Max Payne (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Nick Cheesman 31.08.2004

Max Payne caused quite a stir on the PC, not only did it have a gripping plot with excellent twists, captured the gritty underworld of New York with supreme excellence and also supplied terrific gameplay, bringing in, the emulated to no end, "Bullet Time" mechanism for the first time in gaming. Unfortunately Publisher Rock Star overlooked the Gamecube when releasing Max Payne's second game outing, but thankfully on the GBA we receive the original. Except from a new perspective, the much loved isometric.

If you have played the PC version of Max Payne, everything you see here will be the same. The same puzzles in some cases, exact level design and of course the same cut scenes except slightly toned down for the GBA's processing unit. That said, this is not necessarily a bad thing, the original was an excellent game, so the lack of something new here is not the biggest problem in the world. Max's story begins three years prior the game, he has a wife and a baby daughter, but they are both murdered and in the Payne's residence is a "V" symbol is left by the murderers. The "V" stood for the designer drug Valkyr and it seemed druggies high on the stuff killed his family. Hell bent on revenge, Max goes undercover and above the law to find out who killed them, and gets a break three years later. Little did he know this lead would reveal something far more sinister.

Screenshot for Max Payne on Game Boy Advance

The difference here, between the PC and GBA versions comes mainly down to an aesthetic dealing. The new isometric view point does allow the game steer well clear of an above or side on view, or even the travesty of becoming a first person shooter. However when first playing the controls will seem extremely clumsy and awkward. This is only momentarily as you absorb yourself into the new viewpoint, but it does happen. The levels you play in vary from warehouses, to train stations, to snowy roof tops and even secret military offices. All of them are very detailed; and contain some sort destroyable furniture, such as boxes that splinter when you destroy them. One problem with the isometric view point is the coloumn. Coloumns found in the middle of large areas, are semi-transparent, so they do not block the view of enemies, however at times it is increasingly difficult to tell if you are behind a coloumn or past it. This becomes a problem when shooting at an enemy, and then realizing you weren't hitting anything due to the presence of the concrete. The only real graphical shame is how Max himself looks very poor. The light does shine off his jacket, but his model is quit rough around the edges, and his obvious "no-face" is far more apparent than the various gangsters you kill. While these enemies have quite a bit of detail in them and some facial features, Max just looks plain and impressive. Max Payne does impress in other areas, such as the huge flames that erupt from grenades and ruptured fuel tanks, but toppled by the brilliant blood spurts that enemies discharge as they die. They sometimes even splatter on the floor and walls, a very nice effect and pleasing to look at.

Screenshot for Max Payne on Game Boy Advance

Impressively the GBA contains most if not all of the cut scenes and voice over found on the PC. Even better, these voices aren't fuzzy and can be made out clearly. As can Max's narration mid-game, which constantly keeps the game feeling more like a story you are unfolding in many ways. The guns you fire sound impressive, and do vary slightly on your gun choice, the pump-action shotgun for example, as do the explosions and other in-game noises. Only the background music is very weak, being a slight drum beat that changes on rooms that are empty and ones full of enemies. This music does slow down when entering Bullet Time, which is a nice effect, but the music itself is quite poor.

The PC versions highlight generally consisted of Bullet Time, the ability to leap into a room, making the motion slow down, and kill off all the bad guys before you hit the ground. I am pleased to say, this has been recreated excellently here. With a tap of the R-button, Max leaps and bullet time begins, where you shoot with A, until Max rolls onto the ground or your Bullet Time meter empties. You replenish the meter surprisingly by killing people, but sadly that does not mean it never runs out. Far from it, when bullet time works the experience is excellent, as you turn from one bad guy, to kill another, and then another, without taking a hit yourself. Sadly at times you press R and Max stays still, upon trying to move you realise you are in Bullet Time, but still getting shot at. Another press of R gets Max leaping, but by this time your meter will be very low. In the later parts of the game, disposing off people without Bullet Time becomes near impossible, so great care must be taken to preserve it, and hope the fault mentioned does not occur. The guns at your disposal vary from pistols, shotguns, rifles and uzis, the smaller guns coming in dual form as well, plus grenades and grenade launchers. Really there is not much difference in these guns, except ammo capacity, slight appearance and the damage done. You will find later on, ammo is not plentiful as it was to begin with in the game, so not depleting your best guns of ammo is always a good plan.

Screenshot for Max Payne on Game Boy Advance

The shoot outs themselves prove to be the games selling point, and when you handle the use of bullet time and controls, taking down rooms full of people becomes simple. In between these shoot outs are the necessary "Find a computer/switch and turn it on to open a door" sections. Not very original, but neither are they overused, plus you discover item interaction, pressing the B button where you see a white exclamation mark above Max's head, becomes very useful as it reveals more about the story, and can find you painkillers, ammo and weapons. Always be sure to try and open cupboards then, or destroy crates for these items. One major fault with the game, is the attempt to add a bit of platforming to the game. From an isometric view point, it simply does not work. Simple tasks, such as walking over a bridge will kill you more, than your gun toting enemies. You line yourself up so it appears you are in line with the bridge, trot onwards and fall straight to your death. You soon have to inch over, and carefully align yourself correctly, which is an un-needed hassle. Another example, trying to move past spouts of flame. You may place yourself near enough the flame, and think yourself safe, but instead die, as you have just walked straight into it. Once again inching it is in order. Not only does this break up the great shooting gameplay, but produces unbelievable annoyance. Yet, the shooting is not perfect. Max can't seem to shoot over desks at some points, or shoot at someone at the top of stairs, which means you have to run up them, and shoot when your at the top, and that is if you haven't been gunned down by that point.

With these small faults, the game is challenging but on its own it still presents difficulty. Often levels must be done with a trial and error strategy, where you plan out how to tackle each room one by one. Sometimes, though, rooms seem to be like an endless gauntlet, and despite the coolness of using bullet time to clear rooms, after a while it becomes very repetitive and a slight bore. Once the game is tackled you can play through the DOA or New York Minute settings, replicas of the main Single Player game, but varying in difficulty. Not terrific extras and the singe player itself should not take many gamers that long to complete, however, this game is extremely enjoyable and fun, as well as fresh and new. As a game this is not extremely well rounded, but the new ideas and great presentation, make it worthy of recognition.

Screenshot for Max Payne on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

For everything that is good in this game, there is something bad. Yet it plays very well, and the gameplay here will have you entertained at first. The isometric view point is a mixed blessing, it does permit the great gameplay, but it also presents a few problems for you. This definitely will not be a game to remember, but it is fun while it lasts and probably the best shooter your going to get on a handheld at the moment.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10 (2 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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