Playing It Old School – Max Payne’s Second Vendetta

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In a previous issue of Playing It Old School, I discussed the significance of Max Payne with its film-noir story and John Woo choreographed action. With a strong attention to literary detail and complex character content, this was a game that became an iconic for redefining a classic genre by adopting it with a new media.

It's success was followed with the 2003 game, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. Set two years after the events of the previous game, Max Payne has been cleared of all criminal charges and has returned to the NYPD. However after stumbling upon a robbery, Payne is forced to confront his inner demons in the middle of a mob war.

With Max Payne 3 only a few weeks away and gamers well aware of the events of Max Payne, it's time to look back at the second game to understand the struggles Payne has endured that will lead to understanding the expected events of the next game.

This vendetta starts with an injured Max Payne waking up in a hospital bed with a bullet wound. As he makes his way through the ICU, he will encounter moments of hallucinations along with commando outfitted hitmen. After a series of gunfights, Payne stumbles into the morgue and overlooks the body a women as he begins reflect upon the events that have lead to this moment.

The story begins a few nights earlier with, Payne receiving a report of a disturbance at a warehouse owned by Vladimir Lem (Russian Mob boss and an ally from the previous game). Upon his arrival, he is ambushed by a group of assassins known as the Cleaners and has a run in with Mona Sax (his love interest from the previous game). Payne survives the ambush but the Clearers get away just as police backup arrives.

At the police station, Payne is debriefed with his partner, Det. Valerie Winterson, who is investigating the murder of a US Senator in which Mona Sax is the main suspect. Obviously the two are connected and so he begins his own investigation. In the cores of the investigation, Payne is forced to work with Sax to uncover a power struggle regarding the cities criminal elements and the Inner Circle.

Spoiler Alert: Its revealed that the Cleaners work for Vladimir Lem who is waging a war against Alfred Wooden for total control of the Inner Circle. Also the body in the morgue is Det. Winterson who was collaborating with Lem. In the end, Payne confronts Lem in a gunfight that leaves everyone but our hero dead. 

Like its predecessor, Max Payne 2 continues to be a film-noir as if directed by John Woo. It has the same dark and gritty tone that has been affiliated with the genre. The Havok Engine allowed for a detailed environment while the updated Bullet Time was able to improve elements of the gameplay.

A new game also required a new kind of character. This is not the revenge driven Max Payne but a character who is haunted by his inner demons. Without his family and his desire for revenge fulfilled; this is a character who feels that he has no purpose to live. This is a Max Payne who is consistently haunted by his past and is only looking for some emotional closure. Unfortunately Payne feels he could vanquish his inner demons with a love shared with Mona Sax.

Finally one cannot praise Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne without giving acknowledging the musical score that adds to the Noire tone. Plus the song Late Goodbye by Poets of the Fall fits perfect for game of this type.

Upon its release; Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne was well praised by critics for keeping what was great about the original while improving its flaws. However gamers did not share the same passion as demonstrated by its poor sales.

Max Payne 3 will be released in a few weeks; but till than gamers should give Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne a chance just to see what they missed and what to expect. The game is currently available for sale on Steam or you could try your luck on eBay or Amazon.

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