Ahead of its Time: The Fall of Max Payne 2

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Ahead of its Time: The Fall of Max Payne 2

Why didn't Max Payne 2 reach the audience it so richly deserved? Andy Chalk believes it's because the game's mature themes demanded too much from a public not ready to take videogames seriously.

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I'm sorry, I find this article to be filler at most. No one, no one with any cinematic sensibility would consider the Max Payne series to have a good narrative. It is a painfully bad story, told horribly, filled with cliche after cliche. The game is/was successful because of its then-brilliant gameplay. I played through the original Max Payne twice because the bullet-time mechanic was so refreshing. Gamers will put up with a bad story if the gameplay is there. If the Max Payne series were told in movie form, it would have a hard time going direct-to-video, much less a theatrical release. To reiterate: they are bad stories.

I would imagine Max Payne 2 wasn't considered a success because it was really just more of the same, which is actually fine for me gameplay wise, but for the general audience wasn't enough for a second run. I don't know if they should make a third Max Payne game. The bullet time mechanic is rapidly becoming a gimmick.

As for the movie....who knows what they're going to do with the story? The game's story is so bad, they can only go up?

tsumake:
If the Max Payne series were told in movie form, it would have a hard time going direct-to-video, much less a theatrical release.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0467197/

Very good article, I bought MP2 second-hand a while back, and the experience was nothing less than jaw-dropping. And yes, the story was indeed fantastic, despite what tsumake may say. Perhaps it isn't up there with the pantheon of gritty-underworld movies such as Lock Stock, but compared to what else we're offered as gamers, it's mana from heaven. It has a depth and, dare I say it, artistry that far outclasses nearly everything else the major publishers are giving us.

"Max, dearest of all my friends..."

Stone cold classic

I was blown away by the original Max Payne, but never picked up the sequel. I found the story to be good, but not great. It was that bullet-time element that totally grabbed me. However, as the game wore on, it became too repetitive. By the end, I was all bullet-timed out.

The original was brilliant and simply wore me out with it's repetitive gameplay by the time it was over.

Have you ever watched a really great movie where you never felt the need to watch it again? That's Max Payne, for me.

My favourite part of the first max payne was the nightmare sequence where u had to follow the trail of blood to the sounds of your families dying screams. It was genuinely compelling, uncomfotable & well executed & wouldnt have worked in a movie. THere is the problem I have with the whole movie/game trend. Games are active, movies are passive. Its a very fine line the two must be balanced on if u want them to sit comfortably together. That sequence worked because you were pushing yourself through this nightmare maze, experienceing the horror as it unfolded. If you were just watching Max Payne run around; all id be struck by is the mess the bloods made on the carpet.

On the subject of Max Payne 2. I didnt play it because I just never got round to it. Simple as.

I beat "Max Payne" for the Xbox when i had it a while ago, i t h i n k it was a launch title, no? Also it was the first game i experienced in 5.1 surround, and it was a truly eery game with 360degrees of wailing.

Max Payne 2. . . i never played, most likely because the lack of any kind of media attention, it simply slipped through my fingers.

I just bought Max Payne 2 on steam for a measly $10, and i'll be playing that tonight, i hope it holds up.

tsumake:
I'm sorry, I find this article to be filler at most. No one, no one with any cinematic sensibility would consider the Max Payne series to have a good narrative. It is a painfully bad story, told horribly, filled with cliche after cliche.

I would imagine Max Payne 2 wasn't considered a success because it was really just more of the same, which is actually fine for me gameplay wise, but for the general audience wasn't enough for a second run.

"Cinematic sensibilities"? Is that supposed to be intimidating? Please actually play the second game before you launch into this unfounded ranting. Yeah, the first one was awkward and I know you're getting all this from that game. But Chalk is right, the second one is flawless. It took out all the corny dialog from the first one and told a really good redemption story. Hell, the narrative quotes from imdb alone are great vignettes in of themselves.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366758/quotes

Personal favorite: "When entertainment turns into a surreal reflection of your life, you're a lucky man if you can laugh at the joke. Luck and I weren't on speaking terms."

And just to back my point up, some academic with "cinematic sensibilities" besides mine posted an article talking about how brilliant this game is.

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=19066

"Even more importantly, not only was the goal progression rewarded with cutscenes, but the cutscenes would also set up the transition into different settings and places. The player could skip the cutscenes but watching them (at least the first time around) really made the game experience something that you could care about.

Like a noir puzzle film, each viewing offered new layers of understanding not only Max Payne as a character but also the complex world of which he was a part. To this day Max Payne 2 is one of the few games I've not only completed repeatedly but in which I've actually watched the cutscenes repeatedly as well."

As for the film, Wahlberg has been interviewed as saying it's the most complex character he's ever played.

http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2008/06/17/mark-wahlberg-calls-max-payne-the-most-complex-character-hes-ever-played/

I played the first Payne game a few years ago, and was underwhelmed by it. Yes the game play was refreshing but I found the story did not draw me into it. Actually the bad writing in ways turned me off to the otherwise decent game. I also found the game became boring at times so I never replayed it on harder difficulty levels. All it would be would be more of the same. Also I am not a fan of third person view, so that was a another knock against it in my book. Since Payne 2 is now offered for cheap on Stream, maybe I will pick it and give it a whirl.

I must have watched the Max Payne 2001 E3 trailer 50 times before it came it, that game was truely amazing i don't care what anybody says. I had never played such an action packed third-person shooter as that and with such a gripping story also.

Some people may have no enjoyed it so much if they played the console version, due the the hardware limitations they had to cut the levels up so badly and it still ran with crappy fps.

I don't remember seeing a game since that renders every bullet also. That game made some nice screenshots.

I enjoyed both MPs.

Both of them are really good and i'm also a fan of a "noir" theme, even if it can be extremely cliche at times. Nevertheless, both MPs were excellent because of their gameplay and while the second one relied on the first's tested and proven formula, I have to agree that the second refined the narrative.

From a visual standpoint, I also have to agree that pressing the "PAUSE" key and having that revolving camera around Max while all the action was frozen in place was awesome and provided excellent screenshots. Especially when he made that reloading-spinning move.

I disliked the first so didn't buy the second.

The gameplay, to me, consisted of walking to a doorway, bullet time, bang-bang-bang, check for traps. Rinse and repeat.

I never knew Max Payne 2 sold so badly. I bought it the day it came out and so did most of my friends. I always thought it was a succes. Anyway, I love the game. 2 especially. I don't know why everyone seems to be bothered with the writing. It's not bad, it's just cliche. And that fits very well with the story and art direction of the game.
The nightmare sequences are some of the best moments I had in videogame history. They're so well done.

My favorite out of those IMDB lines is the one that ended the game: 'I had a dream of my wife. She was dead, but it was alright.'

It had characters that were closer to human than you would see in most RPGs, which is saying a hell of a lot for an action game. Compared to what usually passes for a 'good' story in videogames, MP2's was a Rembrandt to a Kinkade.

I was always mystified as to why the game sold so poorly when it was so much better than the first one. The refined bullet time mechanics, better level design and far better writing should have made it a bigger success than it's predecessor, not a bomb.

I never looked it up, but i am truly shocked that Max Payne 2 was a commercial disappointment.

MP2 is, for me, a true game of dreams: A dark, mature Plot, but also lots of (dark) humor, highly moddable, an overall complete improvement over Max Payne 1 (especially since in Max Payne 1 Bullet Time was only really usefull when you did that dodge-jump move, wich resulted in "John Woo Bunnyhopping" through every level), and cool use of the then relatively new physics engine Havok, and a fun survival mode.

And all that plus the traits of the first Max Payne: Nice Pacing, the Beautiful-Noir-Comic Artworks and "Cutscenes" and the extremely funny TV-Shows (another thing where Max Payne 2 outdid itself..if you took your time, you could watch at least two complete stories within the game...also, the Self-Parody "Dick Justice" has some of the coolest metaphors ever) and the nice use of actual photography for textures wich makes both games age in a slower way than thier counterparts of that time...

...If i go home from work, i will reinstall the game and play the shit out of it.

Thank you, The Escapist!

I recently read the script for the movie (legit according to trailer transcripts) and the movie will most likely suck. Ludacris is Jim Bravura, no sicilian mafia, no voice overs, no nightmares, etc.
Pity...

Don't look at me, I bought this the first day it came out.

An excellent game, can't remember how many times I've played it but some of my most memorable gaming moments have been provided by Max Payne 2. It's a shame that so many people have judged the game on the first game, it's superior in every way.
Infact, I might just have to steal it from my mate who I'm sure still has his copy lying around somewhere.

I remember this game. I started playing it on my PS2, and about 30 minutes in, around the second level I died.

And then realised that the game didn't autosave. Oh dear.

Anyway, I kept playing it and, true to the genre, the story is pretty paper thin. Half way through I got stuck in some level and there just wasn't the drive to push through and find out that MP really wasn't going to find redemption. Which I could have guessed.

And the mechanics were really tired.

Videogames and traditional media (movies, TV) are converging, but not in the way Warren Spector had evisioned. The problem is that traditional media is converging towards games, rather than the other way around. It is simply easier and more profitable to dumb down things than to make tight, compact, compelling stories.

How many seasons has it been for the most profitable shows on TV- Lost, Heros, Prison Break, SG-1? They never seem to go anywhere. Normally sequels are bad because the original story was told so well that anything made afterwards feels tacked on and passe. Now films actually build the seeds for sequels into themselves. Why? Because it is easier to make a continuation of a placcid franchise than taking the effort to actually think up a new, exciting IP.

Why is the world still bonkers over Mario? It is precisely because it's a bad IP that it's able to perpetuate itself for so long. If I watched a new cartoon featuring a plumber, with mushroom baddies, pipes that go places, flying clouds with faces, a dinosaur baddy and a stock princess-in-distress-in-need-of-rescue I would say it's the most random, boring thing in the world. But in game form it's apparently celebrated as "original".

Not to rail on Mario per se, I love the games. But the stories are all the same. It is tepid, unoriginal things that last; and the TV and movie industries are already on the bandwagon.

I enjoyed both MP 1 and 2 when they first came out and I don't know why the second one didn't sell very well. I do know it's not because of its mature themes. At that point in gaming, maturity in games was becoming fairly common. I remember playing the first Metal Gear Solid and marveling at how much the game affected me on an emotional level...moreso than any other game before it. While I agree that back then, the general population had not jumped on the "games as movies" idea and that mature games were just starting to come into their own as a recognized proverbial vein to pump blood through, but I don't think that's why the game failed to hit it big.

It was just a good game that fell below the radar. Probably because other, bigger games were coming out.

Lmao, max payne 2 didn't sell because it was too mature to handle? Compared to max payne 1, 2 was just easy as hell to play and didn't contain anything interesting at all. Bullet time was extremely long compared to that of mp1, not to mention it slowed the enemies down to a crawling halt instead of slowing everything down a little. Combined with the abundance of ammo everywhere, you could literally speedrun your way across the game. In mp 1 bullet time was new, you had to use it some areas or you wouldn't survive. The story was interesting, sad and extremely amusing at times. Mx2 was just a bad copmovie with poor gameplay to beat, heck they turned Mona into Monica Belluci to appeal to these "mature gamers" you speak off. It was just a poor sequal, that's all.

Don't look at me, I own 2 copies (one still in its shrinkwrap, just in case).

It sold poorly because its a 6 hour game with no multiplayer and no replay value. Personally, I don't have a problem with that. But a lot of people do.

Further, I'm pretty sure it was announced something like 2 1/2 weeks before it came out, so there was no hype.

MP2 is one of those games that changed how I thought about video games, although I had played significantly fewer games at that point. It remains one of my favorite games, though; it's simply stunning.

Max Payne 2 is indeed an underappreciated masterpiece of the highest order. The writing and storytelling are leagues better than the original, which was strictly amateur-hour. It's notsomuch the story itself, which on paper seems kind of dull and cliche, but the way the game so skillfully puts you into the mind of the main character. The level design is frequently brilliant, and the stuff happening in the background, the TV shows, throwaway conversations, is often hilarious.

Putter:

It sold poorly because its a 6 hour game with no multiplayer and no replay value. Personally, I don't have a problem with that. But a lot of people do.

Gotta admit, there's a lot to be said for that. Max Payne 2 is awesome, but I don't know about 60 dollars awesome. Technically, most games aren't 60 dollars awesome. Neither are most books, TV shows, or movies.

But ten bucks off steam or 15 off amazon? Definitely worth it.

It's been a long while since I played MP2, but I remember enjoying it quite a bit. They cut out the nightmare sequences from the first game that were just awful to get through, told a good story, and ratcheted up the camp value in the other characters to 11. (It may have been a serious tale, but they were using cliches to the max to get it told) It did everything you could want for a sequel: trim the bad, boost the good, and I thought enhanced the way they told the story.

Putter's point about the pricing should be well taken, though. I don't care about multiplayer and never will, but without some reason to replay it, gamers will choose to spend their money on the thing that gives them the most value, and sixty bucks is a lot.

"How many seasons has it been for the most profitable shows on TV- Lost, Heros, Prison Break, SG-1? They never seem to go anywhere. Normally sequels are bad because the original story was told so well that anything made afterwards feels tacked on and passe. Now films actually build the seeds for sequels into themselves. Why? Because it is easier to make a continuation of a placcid franchise than taking the effort to actually think up a new, exciting IP"

That's only about a half-truth. The money that gets made on TV shows usually comes in syndication, so all of those shows have an impetus to NOT get anything accomplished quickly so they can really make the money. In addition, TV has become significantly more complex than it used to be, in it's use of narrative. Complexity takes time to build and pay off.

The Max Payne games are among my favourite games of all time. I've completed both of them multiple times and they are fantastic. Okay the clichés are a bit grating but the dark noir story is a rarity in games and I appreciated it much more than the average ten-a-penny "you're the hero kill the bad guys" story that many games like it have. There's no clear sense of what is right and what is wrong and that makes the story quite compelling and certainly worth investing in. I'm not sure if a movie is a good idea for the game but if they're taking that up then I'll probably give it a watch. Would have loved to see a third game but it's likely not to happen even though the end credits of the second game state that "Max Payne's journey into the night will continue". Perhaps the games were ahead of their time, especially with the use of bullet time, which was then plagiarised and so overused in games in the years following the release of the first game, which probably dampened people's enthusiasm for a sequel.

I think Max Payne 2 is a prime example of piracy destroying a great franchise.

thanks to this article, i just went out today and bought both max paynes. i was too young at the time they were released so they passed my by as if it wasnt a lord of the rings game i didnt tend to buy it... very sad i know.
anyways i just started on 1 and am planning to run through them both. so far its really good and has scored high with me. especialy the scene where you come back to your house to find it trashed with all the screaming.
thanks again

Max Payne, as far as I'm concerned, was more than just a fantastic game, it was a trendsetter. Game Developers started noticing that thick, intense plotlines should be a hell of a lot more integral to the over all experience, and most of the respectable big, high-budget games after MP1 started following suit. Not to say Max Payne was the first game to implement a plotline as immersive as it was, but it was probably the first to really bring it into the limelight as a primary ideal.

Max PAyne 2, honestly, I have no idea why it didn't sell so well. The plotline's fantastic, the action is fast paced and undeniably cool, and the characters are much better developed than in the first. I found it pretty disgraceful that I bought another (digipack) copy of Max Payne 2 a year ago for 99p when it is obviously worth so much more...

As far as the movie goes, well, I dunno if they're gonna try and do a kinda synoptic film of the first and second games or mabye something new, but what I do know is that the script to Max Payne 2 is supposed to be about 4 times the length of the average movie script. Looks like the writers have a job on their hands!

Anyway, cool article, shared a lot of sentiments.

Max 2 was absolutely great and it pains me that idiot who didn't even play it has the first comment.
I didn't get to play 2 on the PC (sadly), but even on a PS2 it was f*cking fantastic because the story was great, the levels were fun and the action was insane. Plus the way they tweaked
the bullet time system made it more challenging and gave it more variety than the combat in the original... although you fought a lot of guys in cleaning jump suits. And suits. Who else would you fight though?
Maybe it wasn't popular because of the steep difficulty curve. It was hard for me and I played the first one to death.

Beware of a wall of nostaliga-induced text. :P

I remember playing the max payne, thinking it was cool. I was, what, 14 by then? It was a cool game, had a "cool" story, bullet time which was new and breath-taking at the time, and loads of violence. It was the kind of game you and your friends would talk about during school breaks, more or less simply because of the blood.

And then I played the sequel. I only played it once, as a matter of fact. But even so, I still remember Vlad so clearly. I can still hear Max' rough narrating voice, see the comic-design of the cut-scenes. I can still remember the elevator scene with Max & Mona during the first or so chapter, and I can so very clearly remember the ending.

When I finished it, when everything was over, "the final gunshot having left the barrel" (that was MP1 tho, right? :D), I remember feeling a void inside. That this was a really great game, and I was actually sad I had beaten it. And that's after only two-three days of gameplay! I still get that feeling now and then when finnishing a really good game; but never have I had that feeling so much ever again. And I think, because of this, I still use MP2 - unconciously - to benchmark other games.

And yes. It is cliché - just like any Tarantino movie I might add. Yes, at first glance it's a very typical story of a "hardboiled" ex-detective, watered-down or whatever, looking for a glimpse to the past. But really, it is so more. And thinking about it, the way they implemented these little movie-like story-telling bits into interactive gameplay is still unparalelled if you ask me.

Example - the undercover apartment next to yours where you can chose to stay when you have to pass through, and listen to records of your character's phone calls. The sex hot line mentioned in article, where he keeps freaking out the girl on the other end - calling her not the name of his dead wife but instead the name of the new "love interest", Mona.

Things like that were good for laughs, but it ALSO added extreme depth and sadness, somehow. It's just such a well-rounded game, and a shame it didn't become more popular. Would've loved to see what they'd be able to do with a #3 - though I like to think #2 was a good place to leave it alone.

Then again, what do I know? I might just be easily amused. :)

Oh well, sorry rambling and ranting. Either way, I think I'll try to find my copy tomorrow, dust if off and see if can't manage to replay it. It's certainly worth it.

L.B. Jeffries:

But ten bucks off steam or 15 off amazon? Definitely worth it.

Indeed! I did just that, got it off steam, and it's pretty good considering its age. I'll post some more detailed comments when i play through it some more.

MP1 was fantastic in many ways, and MP2 built on top of it, but the entertainment value wore very quickly. I was entranced for the first 2 hours of MP1, then enjoyed the next 2, then went through the motions for another 2, and I don't think I even finished it. I vaguely recall turning the game off for good when I reached a 2nd nightmare scene?

Everything I saw of MP2 reminded me of MP1. It didn't matter that everything was clearly improved, because it was not a matter of quality - I just didn't want anything to do with the character, the universe or the gameplay anymore. I played the MP2 demo or borrowed it from a friend (memory hazy), played 1 hour and that was it.

The Tarantino parallels are interesting, because that's exactly my problem with his movies. Well done, fascinating initially, and leave great memories, but I am bored and tired of them way before they finish.

You have just explained to me why I loved Max Payne 2 despite all of the flaws. Back a few years ago a couple of friends and I picked it up, whilst they found it mediocre at best I loved it and played it furiously but could not convey why it was good. Thank you for explaining it to me.

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