Rockstar has been putting their considerable weight behind iOS as a gaming platform. At one time, Max Payne was nearly as well regarded as their blockbuster Grand Theft Auto franchise. Ahead of its newest installment, they’ve released the original game onto iOS. I think it’s odd to see nostalgia titles from the PS2 era, but then I guess you have to remember that these games are ten years old.
Like GTA III, I don’t think the graphics even come close to measuring up to what either the iPhone or iPad are capable of. Max Payne actually has done a bit worse in the graphics department, as the game had some pretty weird looking graphics even for its day. The game has a tendency to move the camera for a tight slo-mo sequence when you get a head shot, and you can see the terrible face mapping in all the hi-res detail the new iPad has to offer. It’s not pretty.
The game’s graphic novel storytelling stands up. Equal parts Garth Ennis, John Woo, and Raymond Chandler: Max Payne’s story is a pretty visceral take on the underbelly of New York City. The game is pretty much as linear as possible, but nuggets of the story are tied to items you find in the levels. This gives you some incentive to search around rooms and do more than run down hallways with your finger wailing on the fire button. This game evokes a ton of nostalgia;, something that may not translate well to people who weren’t fans of the original game. For someone who spent too much time at comic book and video stores, this is catnip.
The action translates pretty well. Though the game often gets compared to The Matrix, its slow-mo gunplay draws a similar influence from John Woo’s Hong Kong movies. You can dual wield pistols and Uzis, which is another nod to Woo’s style of action. The game controls with two virtual sticks and a selection of buttons. That’s pretty standard for iOS action games; however you manage your arsenal with a bar across the top of the screen that comes down. This bears a striking resemblance to the way you check your notifications in iOS. You know who else notices this similarity? Your iPhone and iPad notice, pulling down the little tab for notifications. The two controls duke it out every time you switch weapons; it gets annoying pretty fast.
If this wasn’t a couple of bucks I wouldn’t even say it’s worth the nostalgia, because the PS2 is likely still gathering dust in most people’s houses. On the other hand, it’s only three bucks, and I think that’s worth it for the trip down memory lane. If you weren’t a fan of the original, that’s a harder sell. The great story is dragged down by some design choices and the graphics haven’t aged well. I still think it’s weird that we’re getting nostalgic for PS2 games, even if they are the earliest hits.