It may be eleven years old, but Rockstar shows just how well the original Max Payne game has held up over the years in Max Payne Mobile, now available for iOS (and soon Android) devices. With frantic action, a twisting story, and its infamous “Bullet Time” feature, Max’s original adventure is an intense and surprisingly fun port of the groundbreaking original that blew up on Windows (and later popular home consoles) more than a decade ago. That we’re now able to experience the original slow-motion intensity of Max’s origins wherever we go is in itself an accomplishment, though a bump in visuals would have been nice.
Seems like it was just yesterday that it was 2001 and Max Payne was taking the gaming world by storm with its shocking story of graphic murder and revenge. And ‘Bullet Time’ gameplay, of course, as slow-motion action was all the rage at the time (thanks to The Matrix). For those new the series, the title follows Max and his war on drugs, crime and those responsible for killing his family three years earlier. But not everything is what it seems as you get further into the noir-like story that plays out in a detailed graphic novel panels between stages, which contains enough twists and turns to make your head spin.
The controls are setup much like the ones in Rockstar’s recent mobile port of Grand Theft Auto 3: you’ll guide Max with a virtual joystick on the lower left side of your touchscreen that appears wherever you place your thumb, while using another stick on the right side to aim, followed by virtual buttons for action, jump, fire and infamous “Bullet Time”. When activated, Bullet Time slows everything around you down for a few precious seconds so you can dodge and shoot while baddies try to gun you down. This really comes in handy when the action gets a little heated or if you just want to show off your slick moves while taking out a few thugs.
One thing I really liked about the controls was the auto-aim system, which is probably the most generous I’ve ever seen, and makes targeting baddies a lot easier than most touchscreen based shooters. While the controls aren’t that bad and can be adjusted to your liking, there’s still always going to be that nagging “I bet I could do better with a controller” thought in the back of head while playing. There’s not much in the way of extras, though Rockstar’s Social Club integration lets you track and compare your progress and stats with friends and more.
Having the opportunity to play this on the new iPad, I can say the graphics are crisp and razor sharp – maybe a little too sharp. While this is, without question, the best the gave has ever looked, the textures and polygons are from a bygone era, and upscaling them to high-definition doesn’t help make them look any less freakish (yup, Max’s famous ‘paused face’ texture is still intact). Other gripes I had were the occasional choppy framerate issues I had while playing on the new iPad, and having to manually manage my save files since the autosave feature isn’t as intelligent as it should be. But for a $3 universal app, you really can’t complain…much.
While its visuals may have aged like untreated leather, Max Payne Mobile is a good port of the game that brought Bullet Time action to the masses that fans and newcomers alike should get a kick out of. This is the best the game has ever looked, freakish textures aside, and there’s plenty of slow-motion action to help make Max’s twisting (and twisted) origin story enjoyable as ever. Even better, Rockstar’s touchscreen control system works better than expected, after some necessary adjustments, though you’ll still long for physical buttons when the action gets heated. For $3, you could certainly do worse than having a nearly-perfect port of Rockstar’s classic in mobile form, and with Max Payne 3 on the horizon, this is a great opportunity to see what all the action-packed Bullet Time fuss is all about.
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