MAX PAYNE 2 / Rockstar / PC

Max Payne is back, with his endless monologues about dark nights that are dark like the darkest dark pits of the soul, the kind of darkness that comes when a dark woman dies and darks your daaaaark. DAAAAAAAAAARK. He's also brought the identical style of Matrix-esque shooty gameplay; more of the same for the fans, but no concessions made or fucks given to those of us who really didn't like it the first time out.

Well, one concession - the goofy lead designer's face in the cutscenes has been replaced by a rugged professional actor who looks a bit more the part. In terms of gameplay, though, it's the same story - endless rooms of preset enemies waiting in ambush, psychically knowing your position at all times, soaking up bullets like they are on PCP, and apparently having an aimbot on. This time out, pre-set insta-death traps are also added into the mix, which was a nice touch when one that's easy to walk into gets sprung on you in the first level, and I had forgotten that 2003 was still too early to expect auto-save.

Like the first game, this is for people who don't mind the quicksave/quickload mentality of the hardest of the old 1990s DOS shooters. Cheap ambush deaths ahoy, and constantly playing the same segments over and over and over. Some people really seem to like this heavy-handed take on film noir, but personally I find it wavers between tedious and outright corny (though at least Max doesn't spout terrible allegories this time out.) The thing you have to understand about noir is that it grows out of detective story "potboilers" from the 1920s and 30s, which even at the time were widely regarded as cheap poorly-written shit that authors cranked out to stay afloat financially. They were like the Dan Brown novels and Fifty Shades of Grey of the time. Some film noir managed to rise above the roots, mostly Bogey films thanks to strong acting, but an intentional "tribute" to them is really just making crap to honor crap. Point being, the characters are awful and the story (which unfolds in ploddingy-paced "graphic novel" cutscenes all accompanied by the same depressing violin music) is tedious, which leaves only the gameplay, which is extremely hit-or-miss.

If you didn't like the first game and you're wondering if this is different or better ... not really. It's the exact same thing, just a bit more smotheringly self-serious. If the slow-mo orgy of violence found in the first game did it for you, though, this is the exact same experience all over again.

General Buttsechs Hospital

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