Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Max Payne (GBA)

Max Payne Game Boy Advance title screen
Aka Max Payne Advance. Yeah I'm playing a Game Boy Advance port of a third person shooter, but keep an open mind, maybe it's not that bad!

(Click the PC game screenshots for a massive 1024x768 version.)

The intro shows Max Payne living the idyllic life of a detective in the New York police, turning down another offer to join the DEA, quitting smoking, then going home to his wife and baby daughter.

Well they've taken the graphic novel style cutscenes straight from the original game, and they've even kept the voices. So far so good.

Though the game skips straight to Max's wife being murdered by junkies, dropping the entire first level set in his house. Somehow though I think I'll manage to live without it. They still get all the necessary info across.

Max is little bit pissed and decides to take that DEA job after all, going undercover to take down the drug dealers that ruined his life. Cut to three years later, a phone call from his boss sends him to meet another agent at Roscoe Street Station.

You know, the PC game doesn't look so bad at all for a game released in 2001.

It's a shame then that GBA version looks like this. That nasty look of scruffy resized textures, on a system so much better suited to clean hand-pixelled artwork.

Still, at least Max Payne himself is well animated. He seems a little too slick actually, I can't decide whether he's a sprite or a real time 3d model.

Here's what the location looks like on the PC version. Well, they've turned the door around on the GBA so I can see it, but except for that it actually seems pretty faithful.

Like a good detective, I immediately broke into the maintenance room to raid it for painkillers. Max's health bar is more like a pain bar, he's practically immortal as long as he keeps downing pills.

There's also some bullets here, which seems a little weird but I'm not going to complain.

Another peek at the PC version confirms that this is actually the same room. Oh, the dead guy is just off screen on the GBA screenshot. And yeah it still has the blood smeared across the floor, they didn't tone it down for Nintendo.

And no, I didn't kill him for his painkillers. There's a murderer in this train station, and they suck at hiding bodies. Max points out that he needs to find the other agent fast.

These two assholes were waiting for me outside the room. Fortunately I still have my bullet time dive move to let me dodge their gunfire in slow-motion. The music and sound effects even slow down, which probably wasn't easy to do on a GBA.

I'm having a little trouble with the controls though, as they're mapped diagonally. So I'm never sure exactly which direction to press. Fortunately it seems I only have to be vaguely aiming at someone to hit them.

Sadly though there's no kill cam on the GBA version.

The trouble with changing a third person shooter to a isometric shooter, is that the enemies are in the same place but the player can't see them anymore. Though the game does make an effort to drag the screen over as far as it can. It means I have to pay attention to the audio to know when there's an enemy around.

This door turned out to be locked, so I'll need to find another way out.

There's the same locked door on the PC version, and the same guard with the same shotgun getting his ass kicked in the exact same way. For all its limitations, I gotta admit this GBA game is making a serious effort to imitate Max Payne.


Fuck, I was shot in the back by someone without the decency to even turn up on screen. The sound of gunfire was my first clue something was up, but I wasn't quick enough to figure out which way it was coming from.

No problem though, I'll just load my save.


You have got to be shitting me! They took out the saves and ADDED LIVES? Seriously?

Okay fine, this just means probably I won't be playing it very long. I've barely done anything yet though so I'll chose to retry from the start instead of using up a life.


Awesome, I've recruited a sidekick to get me into the locked room. And I've already killed all the enemies so there's no need to actually protect him as I escort him to the door.

That dumb of a bitch... didn't bother to wait 5 seconds to let me clear the room out first. Actually in the GBA version Max just stands there as the door opens, the guy casually walks out, shoots the policeman, then walks right back inside. But that turned out to make a pretty crappy screenshot.

At least the door's unlocked now.

Damn, I didn't plan this one out very well. On the PC version I could just sit outside the room if I wanted and lure them out to me one by one, but each room is separate on the GBA, so it seems I pretty much have to run into their line of fire to get anything done.

After getting poor Max murdered again I decided I would use up one of my precious lives this time, and respawned right where I was standing, with all the dead enemies still dead, and the living ones in my sights. I ended their ambitions to re-execute Max, found a switch and turned on the power for an inspection train.


Shame the GBA version skips this scene entirely, so it looks like Max just went on a little train ride.

Oh no, don't tell me this is a sewer level. No, no that'd make no sense, it has to be an abandoned part of the railway. Much more bearable.

It seems these guys weren't all here just to kill Max, and they've got some kind of door/dynamite related scheme going on. Fortunately they've sabotaged their own plan by forgetting the detonator. Or maybe John McClane turned up and stole it. Doesn't much matter now either way as I'm about to slaughter the lot of them in self defence.

Huh, there's stuff in the boxes? Do the boxes contain stuff in the PC version too? Damn, I've finished the PC game twice over and it never occurred to me to try breaking the boxes. Did I learn nothing from Half-Life?

Those bastards are shooting me from off screen again! Max is really fragile so I don't dare run up into the gunfire to get a look at them.

Fortunately the game is very generous with ammo (so far) so I can just keep dodging out and spraying rounds down the corridor until they stop shooting back. Well, until I run out of bullet time anyway. I need to get kills to fill my bullet time hourglass back up, and without it I'm just a sitting duck in a trenchcoat.

You know, this doesn't look much like a train station anymore. I think these thieves have pulled a Die Hard 3 and tunnelled their way into a bank vault. (It's been years since I played the PC game last, so I can't remember every detail of the plot... or any for that matter.)

Hey look what I found left in one of the vaults: the missing detonators.

Well I can't be caught here in the middle of a crime scene, so I suppose there's only one sensible thing to do.

Less work for the bomb squad to do.

Hmm. I think the PC version win this round. Fortunately setting off explosives in a confined underground tunnel turns out to have no negative consequences, so everything works out in the end.

And then the agent Max was sent to meet gets gunned down right in front of him. Max has a theory that a mob boss called Jack Lupino set this robbery up and killed his friend, and decides to go pay him a visit at his hotel. I'm not sure exactly what's he's planning to do when he finds him though. I guess he's killed so many people today he feels one more won't make much difference. Time for some action movie justice, I'll get away with anything as long as there's a sequel.

Fortunately everyone who saw Max at the station is dead, so he's able to stroll inside the hotel with his cover is still intact...

"My cover had been blown. The door slammed shut behind me. And then I was dodging bullets like raindrops."
This picture isn't in the GBA version, but I had to post it anyway because I love his expressions. Max is perpetually miserable looking in the second game, but in this he actually has some personality to him.

These two should be more careful about making puns in front of a guy with a Desert Eagle, the power to bend time, and nothing to lose.

Sadly I didn't get to listen to the entire episode of Lords and Ladies in the GBA version, though it's nice to see it get a mention.

Just checking. Yep, the GBA game is still staying faithful to the general layout of the PC game.

Hey, they even left in the guy with his pants around his ankles. Shame the graphics are so bad it almost looks we're shooting it out in front of a magic eye picture.

Well the hotel turned out to be a trap, but there's still plenty of places left to look for that bastard Jack Lupino.

In fact I'm sure I'll find an important clue in the first unlocked door I find down this street.

I'm sure if you put this picture next to a screenshot from Max Payne 3 it'd be obvious how dated this is, but I think it looks great for its age. These isn't even anyone else out here, it's just a short walk in the snow to take a breather from all the Hong Kong John Woo style balletic slow-motion gunplay.


It's usually pretty simple to figure out where to go next, but occasionally the game will throw a curve ball. This little gas canister on the floor just looked like another piece of level decoration, so it took me a while to think of shooting the valve to send it rocketing through the door down the corridor. And I've done this before in the PC game.

Though to be fair the PC version was a little more obvious about it, with a whole wall covered in explosives.

There's actually a whole section of game missing around here in the GBA version, with people setting bombs through the building, and a locked laundrette I need to a password to get into. Finally I've come across something the GBA game fails to imitate, not that it really hurts the game.


Well Jack Lupino wasn't here either, though I did run into Vinny Gognitti, one of his underlings. Things got a little heated, and I ended up shooting him in the stomach. I'll have to survive this firing squad before I can ask him any questions though.

PC version was kind enough to put me behind cover at the end of the cutscene, not that it saved me. Fortunately Max has the incredible power shared by all the great PC video game heroes, to rewind time to the point of my last quicksave. The gangsters didn't much like it second time around when I dived out of cover dual wielding submachine guns.


On the PC version, Vinny escapes onto a train and there's a whole extra level, (he's pretty nimble for a guy with a bullet in his gut) but the GBA cuts to the chase. Vinny's eventually persuaded to tell me that Lupino's at the Ragna Rock nightclub, but I should probably quit here before the number of screenshots goes from excessive to insane.

I have no idea why anyone thought bringing Max Payne to the GBA would be a good idea. It has really basic gameplay, terrible looking backgrounds, enemies that can kill you from off screen, and limited lives. But they've stayed ridiculously close to the source material, and I have to admit that I actually enjoyed playing the game. It really shouldn't work, but somehow it kinda does.

Plus as far as I can tell it DOESN'T have the nightmare levels.


  1. I think it was one of the best 3D/isometric game ever made for GBA!
    A really accurate porting from PC, a rare pearl for that years

  2. Believe it or not, those are actual polygons. You can always tell when they use pre-rendered sprites instead, because then it looks like a Gamecube game with a zoomed out camera (See Mario Pinball, or The Sims: Urbz) instead of a C64 game hacked by a blind sadist.

    But you end up paying the price for clean looking sprites because they don't have as many animations for you to play around with. This version of Max Payne hooked me on the series. I was actually disappointed when I played the PS2 version of the sequel, as it seemed pretty much the same thing, but with ridiculous amounts of filler added purely to make playing it last longer.

  3. I played through the GBA version a few years ago, alongside the original, and I can confirm there's no nightmare levels, thankfully.

    It was honestly quite a good conversion, even with the GBA's limitations.


Semi-Random Game Box