforecast finances of 2004. Max Payne 2 received several industry awards, including Outstanding Art Direction at the Golden Satellite Awards 2004, and Editors' Choice Awards from GamePro, IGN, and GameSpy.
Max Payne 2 is a third-person shooter, in which the player assumes the role of Max Payne, but also plays as Mona Sax in a few levels. Initially, the player's weapon is a 9mm pistol. As they progress, players access other weapons including other handguns, shotguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and hand-thrown weapons. To move the game along, the player is told what the next objective is through Max's internal monologue, in which Max iterates what his next steps should be.
When first played, the game only offers one difficulty level that is adjusted automatically if the game is too difficult for the player. For example, if the player's character dies too many times, the enemies' artificial intelligence is made less effective, while more health in the form of painkillers is made available. After completing the game once, other difficulty levels are unlocked. Two special game modes are also activated: New York Minute and Dead Man Walking. In New York Minute, the player is given a score based on the time taken to complete each level. The Dead Man Walking mode places Max in one of five scenarios, in which he must survive for as long as possible while fighting off endlessly respawning enemies.
Max Payne 2 allows the player to enable bullet time, a mode that slows time, while still allowing the player to aim in real-time, to give the player more time to determine what they want to do. In this mode, the screen's color changes to a sepia tone to act as a visual cue. When in use, the bullet time meter will decrease until it is either empty or the player disables bullet time mode. The meter will eventually increase when not in use, but can be replenished quickly by killing enemies. To simulate the bullet time effect, Max can also execute a shoot-dodge maneuver. When the maneuver is performed, Max jumps in a direction specified by the player, and although Bullet Time is activated while Max is in mid-air, this will not deplete the bullet time meter. The combat system has been improved for Max Payne 2; the player can now arm Max with a secondary weapon such as a grenade or Molotov cocktail, and when near an enemy, Max can perform a melee attack. AI players occasionally come to Max's aid, although their death does not affect the gameplay or story.
As with the first game, Max Payne 2's story begins in medias res, opening with Max in hospital, severely injured. Upon being released he is attacked by an assassin and in the process former NYPD Deputy Chief (Now Lieutenant) Jim Bravura is shot. Max escapes into a room where he finds the dead body of his partner, Detective Valerie Winterson.
The story then jumps backwards in time, back to the end of the last game. In court, Payne is charged with multiple homicides, including the death of another detective (Alex), and mayhem. He is cleared of the charges when it is proven he did not kill Alex, and the other homicides are cleared on Senator Woden's requests (who had promised Max he would do so.) Max, now free, leaves the DEA, and resumes his job as an NYPD detective.
Two years later, Max is investigating a series of murders by a group of contract killers known as "The Cleaners". Max encounters Mona Sax, who he assumed dead. Wanted for the murder of Senator Gates, Mona is arrested and taken to the police station, despite Max's protests. At the station, Max overhears his new partner, Detective Valerie Winterson, speaking on the phone about Mona. The station is attacked by the Cleaners, who are pursuing Mona. Before they reach her, Mona breaks out of her cell and manages to escape the station. Max meets Mona at her residence, where they fight off the Cleaners who had followed him. They then begin hunting down the people responsible for the attack.
Their search leads them to a construction site, where Max and Mona defend themselves against the Cleaners. After their foes flee, Detective Winterson arrives and holds Mona at gunpoint. Mona claims that Winterson is there to kill her while Winterson claims that she is merely trying to arrest a fleeing fugitive. After several moments of consideration, Max shoots Winterson, allowing Mona to escape. Before she dies, Winterson shoots Max, leading to his hospitalization.
The game then resumes from the beginning where he was standing beside the body of Winterson. After Max decides to escape an attack on the hospital perpetrated by the Cleaners to protect Jim Bravura as well as himself, he begins looking for answers. Later, he is kidnapped by Vladimir Lem, head of the local Russian Mafia with whom he entered into an alliance years ago. Max learns that the Cleaners work for Lem, who uses them to eliminate the competition to his businesses. Max also learns that Lem is part of a secret organization known as the Inner Circle. Lem plans to kill Woden and gain control of the Inner Circle. Max then learns that Mona is a hired gun for Woden, who has been given orders to kill both Lem and Max. After Lem reveals that Detective Winterson was Lem's mistress, he shoots Max and leaves him for dead. Mona rescues Max and together they go to Woden's mansion to save him from Lem.
After infiltrating the mansion, Mona knocks Max to the ground in an attempt to follow her orders to kill him, but discovers that her feelings for him keep her from doing so. After realizing that Mona will not kill Max, Lem emerges from hiding and shoots her. Woden then comes out of the house's panic room in a wheelchair (He has cancer and can no longer walk), and lunges at Lem, only to be killed in the ensuing struggle. Max and Lem battle until Lem triggers a bomb that he planted in the mansion. After they both drop to the floor below, Max chases Lem through the mansion. Max faces Lem in a firefight and eventually destabilizes the platform below Lem, causing it to fall to the floor below and kill him. Max returns to Mona's side as the police arrive, and she dies in his arms. In an alternative ending, upon finishing the game in the highest difficulty level, Mona survives.
The events which occur directly after the end of the game, including the true fate of Mona Sax and the fate of Jim Bravura following their injuries, are featured in the three part pre-Max Payne 3 comic set.
Take-Two Interactive issued a press release on December 5, 2001 that announced its acquisition of the Max Payne franchise from Remedy Entertainment and Apogee Software for US$10 million in cash and 970,000 shares of common stock, and its plans to release Max Payne 2. On May 22, 2002, Take-Two announced that they agreed to pay up to $8 million as incentive payments to Apogee Software and Remedy Entertainment to develop Max Payne 2. On September 3, 2003, Take-Two officially announced a release date of October 15, 2003 for the game.
Originally modeled in Max Payne after the game's writer Sam Lake, Max's appearance was remodeled after professional actor Timothy Gibbs for Max Payne 2; James McCaffrey returned as the voice of Max. The game's plot was written by Lake, who decided to write it as a film noir love story, as he felt that it suited Max's persona the best. Lake hoped that the story would break new ground, noting, "At least it's a step into the right direction. I'd like nothing better than to see new and unexpected subject matters to find their way to games and stories told in games." Lake remarked that basic, archetypal film noir elements found in many classics of the genre "can go a long way" when telling a story, and gave examples that included a hostile, crime-ridden city; a story that takes place late at night with heavy rain; and a cynical, hard-boiled detective down on his luck. Lake considered writing a sequel to Max Payne an "art of it's [sic] own". Since the setting and characters were already established, Lake decided that the primary goal of the sequel was "to keep what's good and fix what was not so good", and to take the story in surprising directions. The screenplay for the sequel ended up being three times longer than the one for Max Payne. Lake predicted that the more complex story would add to the game's replay value.
The story, sometimes told through in-game dialogue, is pushed forward with comic panels that play during cut scenes. The developers found comic panels to be more effective and less costly to use in the cut scenes than fully animated cinematics. They also noted that comic panels forced the player to interpret each panel for themselves, and "the nuances are there in the head of the reader [...] it would be much harder to reach that level with in-game or even prerendered cinematics." The developers also found it easier to reorganize the comic panels if the plot needed to be changed while developing the game.
Max Payne 2 uses the same game engine as the one used in Max Payne, but with several significant upgrades. Even though the game only supports DirectX 8.1, the graphics in Max Payne 2 mimic those generated by DirectX 9 by making optimal use of effects such as reflection, refraction, shaders, and ghosting. The developers considered one particular scene in which effects are used well: When Max has lucid dreams, the screen appears fuzzy and out of focus. Since Max Payne, the polygon count (the number of polygons rendered per frame) has been increased, which smooths out the edges of character models. In addition, characters have a much greater range of expressions. Previously, Max had only one expression available; in Max Payne 2, he often smirks and moves his eyebrows to react to different scenarios.
The game uses the Havok physics engine, which the developers chose because it was "hands-down the best solution to our needs". They found that a dedicated physics engine was vital to create Max's combat scenes, which Max Payne was known for, "with increased realism and dramatic, movielike action". The physics engine made several situations seem more realistic. For example, when in combat, the player can take cover behind boxes; however, when enemy bullets impact the boxes, they will topple over, in which case the player will have to find another suitable object to use for cover. When an enemy is hidden behind a wall divider, the player can throw a grenade next to it to send the cover flying through the air, rendering the enemy unprotected. The Havok engine was tweaked to make weapons, bombs, and Molotov cocktails act more naturally, and the audio was updated to make them sound more realistic. The new physics engine allowed for certain actions that could not happen in Max Payne; boxes can be moved and follow the laws of gravitation, and explosion detonations make enemy bodies fall realistically.
The bullet time mode that Max Payne was known for was improved; the developers referred to it as "version 2.0". The mode, which allows Max to move in slow motion to kill enemies more easily, was enhanced to give Max a longer period to continue using Bullet Time when he kills enemies consecutively. This was done to encourage players to dive head-on into dangerous situations rather than crouching at a safe distance and waiting for enemies to come to them. A new reload animation was also introduced, which, when Max reloads while using Bullet Time, allows him to duck to avoid bullets, spin around to survey the combat situation, and pause to give the player time to think of a strategy. Development tools were made available for Max Payne 2 by Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment to allow players to create modifications for the game. Modifications can perform several functions, such as the ability to add new weapons, skills, perspectives, surroundings, and characters.
Music composers Kärtsy Hatakka and Kimmo Kajasto returned to compose the game's soundtrack. It features cello performances by Apocalyptica member Perttu Kivilaakso. The game's end credits feature the song "Late Goodbye" by the band Poets of the Fall, the lyrics of which were based on a poem by Sam Lake. It was their first single and reached #14 on the Finnish Singles Chart as well as #1 on Radio Suomipop's Top 30 chart. It is referenced many times in the game, usually by characters singing or humming it.
Max Payne 2 was released by Rockstar Games for Microsoft Windows on October 15, 2003, for Xbox on November 25, 2003, for PlayStation 2 on December 2, 2003, for Steam on January 4, 2008, and as an Xbox Original on April 24, 2009. It was critically acclaimed by reviewers. Praise focused on its action and story, while criticism targeted its length, which was considered short. Despite a positive reception, Max Payne 2 sold poorly, leading Rockstar Games' parent company Take-Two Interactive to cite the "continued disappointing sales of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne" as one of the causes for the company's reforecasted sales for 2004. Max Payne 2 was the recipient of several industry awards, including Outstanding Art Direction at the Golden Satellite Awards 2004; Editors' Choice Awards from GamePro, IGN, GameSpy, and GameSpot; and Game of the Month from Game Informer.
Steve Polak of the Australian The Daily Telegraph, who enjoyed the first Max Payne game, also praised Max Payne 2, calling it an "outstanding" game that "keeps alive the sense of atmosphere and engaging gunplay-oriented action that was so exciting in the first release." He lauded the game for better production values compared to the first game, including its more polished story, more professional scripts, and better acting and graphics. The complexity of Max's character was a welcomed element by Polak, who found that games often created heroes that were simplistic. The Sydney Morning Herald's Dan Toose described the game's experience as "brutal, yet beautiful gun-blazing gaming", and noted that, similar to other story-based shooter video games, Max Payne's multiplayer experience lacked the atmosphere of the single-player mode.
Jon Minifie of The New Zealand Herald appreciated the game's story, calling it an "entertainingly dark third-person shooter with a well-crafted, noir storyline". In particular, Minifie praised Remedy for what he deemed a successful port of the game to consoles, especially for the Xbox, noticing that the version features visuals that look similar to those on the PC. However, he found that the PlayStation 2 port was only "an okay job" that resulted in quality that was "considerably less easy on the eye", and asserted that it is outperformed by more powerful platforms. The Sunday Times's Steven Poole observed that Max Payne 2 does "exactly the same [things as the first game], only better." He found that enemies react convincingly to damage taken from bullets, thanks to the physics engine. Ultimately, however, Poole described the game as "entertaining but not earth-shattering".
The Toronto Sun's Steve Tilley, who believed that Remedy did a "killer job" on Max Payne 2, felt that the company kept what was great about the previous game, "while everything else has been tweaked, overhauled and juiced up". He was a fan of the Bullet Time from the first game, and therefore appreciated seeing it return in the sequel, with "even more impressive" visuals. Tilley found that the game's "lifelike physics engine" was easily its best aspect, and noted that while playing the game, he threw a grenade across a room, which resulted in an explosion that sent enemies flying through the air in a realistic fashion. In addition, Tilley applauded Remedy for listening to fan complaints and resolving issues from the previous game, including improved dream sequences in Max Payne 2. He was, however, disappointed with the general linearity of the game, and noted that players who are not interested in film noir themes will not enjoy them in Max Payne 2. Concluding, Tilley commented that the game "has enough polish, cinematic flair and outright mayhem to thrill those who like their Sopranos with a dash of John Woo and a touch of Frank Miller."
The game's action was praised by several reviewers. GameZone called it cinematic and action-packed, noting that the final scene was worthy of the big screen. Similarly, GameSpy described the action as "adrenaline-pumping", and considered it comparable to what was available in film. The story was both applauded and criticized. Tom McNamara of IGN enjoyed playing in the film noir setting and believed that it adds dramatic depth to Max and Mona's story, "somehow [making] what's going on more important and interesting. Wreaking havoc is nice, but it's great to also have a love interest complicating things, and Mona Sax is definitely up to the task." However, he was turned off by some of the "hammy" dialogue. In contrast, 1UP.com cited the final boss as an ending that inadequately completed an otherwise excellent game, and the Sunday Times' Poole called the story "pungently cheesy". Max Payne 2's length disappointed critics, including GameSpot and IGN, which complained about the short story. Toose of the Sydney Morning Herald was also critical of the short single-player experience, but found that the higher difficulty levels and special "survivor" modes helped improve the game's replay value.
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