Max Payne
Game Info
GameBoy Advance
Rockstar Games
Möbius Entertainment
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Blood, Drug Reference
The Good

• Lots of voicework
• Sound effects are pulled straight from original game
• Bullet time action makes shootouts pretty fun

The Bad

• Getting shot at from off-screen
• Drab color palette


After playing both console (PS2, Xbox) versions of this PC action title some time ago, I was interested to see what could be done with the game once it finally came to the GBA. With most multiconsole releases that hit the handheld, the games tend to be stripped down shadows of their original counterparts. With Max Payne, though, most of the original game's elements have been realized in a pretty faithful replication.

The story behind Max Payne is one of a police officer who finds his family murdered by junkies hopped up on a new drug, Valkyr. To get revenge, he goes under cover to bust the crime family responsible for the drug. After his only contact with the police is murdered and he is framed for the killing, Max goes on a vigilante killing spree that eventually gets him to the source of his problem. As with the original game, most of the story is told through graphic novel-style panels with voiceovers. A lot of the original voicework is present and there are even some new panels to show scenes that would have been done in the in-game engine.

The gameplay behind Max Payne is pretty much the same. You move Max around in an isometric perspective, running from room to room, shooting it out with enemies, picking up weapons, ammo and painkillers, and throwing the occasional switch to move on. The ridiculously annoying platforming elements found in the nightmare intermissions of the original are thankfully gone, though you will have to time running past the occasional jet of fire.

The A Button shoots your equipped weapon, the B Button jumps or performs specific actions, while the Select Button uses painkillers (health items for those who haven't played Max Payne) and the Left Button allows you to switch weapons. Hitting the Right Button will put you into Bullet Time, which slows down the game, allowing you to dodge bullets and take on whole legions of enemies at a time. Often, you'll perform this while jumping, which puts you into the Shootdodge mode.

The game itself is broken into three chapters with multiple stages. To save the game, you must complete a stage, but luckily, you'll get four continues to make it through to the new save point. The game does throw up a decent challenge, but it's never so hard as to make the game impassible. Certain scenarios, like the boss fight with Lupino, are much easier than found in the console version.

Visually, the game looks to recreate the world found in the original game and fans of the original will probably have fun just going from room to room. The game does exhibit some nice detail and recreates the fell of the original title pretty well. The only problem is that the color palette proves to be a little drab, making the game feel like you're playing the same location with just different layouts. There isn't much that can be done with this, though, as the original title had the benefit of a bigger game engine to provide more variety.

I would have to say that the audio package is probably more ambitious than what the tiny GBA speaker can produce. Max Payne features a lot of voicework and sound effects ripped straight from the original title. The music tends to fall into one of two tracks - the "walking around alone" tune and the "in the middle of a firefight" tune. Both sound good, but with the tone of the speaker, all of the audio comes out sounding a bit tinny. Probably the nicest audio effect is how the sound slows down when you go into Bullet Time.

If there's any real drawback to the gameplay its that your enemies love to shoot you as you enter the room. Considering that most rooms are much larger than the viewpoint of the GBA screen, this means you'll be getting shot at from off screen a lot. To remedy this, you'll need to rush in gunning with Bullet Time, spraying and praying in every direction until you can see your enemies. Also, since a few of the scenarios and locations have been removed from the game, this game is even shorter than the originals.

If you're a big fan of Max Payne in its other forms, you're probably going to want to check this one out, even if for nostalgia's sake. If you haven't played it before, this is a good way to get the hard-boiled story that the original game delivers.

- - Kinderfeld

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