Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (PC) Review

By Athanasios 15.07.2021

Review for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne on PC

Success brings sequels, and in the case of the critically acclaimed Max Payne, said success also brought in a bigger budget, courtesy of Rockstar Games. Having a deeper (and fuller) pocket did pay off, with Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne being the better game, and having much higher production values - and yet, it's actually a less enjoyable experience; one that's somehow not the same game. Max goes lovey-dovey in his second adventure, and Cubed3 is taking a peek in the 2003 classic.

Max Payne 2 recaps the titular protagonist's previous journey, but it fails to make the player care about anything if you haven't already experienced that. Almost all characters from the original make an appearance, but while you are being told who, for instance, Senator Alfred Woden is, you won't really feel what's the big deal. In other words, play Max Payne first... and try this one out only if there's nothing better to spend some time with, although, from a purely technical standpoint, this is an improvement.

Sure, it's still your basic WASD & Mouse, third-person shooter, with no fancy mechanics bar its famous "bullet time," but it all works as intended. You run around, you aim, you shoot, and try to survive while at it. What's the improvement? First, the enemy AI is better in the sense that foes aren't the perfect, super-fast bots of the original. They are still simple, but not as annoyingly ruthless as before - although this can still turn into a Quick Save & Load marathon.

Screenshot for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne on PC

The ability that slows down time has seen an improvement as well, or, more specifically, a change. It's now a skill that recharges on its own, making the game a lot easier, but it starts noticeably less slow upon activation, with the slowdown effect increasing only after you do some killing. Trouble is... that's all! The whole thing remains mind numbingly simplistic and repetitive, despite the developer's effort to spice things up a bit, like for example with those few missions were you get to shoot some guns along with an NPC.

The audio-visuals is one more part that's equally better and worse. The good? The quality of the textures has increased, the lighting is much, much better, as are the special effects, be it explosions or whatnot, and character animation is clear evidence of a bigger budget. The bad? While more "realistic," and definitely far from unappealing, all areas lack that unique, almost apocalyptic aura of the original, with some levels actually looking as if they're fake movie sets. Ironically, many are exactly that.

Looking back at the physics, while they were impressive back then, in all honesty they are kind of weird. Hitting heavy objects will send them flying as if they weigh a few pounds, with the ragdoll deaths of enemies being way too funny for something that's supposed to be dark and gritty, which basically means that, while obviously pre-baked, the original dying animations turn out to be the better choice, even if they look kind of archaic.

Screenshot for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne on PC

Forget everything about the gameplay and visuals, however. The real meat of Max Payne was its story, and, more importantly, the way that story was presented, and sadly this is where the sequel truly disappoints. The first problem is that, instead of a suspenseful tale that was about avenging the tragic death of your love ones, this is basically an almost chick flick-esque "Noir" love story that delves with Max's romantic relationship with hired assassin, Mona Sax.

For starters, love can't compare with revenge. Stories about romance tend to lack the incentive, the power, the "urgency" of vengeance - probably because the only way to get immersed into a love story, is to experience it yourself. Furthermore, for a love story, there's not really any passion or tension between Max and Mona. You, the player, are to believe what you see on screen, but you won't really feel any of it, no matter how much more melancholic the music and the writing gets.

Screenshot for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne on PC

Max Payne 2 makes another mistake, and it's probably the reason for its downfall: it takes itself too seriously. The original managed to balance a serious, dark story of a desperate man driven to his limits, with the purposely cheesy and clichéd tone of a movie that blended classic Noir, '80s action cinema, John Woo, and Tarantino, with the narration being over-the-top dramatic, and yet pretty cool as well. Compared to Max Payne, this is a joyless, generic action game with no heart or soul.

Take a look at the main character. Max used to be a Bruce Willis kind of smartass - unrealistic, yet distinctive. The new Max is portrayed by Timothy Gibbs, who looks like a stereotypical hunky cop in his '40s, and who, rather than being his character, ends up trying to "act" as him. Kathy Tong as femme fatale Mona Sax is undoubtedly a stunning looker, but she also fails in making players feel she is real, as she walks, talks, and generally behaves as if she is a model-turned-actor that tries to portray a movie heroine.

Cheesy-yet-awesome dialogue no more, the writing here is just plain cheese. Like it was mentioned before, this takes itself too seriously, whereas the original knew it was ridiculous, but embraced that fact, and found a perfect equilibrium between "silly testosterone-fuelled action flick" and "deeply atmospheric Neo-Noir." Without any exaggeration, this critic ended up enjoying the "TV shows" that could be found in-game far more, which even offered a Blaxploitation version of Max Payne's own life.

Too bad Remedy never made a 'Dick Justice' game.

Screenshot for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Lacking that unique, special vibe of Max Payne, and offering a dry tale of love that few will care about, this is truly 'The Fall of Max Payne.' In terms of gameplay it's slightly better, but it's still not enough. Long story short, what used to be a good-ish shooter with awesome presentation, is now just a good game, but one whose world and characters won't stay with you for long.

Developer

Remedy Entertainment

Publisher

Rockstar

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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