Max Payne 2: A Retrospective

Continuing my slow-motion dive (pun intended) into the world of Max Payne, I tried out Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. This darker sequel to Max Payne doesn’t stray too far from the original in terms of story or gameplay.

The story is once again told as flashbacks leading up to the finale. Max has returned to the NYPD, following his exoneration by Alfred Woden. Mona Sax returns, seemingly from the dead, as Max’s love interest (don’t act too surprised – she’s on the damn box art and title screen, if that didn’t give it away). But, hey, who can blame him? Sure, this fatal attraction to a hot female assassin isn’t highly original, but it works (Besides, you totally get to see her boob in the graphic novel). The story gets a bit more complicated after that, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.


The star feature of the game, Bullet Time, has undergone some changes. While the tweaks may be small, they make quite a difference. First off, Bullet Time regenerates by itself, while Shootdodging no longer drains the meter and allows Max to stay prone until he’s done firing. The second alteration is that standalone Bullet Time slows time even more with each kill. This shifts the focus more towards using Bullet Time by itself, rather than relying on the Shootdodge technique.

The guns at your disposal have been switched up a little, too. The grenade launcher is out and the versatile MP5 is in, as well as an AK assault rifle, the ability to dual-wield the Desert Eagle, and some tweaks to clip sizes. I’m all for new guns, but adding the AK on top of the M4 carbine (which you’ll struggle to find ammo for) and the rest of the automatic weapons seems like a waste. Adding more weapons without having a better selection system is rather irresponsible. The guns don’t seem to pack the same punch that they used to, either. On the other hand, melee weapons have been replaced with a secondary attack which allows Max to melee with his gun. Alternately, grenades and Molotovs can be equipped to this slot, which is just as well, since the melee attack is absolutely useless.

To change things up, the player gets to control Mona Sax for a portion of the game. Mona handles similar to Max despite her more acrobatic dives. These levels often start off where the previous Max level started and end with them meeting back up. This introduces one of the protection sections where you’ll be responsible for defending a character (Max, in this case) while they continue through the level. Mona’s protection section is probably the only time her unique Dragunov sniper rifle (still the odd man out among the weapons) comes in handy.

Max’s dream sequences make several appearances, but they’re thankfully free of any dark abysses or other reasons to curse the level designers. Platforming is back, along with a few “escape the exploding building” sections, but with Max and Mona’s refined acrobatics, they’re finally tolerable.

While the game offers a good array of locales, from the slums to an abandoned funhouse, but it seems like it’s trying to stretch its resources. One location is used for no less than three separate levels! Some levels (previous location included) involve little more than just walking around, devoid of any real action.

The game itself is relatively short compared to the first game, with a single playthrough lasting only a handful of hours. This fact is compounded by the previously mentioned sections, because you realize that without them, the game would be even shorter. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot going on in the game – it just feels like the experience is overly condensed.


The top-notch voice work is still intact, with many of the previous actors back for their respective roles. Compared to the graphic novel, the dialogue can sound a bit off in the cutscenes. The game makes much better use of in-game music, even changing it up during the graphic novel sequences. The guns, however, seem to have lost some of their power in terms of sound.


The first thing that you’ll notice is how far the character models have come since the fist game. Cutscenes are used like they’re going out of style thanks to the improvement to texture and animations, as well as the addition of mouth movement on characters. The graphic novel is still present along with the animated sequences.

Along with the added sepia tone for that nostalgic effect, Max and Mona now perform a special spin move while reloading during bullet time. I’m not entirely sure how this is an improvement on regular reloading, but I guess it looks cool.

Beyond some refinement, not much else has changed since Max Payne. Character damage is still (unfortunately) absent and clipping issues are still present. The physics are generally well-behaved, but some kill cam sequences have enemies fly off for ridiculous distances, leading me to believe that they fill their jumpsuits with helium. Regardless, Max Payne 2 is a fine looking game.

Final Words…

There are enough changes to make Max Payne 2 feel like a true sequel, even if some of them fall short. The love story and plot twists make for a deeper experience, even if the game feels short. It continues the original’s rare and commendable balance of action and story. This game further proves that Max Payne may be down, but he’s never out.

Recommended If: You enjoyed the first game and were left wanting to see the next chapter of Max Payne’s story.

Not Recommended If: You weren’t a fan of the original. It doesn’t offer much more to bring you back.


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