Few action heroes are more compelling than a man with nothing to lose. Exhibit A: Max Payne. We first met the New York City cop in 2001 in the third-person shooter of the same name, and his tale began like so many others, a guy with everything to live for, only to see it come crashing down at business end of someone's gun. A wife and baby murdered, a Mafia family pulling the strings and NYPD seeking his arrest, just the right amount of ingredients to send this family man (any man, for that matter) over the edge.
What ensued was a furious bullet ballet of twisted bodies, muzzle flashes and blood. Max Payne's a classic. Not only did it bring the concept of Bullet Time to gaming, but it also wove a dark, oftentimes bizarre tale on a cold winter night. Suffice to say, Remedy Entertainment's groundbreaking title laid the groundwork for numerous games that followed.
That said, Max Payne Mobile just arrived on iPhone and iPad, bringing with it the good (gunning down scumbags and drug addicts) as well as the bad (horrible dream sequences, strange dialogue). Thankfully, it rises above the handful of issues to deliver the type of experience that, until now, hadn't been seen on iOS. On the flip side, it's more than 10-years-old, and you'll need to forget what you know about modern-day shooters to fully appreciate it.
What are these things? Oversized rooms that make no logical sense, streets devoid of pedestrians, blocky character models and some unclear objectives that may leave you confused, at least for a little while.
The biggest problem, one we expected from the beginning, involves the controls. The virtual analog stick, jump and shoot buttons work fine. It's the Bullet Time that gets messy. On Xbox, we had tangible buttons that were easier to use in combination, as we launched Max in the desired direction, kicked slow motion into gear and used the analog stick to line up targets. Here, it's more difficult pressing the Bullet Time button, then putting our thumbs back on the shoot button. Oftentimes, Max hits the ground or flies behind an object before we can get our hands on the virtual trigger.
Of course, you don't need Bullet Time to enjoy the game, but intentionally avoiding its most touted feature doesn't sound right, either. Nor does it make for sound strategy against tougher enemies. Is it a deal breaker? No, far from it, and using cover somewhat compensates for the game's faults, but it kicks the app down a peg.
On a more positive side, Rockstar wisely updated the graphics with higher-resolution textures. We don't have the original PC version to compare it to, but the game looks impressive running on the new iPad, particularly the gritty cut scene artwork, explosions and Max's grinning mug, which is always good for a laugh.
On that note, although we weren't as blown away with Max Payne as we were with Rockstar's previous release, Grand Theft Auto 3, it's still a worthwhile addition to your App Store collection, and serves as one of the more mature titles you can play. Plus, the inclusion of Max Payne 3 content helps put the series in perspective. With this in mind, bring on Max Payne 2.
What's Hot: Gritty NYC cop drama, intense firefights, controls mostly hold up, higher-resolution graphics look sweet on the iPad's screen, Max Payne 3 content.
What's Not: Bullet Time is almost useless due to awkward controls, the game definitely shows its age, dialogue rambles on, switching between weapons/healing Max more frustrating than it should be.