A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
Slower Than a Speeding Bullet

Jordan Deam | 25 Aug 2009 12:45
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Max Payne offers the same rush, albeit with less fidelity. Bullet Time lets you observe not just the stopping power of your arsenal, but its sheer force as well. In slow motion, you could watch your target hover in the air for a moment after a well-placed shotgun blast - in fact, if he was the last of his posse to bite the dust, the camera would pan around him to give you a 360-degree view of your handiwork. It's not sadism. It's simply the enjoyment of game physics in a way that watching events unfold at normal speed can't accommodate. And really, it's no less scientific than Time Warp's antics - unless there's a department at MIT dedicated to water balloons that I'm unaware of.

His Neuro-Kinetics Are Way Above Normal


Bullet Time doesn't just give you a better way to admire Max Payne's carnage - it communicates something intangible about the game's protagonist as well. Where most games of the time were only concerned with how much damage you could dish out and how much you could take, Bullet Time added a psychological dimension to combat by suggesting your character's superior reflexes. You can be vastly outgunned and on your last legs but still survive thanks to a surplus of mental acuity. Forget dual Uzis or automatic shotguns - in Max Payne, your most powerful weapon is your mind.

While developer Remedy cites Hong Kong action movies like Hard Boiled and The Killer as influences rather than the Wachowski Brothers' 1999 blockbuster, it's hard not to see a bit of Neo in Max's half-speed hijinks. After all, despite his superhuman strength, it's Neo's ability to dodge bullets that yields some of the movie's most iconic images. The Matrix's rooftop gunfight wasn't just a fantastic tech demo - it played with our perception of time to give us an entry point into its protagonist's singular perspective.

In The Matrix, Neo's hyper-perceptive mind unlocked abilities foreclosed to everyone but the Matrix's A.I. Unfortunately, there's no such tidy in-game explanation for Max's uncanny reflexes. Instead, we're left to speculate. Perhaps it's the product of some kind of painkiller-and-insomnia-induced trance state, or maybe it's a conscious manifestation of Max's all-consuming desire for revenge against the gangsters who killed his family. In either case, it plays out the same; whenever you activate Bullet Time, you're exercising your character's mental supremacy over his enemies. They see a blurry angel of death who never misses and has a penchant for gratuitous diving maneuvers. You see a carnival shooting gallery minus the stuffed animals. Aren't painkillers great?

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