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     " Fun, dark, and witty…you owe it to yourself to go through it at least once. "

      Title: Max Payne by Rockstar

      Format: Xbox action / shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: It's been a long time since any truly cool video games came out. No, I don't mean any good games and I don't mean games that are fun to play…I mean a cool like The Fonz, cool like Cool Hand Luke, cool like The Hustler cool. Cool in a way that makes you put on a worn leather jacket, curl your lip at the ends, and call a woman "lady." It has, frankly, been a void in the gaming industry and I'm not the only one to think so. Evidentially, the good folks at Rockstar thought so too and have created the 3rd person shooter Max Payne. Max is a hard-edged cop on the run, framed for a crime he didn't commit, and hell bent on using some of the most fun conventional weapons and one-line catch phrases to stomp the bad guys at all costs.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: I hate games that aren't quite consistent…and graphically Max Payne definitely falls into that category. Certain parts, like the bullet effects and explosions, are somewhere between very cool and fantastic. Pretty, vivid, and inspiring. Unfortunately though, most of the rest of the graphics fall in that OK to mediocre range. The environments are dull and decidedly lifeless, the sky and terrain is uninspired, and- obviously a victim of cross platform programming (Max also appears on the PS2 and PC) the models are incredibly blocky. All in all, a decidedly average showing. 3 out of 5

      Sound: I've been saying for years it's not hard to get good voice over work in games and even easier to do good sound effects, and Max Payne proves me right in both cases. Edgy dialogue delivery, great bang and whoosh sounds, and a pretty dark score will keep your volume way up on the TV. 4 out of 5

      Game Play: Let me start with the bad. The controls, without question, suck donkey. How, with a scheme set up almost exactly like Halo, I can see such dramatic differences in control performance between the two games is way beyond me. The controls are bad enough that you will, truthfully, never be completely proficient with them and you will constantly and consistently make mistakes based solely on controller error. And that's bad. What's good is everything else. The game itself is sheer genius. In an industry slogged and bogged by clones, you'd think there'd be nothing left to do with a 3rd person shooter…And you'd be wrong. With the advent of bullet time (that slowed down perspective they used in the Matrix) Max Payne enters into a level of dramatic playability that I haven't seen in ages! In a world where you regularly get shoved in over your head, how cool is it to be able to slow down time so that you can jump, spin, draw down on the guy who was behind you, and put four shots into him while he's rattling misses off at where you used to be. I'll tell you how cool it is…it's…um…Very cool. And add to that killer play style a distinct John Woo / Hong Kong cinema feel and you have a game that will keep you rolling all the way through. It was fun, it was exciting, and it kept me enthralled the whole time. 4 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: I know I'm not the only one so I'll say this again: What the hell is it with these "next generation" systems that are still giving us incredibly limited, incredibly linear level designs? Now should be the time when, if I see a building, I can go in a building. And if I see a window, I should be able to destroy a window. Having the old fashioned, out dated "you need to go down here and must take a left" level design is so passé it's down right aggravating. Add to that uninspired backgrounds and an overly dark color scheme and levels will quickly become things you have to run to just so you can get to the next combat. 2 out of 5

      Multiplayer: None…And, frankly, I don't know how you'd do it with bullet time.

      Replayability: Two pieces of bad news and one bit of good. The bad news is: 1) Max Payne has only the story mode to play in. 2) The story mode really never changes. But, the good news is that it, honestly, is fun enough that you'll probably play it at least twice and that the difficulty for the game is legitimately ramped up so you can expect more and more skilled bad guys your second time through. 3.5 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: The story can be summed up into one word: Corny. But, fortunately, it's not corny in a bad way…it is corny in that kick ass Hong Kong, Hard Boiled kind of way. They've killed your wife and your child, they've off'ed your boss and framed you for it, and now you're on the run to make them pay. Yeah, we've seen it all before. But that, truthfully, is part of the romance to it. Run through your very own action movie as you're slowly corrupted by the fight and eventually lose all regard for the law and how it might protect the bad guys. Truly relish the fact that a person isn't dead until you've put a full mag from your Beretta into 'em. Shed any cares you have for tomorrow as long as you get the bad guy today. It's damned keen. Better yet, it's actually fairly well acted and not presented in a way that totally ignores any intelligence you have. The only odd part to it is that the whole thing is done in a "graphic novel" form…that being still painted frames voiced over. It's an interesting choice and a distinct departure from the norm. It remains to be seen, however, if the majority of the gaming public will take to it. Personally, I enjoyed it…but I read a lot of graphic novels. 4 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions are keen, the tutorial is simple, and, frankly, there's not that much to know. The down side is the controls, though…and if you ever truly master them I'll be surprised. 3 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: MP runs great with reasonable load times. Though, I don't know how much of the Xbox's capability it's actually using. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Though the game only rates a 3.5, it's definitely a must play- and maybe even a must own, for the Xbox. Fun, dark, and witty…you owe it to yourself to go through it at least once. With a little more polish it could have been one of the great games of all time. I really hope they do a sequel.

      The Good: Great game play, fun story, wonderful Hong Kong feel.

      The Bad: Graphically sub-par, awkward controls, not quite polished enough.

      The Overall Ugly: Play this game and be damned excited for Max Payne 2!

      What it's Worth: Picking up used.

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