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May 21, 2017

Max Payne 2 (Christian Review) - Dangerous Liaisons


Reviewed by Kyle van Rensburg, editor-in-chief of KVR Gaming (soon to be KVRx).

While writing my Max Payne 3 review many moons ago, I had a thought: As a Christian, if you met Max Payne in real life, what would you say to him? Said review was during my more fire-and-brimstone (and less grammatically endowed) years, so I ended up giving the game a verdict of Not Recommended to be on the safe side with my more conservative contacts, and discarded the troubling thought in the same manner in which I discarded the challenging, and otherwise quite superb, video game.

Be it a desire for self-improvement, or disenchantment with the almost fascistic supervision of one's entertainment which I thought to be tantamount to "holiness", I've become more questioning and slower to pass judgment in the following years. Some questions are easily answered, others not so much. 

Join me as we on embark on a journey attempting to answer the questions this game bids, with a romance straight out of a cautionary tale and a tale cut from the cloth of a hard-boiled detective novel...

Content Verdict: Great (8.7)


+Engaging Gameplay 

Max Payne 2 is fun, make no mistake about it. Offering a good challenge and an overdose of slow-motion gunplay, it's hard not to enjoy the pulse-pounding action the game presents.

Taking place across three chapters, Max Payne 2 shakes things up just enough to keep players hooked, never being too hard nor too easy.

+Film Noir Story

It may not be the most original story. Femme fatales are a staple of film noir, but here it's given a fresh spin. Mona Sax, the other half of the game's dangerous duo, is inherently likeable due to her confident yet reclusive nature. The hypersexuality of her appearance later in the game may be a detractor for more conservative Christians (like myself), even if her role in the story is highly impactful and otherwise entertaining.

Max himself, while definitely on the corny side, gives the game a rich flavour with his purple prose and deep internal monologuing. Examining all of the game's otherwise stock crime story happenings with a unique perspective, Max proves himself to be one of gaming's most engaging protagonists. You may not always sympathise with him, but it sure is hard not to like the guy.

-Short Length and Lack of Replay Value

It's hard to say that the game was rushed, as it certainly doesn't feel that way, but the game comes to a grinding halt at the end of the Part III. It seems like there was a lot more story to be explored and a whole lot more ground to cover, but then it simply ends. Said ending isn't bad, by any means, delivering an expected ending to the film noir love story, even if the game feels a little stunted by its early placement.

Gamers who thoroughly enjoyed the game will be back for an annual replay, while completionists will have fun trying the game on higher difficulties, but that's about as much as you're going to get out of Max Payne 2. It's not a bad game at all, far from it, it's just a tad too short.

Areas of Concern:


Violence: (7)

--General Violence: Gunplay is a core aspect of gameplay. Many people are shot, with blood spraying, splattering, and staining the environment. Cries of pain are heard. Slow motion (known as “bullet time”) is a feature of the game, with the camera depicting bullets thudding into bodies in detail, blood spraying out.

Cinematic sequences depict environments being blown apart by explosions, with wreckage and destruction shown.

A couple of environments are stained with large amounts of blood, with dead bodies scattered throughout. (7)

Storyline Violence: A man is placed in a cartoon character suit, a bomb armed to go off if the head is detached or otherwise tampered with. He is blown up off-screen in one sequence; we see parts of the suit scattered around a crater, with blood around the neck area of the suit's torso and head, but little detail is shown otherwise. (7)

Gross Stuff:

A man graphically vomits on the floor, which is shown in detail. A man comes in to clean up the fluids, protesting loudly as he does so. (3)

Sexual Content: (6)

--Two characters engage in a brief sexual encounter; we see still images of the man picking the woman up against the wall and hear her making suggestive noises. One of the still images shows a partial view of the woman's breast as her shirt is lifted up. This entire scene lasts 10-15 seconds. Later on, in a dream sequence, a woman is heard moaning at certain points throughout said sequence. (7)

A man walks in on a woman while she’s showering, leering at her. Her entire bare back is shown, and bare legs and shoulders as she walks out wearing a towel. Her midriff is shown in the next scene as she’s putting on a shirt. We later see this sequence again in a dream sequence, with the woman visibly nude behind the shower door. Once he approaches her, rear nudity is briefly shown. (The entire sequence is dimly lit.) (6)

--Two men have a conversation about a woman, one of them expresses his sexual desire for her using the F-word. A prostitute tells a cop that if he does his job, then “maybe afterwards I’ll do mine”. Suggestive noises are heard in hotel environments, clearly suggesting liaisons in the rooms. Some of the fictional serials in the game present characters telling suggestive jokes. As my time with this game was limited, I can't list examples here. The serials are in the background, and the player can choose to ignore them. (6)

--We hear a recording of Max calling a phone sex line: (For non-sexual purposes; he just needs someone to talk to) He talks to one of the woman, who speaks seductively and makes a reference to phone sex, but rebuffs him once she realises he doesn’t want to pay for their services. (5)


Language: (7)

Strong language used throughout. Uses of F**k, S**t, D**k, P**sy, and other profanities.
God and Jesus’ names are used in vain.

Spiritual Content: (4)

Illuminati-esque symbolism is shown in certain environments (the one-eyed pyramid), and references to esoteric secret societies are made.

Drug Content: (6)

(Contains Drug Usage.) Your character uses painkillers to patch himself up after taking damage. The actual pill-popping isn’t shown, save for cinematic sequences. It should be noted, however, that drug usage is required in the game.

Several characters are shown having drinks. Alcoholic beverages are scattered throughout various environments.

References to drug dealing, drug use and the like are scattered throughout the game.

Morality:

As is immediately apparent from the title, the game is about the moral decay of the main character, even if he wasn’t in a very heroic place to begin with. With that said, Max doesn’t kill any innocent people and limits his (rather extensive) vigilante justice to guns-for-hire and professional criminals.


Conclusion:
Max Payne 2 contains Bloody Violence, Strong Language, and Sexual Content. Suggestive themes are prevalent throughout the game, with multiple fictional serials in the game universe containing sexual jokes and lewd situations. Strong language is also used frequently, with F-words and S-bombs dropped throughout the game's narrative. The violence, while strong, isn't excessive, but it is quite bloody throughout.

My Thoughts: Those who've been following my blog for some time now will know how much I despise suggestive content in games solely inserted for the purpose of titillating the player. Max Payne 2's brief sex scene actually has plot relevance and makes sense in context, and also manages not to be incredibly explicit. What pushed the rating over to MA was the numerous other moments throughout the game, such as Max's lustful obsession with Mona being visualised in the dream sequences, which contain far more sexual content than the actual romantic interlude between them.

As the game is focused on an unhealthy obsession, and makes no effort to call it anything but, the suggestive themes make sense, be they the dream sequences or numerous serials present in the game. What I don't like is that it's done for the pleasure of the player, rather than to illustrate a point. 

It's up to the discerning Christian to decide if this dark story is worth their time. There's merit to be had in playing this game, as it indirectly warns about the dangers of obsession while still making the characters relatable in a Bonnie and Clyde fashion. Eat the meat and spit out the bones; if the bones are too much for you, spit it out. Otherwise, for those looking for a fun action game with depth and deciding to skip through the brief content issues, go right ahead.

Outro: Thanks for tuning in, I hope you enjoyed my Max Payne 2 review. Keep tuning on the blog for more assorted posts, including a featured article on Wednesdays. I'll see you next Sunday with another review, possibly an all new review of a music album or film, as this is a direction I've been wanting to take with the blog for some time now.

I'll see you again soon, right here, on KVR Gaming!

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