July 15, 2007

Maximum Payne

Painkillers, drug addicts, mobsters, occult, nightmares, nightmares, nightmares....

I've spent two whole weeks subsisting on painkillers and dealing with crazed drug addicts, mobsters obsessed with the occult, corrupt police officers, beautiful female assassins, and my own inner demons and recurring nightmares about my dead wife and child.

I'm talking about a dark film noir, a graphic novel and third-person shooter all rolled into one: Max Payne. I play the eponymous Max Payne, the hero of the adventures as he takes on the whole city's baddies with that odd half-smile, half-wince expression affixed on his face.

The story in Max Payne starts off over three years ago. He's a cop and family man, living the typical American dream in New York. His wife works at the DA's office, where she comes across an extraordinary report about a secret military research. That evening, Max comes home to find his wife and infant daughter brutally murdered at the hands of junkies high on a new designer drug called Valkyr.

Max goes underground for the DEA unearthing information about this drug, until his cover is blown and all ties with cops are severed. Starting with the little information on hand, he mows his way right to the top, to the rarefied atmosphere where the masterminds behind Valkyr live.

The story is built up through a browseable graphic novel, panels of which are interspersed throughout the game play. Max's voice-over both narrates the story and reads out the graphic novel. Occasional cut-sequences also build the story. Every now and then, when I kill a baddie, a slow motion camera revolves around his falling body.

But what makes this game really unique is the capability of "Bullet Time", a la "The Matrix" movies. I have the ability to slow down any action sequence to bullet-time. While this means I can't quite shoot as fast, I now have much more time to aim shots perfectly. More importantly, I have the ability to perform manoeuvres like shoot-dodging, which means I can leap through the air, in slow motion, dodging the baddies' bullets while continuously firing my own guns.

In all, a very engrossing and entertaining couple of weeks, where my world seemed dark and full of foreboding, with the futility of a honest life in a corrupt world meeting me at every street corner. Very enjoyable, ironic though that may seem.