Review - Max Payne Mobile
The mobile platform is home to hundreds of console title rip-offs. Developers are usually outraged when they see such blatant clones, but the fact is that they are partially to blame. If more companies made games for mobile, these clones simply wouldn’t be as desired. A new leader has emerged in this push to bring console series to phones, one no stranger to other’s “artistic liberties”. Fresh off their hit smartphone port of Grand Theft Auto III, Rockstar Games looks to continue their App Store and Marketplace presence in the form of Max Payne Mobile. But can your cell phone really let you relive the good ol' days of slow-motion cap-popping?
Max Payne Mobile is gritty noir tale, one filled with betrayal, death, prostitutes, drugs, and more one-liners than bullets. Since the story is a significant part of the game, I am going to be extremely vague in order to be spoiler-free.
Max Payne, a NYPD officer, comes home from work one day to find a group of Valkyr (a new drug) junkies terrorizing his family. He rushes to save them, but in the end cannot stop them before his wife and baby daughter are savagely slaughtered. Vowing vengeance, he transfers to the DEA and goes undercover to hopefully stop the sale of Valkyr. After nearly three years of slowly making his way up in the criminal world, everything goes to hell in one night. His one contact in the NYPD is assassinated right in front of him, he is framed for the murder, and his cover is blown. This being the setup for the game’s plot should give you a good indication of just how much goes down.
As a whole, the story of Max Payne Mobile is very entertaining. PS2-era cutscenes are rather awkward now, so luckily most of it is told in graphic novel-style panels as well as in voiceover from Max. It is dark, violent, and has some interesting characters. The problem is that it is hard to take seriously. Most of the dialogue feels like the writers were trying too hard, though there are few good lines here and there. The voice acting doesn’t help this much, but we’ll address that later. Despite this, there are plenty of developments that keep you interested, and it is all topped off with a pretty freaking awesome finale. While most shooters are content with a story that just links one level to the other, at least Max Payne Mobile has a plot that is quite the ride in of itself.
At first glance, Max Payne Mobile looks really good. This is because Rockstar updated (almost) all of the textures in the game to be HD. Closer inspection, however, reveals that this is all Rockstar did with the graphics. All models remained the same and no new textures were added. Each type of enemy, which there are painfully few of, all have the same face, which don’t look much better than those found on the N64. Models, are much better, but they still appear somewhat blockish, which can be overlooked considering the original game’s age. Max Payne Mobile received nothing more than a fresh coat of paint, and I mean that in an almost completely literal sense.
The comic book panels mentioned earlier are perfect. While there is occasionally a weird expression on a character, these paintings fit the game like a glove and are incredibly worth watching. Of course there is always the option to skip through them, but I highly doubt that you’ll want to.
There are plenty of gunshots in Max Payne Mobile, and for the most part they sound pretty good. They haven’t been touched from the original, though, so they aren’t anything impressive. Occasionally they get on your nerves for being so constant and repetitive, but there’s nothing really worth complaining about.
Voice acting is good, but misguided. You can tell that everyone put effort into their parts, but they are far too exaggerated. Most of the characters simply come off as caricatures, which can be fun, but makes it very hard for the player to truly care about any of them. Max, who narrates the story, keeps the exact same tone of the gristly, tortured soul throughout the entire game, in both voiceover and dialogue. In fact, I often laughed at the thought that Max was narrating out loud to himself in the middle of conversations. Since there is no change in delivery between the two types lines and no mouth animations, it isn’t that much of a stretch. While the main character’s tone works for the depressed character and dismal setting, the lack of any emotion for the majority of the game makes me rather neutral towards our protagonist.
Max Payne Mobile is a linear third person shooter that emphasizes dramatic takedowns with its signature bullet time feature. Movement is controlled by dragging on the left side of the screen, camera on the right side. The controls work well, though the on-screen buttons are rather small, so be sure to make them bigger through the main menu.
Since it’s what defines the entire franchise, the bullet time mechanics are a good thing to address first. While moving forward, pressing the bullet time button will slow down time and make Max leap in the direction you were facing. On top of this, the reticle in the center of your screen will automatically stick near an enemy, which makes it much easier to aim accurately on the touchscreen. Leaping into a room in slow motion and dropping three thugs before you hit the ground is just as badass as it sounds. And you get to do it constantly. This really is the whole appeal of Max Payne Mobile for me. It sounds incredibly shallow, but even with last-generation animations, shooting your enemies in slow motion is just plain cool. And since these firefights happen hundreds of times throughout the entire game, it is one awesome experience.
On a small scale, the level design of Max Payne Mobile is very good. On a large scale, it is slightly lacking. Most of the rooms and hallways are set up for smooth, bullet time-aided takedowns, but the levels as a whole have a few too many side paths and backtracking. I have gotten lost for a few minutes on multiple occasions, which is simply annoying. This probably happens because I am used to being spoon fed where to go by modern games, but I still think that it is worth noting.
There is one major problem in the game that Rockstar can fix very easily. Besides the beginning of a level, there are no checkpoints. You can save at any time from the main menu, but as an action game, Max Payne Mobile rarely gives you a good time to do this. I would get caught up in the excitement, nearly beat a level, die, and have to do it all over again just because the game was doing a good job of sucking me in? It doesn’t matter if the original Max Payne didn’t have checkpoints, this is an avoidable grievance that needs to be dealt with.
Besides bullet time, Max Payne Mobile is a pretty average shooter. You have a decent amount of guns but your enemies only vary by the weapon they carry. When you aren’t in bullet time, aiming is very floaty and difficult, though shooting in the general area of your target is usually quite effective. Moving around is also a bit loose. Precise movement, especially jumping, is pretty tricky. This, along with the floaty aiming, is mostly due to the nature of a touchscreen. While Max Payne certainly works on the mobile platform, it seems like a port would be more appropriate on PSN or Xbox Live.
It is clear that Rockstar did some research when they considered pricing for Max Payne Mobile. Most console quality third person shooters on smartphones are $6.99. However, they commonly have a multiplayer mode and numerous achievements. Max Payne Mobile has neither of these, so naturally the price should be lower. Even so, three dollars is a steal.
The entirety of Max Payne Mobile can be experienced in 8-9 hours, but you’ll probably want to play it more than that. Whether or not you replay the entire game again depends on how much you liked the story, but replaying a level or two every once in a while is hard to resist with such a unique game.
Max Payne Mobile is a great port, to a less-than-ideal platform, of a good game, which has unfortunately not aged well. As someone who never touched a Max Payne game until this one, I have to say it feels a tad clunky by today’s standards. It does play well though, and its frequent moments of pure brilliance easily make you forgive any frustrations.
7s are very fun that has solid appeal. It has obvious issues that stick out, but can still be enjoyed by anyone.
|Sean Capdeville is the official mobile game reviewer of ScrewAttack.com. A cynic and aspiring film editor, his favorite games include Skyrim, Link's Awakening DX, and NOVA 2. In his spare time, he likes to reference Casablanca|