Max Payne Mobile Review
Android Mobile game
Developer – Rockstar
With the revival of Max Payne in his first HD campaign, Rockstar has released the original, last generation bullet time spectacle to mobile devices. It released early for iPhone but just was released for the Android market more recently. Do Max’s moves have enough flair and grace to find a comfortable spot on a mobile device?
Considering the game released last generation on PC, Xbox and PS2 and is now being sported on your phone or tablet is incredibly impressive in itself. It really shows how far we’ve come with technological advancements in the mobile market. That being said, there are a couple textures that were dulled down and some small changes to the game in order to make it run at a smooth framerate on mobile devices. These small changes are just that, small. If I hadn’t gone back and played the Xbox version only about a week before the mobile version released, I wouldn’t have noticed it at all.
Max’s face is just as hilarious as before, using the screen captured image of the actor that portrays him in the short comic cut scenes. All characters use the same scanned faces as they did in the original and character models themselves still look anywhere from disproportionately bulky on the agents to having big heads on characters like Vinnie. Bullet Time now turns the screen a blue tint when enabled to better recognize that you’re in slow motion. On smaller screens, this is a lot more helpful to identify that you’ve enabled bullet time than just purely seeing things slow down (Especially if you’re in the sun). Gun models and movements are still rather convincing (Seeing a pistol kick back is still pretty awesome in slow motion) and real time rendered bullets add a bit of flair to every shot you take, especially when sniping (Where you get to watch your bullet fly through the air and into your enemy).
Depending on your device, your gameplay might be slightly different. A phone like the Xperia Play has a built in controller while my phone is touch screen only. Some mobile devices allow for physical controllers to be plugged in, but I will be talking about the touch controls, which I was surprisingly comfortable with.
The screen is essentially split down the middle with having the left analog and right analog sticks in conjunction with that divide. Like most games are starting to do, the analog sticks do not appear until you put your finger down. This allows you to essentially have your analog sticks wherever you want on the screen. This makes movement fairly easy, Though at times I found myself occasionally crossing the middle divide when trying to get Max to turn around. Simply pushing the analog stick to the right and holding it will not result in an infinite turn. You need to keep taking your thumb off, putting it back down and turning right some more (Like you would with a mouse on PC). Otherwise, movement is just as smooth as it would be on a console version of the game.
You’re given buttons for your bullet time, your jump and to shoot. Double tapping your ammo will reload and double tapping your pain pills will get Max to take one (Though I skipped the tutorial and didn’t realize I needed to double tap it until near halfway through the game). You also have a pause button and a drop down button for your inventory. Once dropped down, you choose which pillar of guns you want to choose from (Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, etc.) but where I found some frustration was that it would always choose the first gun in the list automatically and would then close the inventory. If I wanted to get to my dual Berettas, I’d have to bring the drop down inventory again. This could be very strenuous during combat if I needed a particular gun.
The game itself hasn’t changed too much. The difficulty seems to have been watered down slightly to accommodate for playing on a smaller screen and having more difficult moments. The auto aim also played a big part in making the experience much less stressful, as the “Hard Lock” option would essentially aim at an enemy from any way you were facing (Though the further you were facing away, the slower it moved, so it an enemy was exactly 180 degrees behind you, Max would move rather slow, but it’d still tip you off to enemy locations. This also sometimes hurt, however, as occasionally the auto-aim would target an enemy further away than one that was more threatening and trying to get the auto-lock to move to another character is extremely difficult. At any given point during the campaign, I didn’t have any less than 4-6 pain pill bottles in my possession on the easiest difficulty. The Xbox version was much different, as I recall moments where I had no pain pills and moments of extreme difficulty because I was low on health and had a swarm of enemies to face.
There other thing that’s had a slight change is the ability to skip levels if it’s too difficult. This could come extremely handy in the classic and horrendous nightmare levels. Tight rope walking has never been more stressful and frustrating than in this version of the game. But if you keep dying, a small fast forward button will appear after you die to allow you to skip the level. I decided to trudge through the nightmare levels just to see if I could. I succeeded without throwing my phone. Despite it’s more easy going experience in general, though, the touch screen interface surprised me with how intuitive and comfortable it was.
Max Payne’s wife and daughter have been murdered by drug addicts and Max’s entire story is that of revenge and discovering who is behind it all. The story in itself doesn’t hold a lot of substance, but nothing beats the film noire style of the comic book cut scenes. Each frame looks like it’s right out of a graphic novel, with gritty art work and exaggerated voice acting. It’s a spectacle now as much as it was when it released and there’s really not many who can pull off the noire voice like in Max Payne. While the story itself doesn’t go too deep into things outside of Max’s revenge (Albeit a few short cut scenes and the nightmare levels), it’s a perfect amount to want you to really see the story to it’s end. You want to hear all the monologues and dialogue that Max has. You want to hear the gritty rasping of his voice as he explains everything in a sensational way, which leads perfectly into sound.
The Max Payne theme is still stuck in my head as I type this review. It’s almost as bad as the Indiana Jone’s theme, which I always find myself humming or whistling in moments of dead silence for no apparent reason. The Max Payne theme is both depressing and invigorating and the entire soundtrack to the game covers just about every emotion there is. From the low tones during his discovery of his wife’s body to the high tension techno that plays during giant shoot outs with bad guys. The music and the ambiance hit’s every single right note in this title and it’s only complimented by the stellar voice acting.
Over the top and exaggerated, Max Payne’s voice cast nails every note of their on screen counterparts. Snitches have higher pitched, wimpy voices, hot headed mob bosses have a lower, more calming demeanor and the random conversations you can come across offer great atmosphere (My two particular favorites are two guys talking about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid and another two guys talking about how cool it would be if people could use bullet time like in the movies). Headphones are highly recommended when playing this to get fully immersed, but even without, I found myself turning off other things just to listen to the dialogue.
This is where Max Payne Mobile seems to get hurt the most. After a single playthrough of the game, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to get you going back. There’s the time trials and there’s tougher difficulties, but something like a level select could have made this a much better score. Instead, if I want to show a particular part of the game, I’ll need to play through the whole thing and save at that part (Which isn’t too great considering you only have a select number of save slots). The game itself will take a while to beat if you’re playing it on the go or whenever you have spare time. It’s a very long title and is the entire first game (Though I swear I saw parts in it that I never saw in the original, so perhaps there was some added content even) but once you’ve gone through all of that, it’s not going to call you back for much more.
- Beautiful graphics for a mobile title
- Surprisingly smooth touch screen mechanics
- Able to skip Nightmare levels
- A decent story
- Tremendous sound design and voice acting
- Bullet time still is amazing
- Some downgraded graphics
- occasional problems with touch controls
- Not very much replay value
Max Payne Mobile floored me with how well it performed and I couldn’t believe that on a mobile device that it could still contend with it’s console counterparts. If you’ve never played the game, this is a great chance to get acquainted with the original and if you have played it, this is a great excuse to get caught up on it again.
Graphics – 9
Gameplay – 8
Story – 8
Sound – 10
Replay Value – 6
Overall – 8.2
*Note: This review was based on playing Max Payne Mobile on a Samsung Galaxy S II*