“Max”imum blood

Max Payne GBAA while back, during one of my CAG-fueled shopping sprees, I picked up a copy of Max Payne for the Game Boy Advance. I had never played Max Payne on the PC (which, by all accounts, was a great game) or the sequel. In fact, my copy of Max Payne sat on my shelf, untouched and unopened, for months while I wasted time on losers like Tiger Woods PGA Tour for the DS. It’s a shame too, because Max Payne is the most of fun I’ve had with a GBA game in a long time. (Even though I’m playing it on my DS Lite)

Max Payne is an undercover cop who’s life is torn apart after his wife and child are brutally murdered, killed by a couple junkies high on a new designer drug called “V.” Max quits the police force, joins the DEA and goes undercover to infiltrate the drug rings pushing V on the street. He’s framed for a murder he actually witnessed and is now on the run. He’s basically got nothing to lose. The story is told from Max’s point of view, and is a spiral into the depths of organized crime, government conspiracies, and Norse mythology. If that alone is not enough to convince to pick this game up, hopefully the rest of the review will.

The hallmark of the Max Payne series has been “bullet-time,” the time-bending film technique used by John Woo and over-popularized in the Matrix Trilogy. It’s basically slowing down time, except for your trigger finger, so you can manuever, mid-flight, to send bullets flying in all directions. From what I’ve read, it works great in the PC version of the game. I wasn’t sure how it’d translate to the GBA version, but it works excellent. Jumping into a room, a 9mm in each hand and dispatching all the bad guys in a matter of seconds while your jump for cover is pure fun.

Max Payne

Dodge this.

The game is played from the isometric, 3rd-person view. On the pixelated GBA screen, 3D games often suffer from slowdown and flicker but this isn’t been the case with Max Payne. The controls take a while to get used to, seeing how the movement is at an angle and the directional pad isn’t, but once you’re used to it, it’s not a big problem. Visually, they’ve somehow fit everything from the big screen onto the little GBA screen, which is quite a feat.

As far as sound is concerned, I don’t think this much mileage has been squeezed out of the Game Boy Advance. The story is delivered in stylized cut-scenes, each narrated by Max himself, and they sound suprisingly good. There’s only a few musical themes, but they create a gritty and dark atmosphere.

But the most striking aspect of the game has been the amount of blood! Every gunshot, every explosion, ever swing of the lead pipe solicits a spray of blood. With the lack of gory detail, those little red pixels splattered on the wall are still able to invoke quite a visceral experience. Couple that with the blast of a shotgun and the grunt of a man injured and you’ve captured the essence that is Max Payne. A man after revenge, with nothing to lose. It’s fierce.

So fierce that I’m surprised it’s a GBA game. On the system where Pokemon and Sponge Bob rules, it was interesting that Rockstar would port such a violent game over to the kid-friendly GBA. Max Payne is anything but kid-friendly. But it is rated M, so any parent would be wise to avoid it.

And any “mature” gamer would be wise to pick it up.


  1. I keep meaning to pick this up for its novelty value. Didn’t care for the “real” Max Payne games, though. Bullet-time is fun, yes, but not as the basis for a whole game. And don’t let people fool you into thinking this series “raises the bar on narrative” or whatever ridiculous praise they heap on it.

  2. I had (past tense, i sold em) both max paynes on xbox, they were fun, for 1 playthrough, then you got bored. they had these horrible almost impossible levels when you got drugged, wandering through hall way looking for your kids bedroom, it would 10 or 15 min to get through, i HATED it. but yes, they are definatly worht a rent. My friend keeps telling me the GBA is good too, but for some reason, i can’t bring myself to spend $10 on it. it just dosn’t seem worth it. RE4 kinda ruined it for me, i’ll buy a $30 game, play through it 3 times and be bored, but then i spent $15 on RE4, and i’m still playing it (got it in june) so i just can’t bring myself to spend much money on games anymore!

  3. Surprised by Jvm and Flamingsquirrel’s negative experiences with the console/PC Max Paynes. I loved them to bits. They’re narrative games in the sense that the tell the story as much with the mechanics of the game as they do with the actual visual and audio cues. The first one was well deserving of the BAFTA awards it was nominated for or won (I forget which). The second one was a bit more glib, but still good. I guess you have to be one of those people who is in games for the experience more than the moment-to-moment gameplay (the mindset that can get you through an entire Metal Gear Solid game).

    As I understand it, the GBA entry is just a retelling of the first game from an isometric perspective, right, and not a new story?

  4. Don’t gwt me wrong, they were good games,but once you beat them, there wasn’t much insentive to play them again. I’m getting the same impressoin from second sight (I just got it today, started playing tonight) while it’s fun, i bet that it will be much less fun the second time through, becuase of exactly what you said, it’s not beucase of the gameplay that makes it fun, it’s the whole experiance, but the second time is like breaking out the wine, when you already drunk on miller light. I guess thats whats makes RE4 (please exuse my ranting) is so good, and so replay-able, the gameplay is really fun.

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