Replay reports: Max Payne still holds up

Submitted by Moonside in games

Gamers, writers and industry people often promote the idea that video game story telling is a recent invention, perhaps pointing to God of War and Mass Effect as examples, their legacy being carried now by the best AAA game stories. Truth to be told: I've got pitifully little experience with AAA games of the last decade, but I've played enough older titles with good or at least decent writing to know otherwise.

I have played some decent RPGs, for one. Fallout had nailed down story structure, milieu and themes, supported by graphics and music that build into cohesive whole and the final showdown with the Master is a classic moment. Planescape: Torment had all of that but added a fascinating protagonist and side characters to the mix.

I have also played classic adventure games, though stories in these aren't as good. From the lighter-hearted fare Monkey Island is a good whole. Like a good Simpsons episode, it is more than its sketches. Beneath a Steel Sky is humorous, but gets serious enough to deliver its dramatic moments. Star Control II is plainly better than most science fiction movies I've seen and despite not taking itself too seriously, the stakes and figuring out the many mysteries were enough to make me laser focused on advancing the story.

But the one game in which I lapped up the story with gusto was Max Payne. I was spellbound by its story, rushing through the gunplay to see what happened next. I was disturbed by its imagery and found the graphic novel narration simply cool. As a tween I had no idea yet that video game stories were supposed to be underwhelming and plainly it gave me such expectations that I was mostly soured with video game stories from then on. I moved on to genres with slim narratives like roguelikes and grand strategy games, though in that space I do laud the effort Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri had made.

I bought Max Payne on Steam today and after 30 minutes of playing it still holds up so far. The old complaints of forum dwellers seem so quaint now. They appear to mostly discomfort at playing a shooter with storytelling beyond action setpieces, as if that was a violation of the contract between the game publisher and the consumer. Hearing the protagonist have thoughts and feelings must have been weird after being used to embodying Doomguy and Gordon Freeman. They appear to experienced the graphic novel narration as a letdown of their expectations of cinematic cutscenes. The panels actually now do hold up better than the rest of the graphical representation and they loudly tell what this game is: a love letter to noir fiction. Not that the rest of graphics are objectionable either. Polygons and textures are easy to look past as the art design is doing the lifting here and besides, any computer now can run it at maximal settings. It's far cry from how ugly GTA3 looks. The biggest thing you wish for is for the characters to have more expressive animations and face, but voice acting still holds up and graphic novel narration is enough to give you the idea what the characters really look like anyways.

We'll see how the game holds up in the end but so far I've been sold that this is going to go great.

The game is on sale dirt cheap - like 2€ - on Steam right now and the only technical issue I had with it was audio not playing, but instructions from the first YouTube tutorial to turn up on Google was enough to fix it in 5 minutes. If you can deal with mouse aiming and have a working Windows computer from the last decade, you can have it running smoothly and enjoy the story and the gunplay as well.


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devtesla wrote

yep, there's a reason Remedy will have my attention no matter what they do