Max Payne Mobile|
I was more than a bit surprised when Rockstar announced that Max Payne (the original) was coming to the iTunes app store; 11 years after the action-shooter that introduced bullet-time debuted on the PC. Admittedly, current gen iPhones and iPads more than meet the decade-old system requirements, but when converting this game for mobile platforms (insert Jeff Goldblum impersonation here) the developers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.
Max Payne Mobile is a complete port of the PC (and Xbox) original, which is arguably an impressive feat in theory, and while some PC genre games like point-and-click adventures translate quite nicely to a touchscreen platform, sadly, a twin-stick action-shooter is not one of those genres. For those who never played the original and want to know all the details about the story and gameplay, check out our original reviews for the PC and/or Xbox versions of the game.
Max Payne Mobile is not unlike the recent rash of HD remakes on consoles. Gameplay graphics and textures get a great overhaul while other assets like cutscenes are locked into primitive resolutions and loaded with compression artifacts. Thankfully, Max uses in-game graphics for a majority of the animated cutscenes, so they look just as good as the updated gameplay. The rest of the story is told through spoken comic book panels that are intentionally stylized to the point of actually looking rather bad.
Controls are really my one and only major issue with the mobile version of this classic shooter that demands a gamepad or mouse and keyboard. To their credit, War Drum Studios, the guys tasked with porting this game to mobile touchscreen did an admirable job of creating an intuitive virtual interface where you can touch and drag anywhere on the left half of the screen to move Max around and move your finger around on the right half of the screen for free camera look. You have virtual buttons for things like jumping, firing your gun, or invoking Shoot Dodge (bullet time). It all works but none of it is very precise, and in a game like this precision is king.
There is a dedicated tutorial that I highly recommend as well as numerous options for aim-assist that can make the game slightly less frustrating, but even after plenty of fidgeting and numerous hours of play it never felt right. I was always fighting the controls, and relying on auto-aim takes away much of the fun and challenge factor in the game. The big hook for this game back in 2001 was the revolutionary slow-motion gunplay, and that element is totally lost on the mobile version.
I was playing the game on an original iPad and it worked well for the most part with only a few framerate issues in some of the larger encounters. Those with an iPad 2 or iPad HD should have a much smoother experience. I can't imagine trying to play this on an iPhone, but the app is universal so you are free to try. Despite its age, Max Payne looks impressive with detailed environments, great textures and loaded with film noire style. The audio is great, and you’ll want headphones for maximum chill factor. Music is excellent, and the voice acting is superb, loaded with humor and I love that great self-narrated detective track that keeps you up to date. The mobile version also supports the Rockstar Social Club for stats tracking and has a built-in cheat menu, so you can skip around to different chapters and levels.
Max Payne Mobile is clearly an attempt to build awareness for Max Payne 3 coming later this year – it even has its own entry on your main menu so you can get news and info on the sequel, but if you really want to experience Max Payne then I recommend you seek out the first two games on PC/Steam. Sure, the mobile version is a third of the PC price at only $3, but with variable performance issues and clunky controls, you probably won’t play more than a third of the game before moving on.