Thursday, April 19, 2012

Max Payne 2 Review

Game:  Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
Year (s):  2003
Company:  dev. Remedy Entertainment
            pub.  Rockstar Games
Engine:  MaxFX 2.0
Type:  Third-Person Shooter

Price (as of April 20, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $9.99 (or $15 the first two Max Payne games)
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $50+

Game Time:  about six hours

Obligatory Trailer:

See Also

Max Payne Review:


There's a power struggle going on between nefarious bosses, and Max is set up to take the fall.  Mona Sax is included as a half-ass love interest; other characters also return.  Cutscenes are still done in the form of graphic novels, but there is NONE of the over-the-top similes and metaphors that made the original Max Payne story so entertaining.  I hypothesize a different writer.

Engine and Gameplay

MaxFX 2.0 looks like the original MaxFX.  It was acceptable for 2003, but terrible compared to the engines of 2004. 

Gameplay, and most (perhaps all, it's been a while) of the weapons are the same.  The player is required to play on the easiest setting before doing anything else, so the game goes faster, and the iconic bullet-time mechanic isn't as big a part of the game. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

Max Payne 3 is due out in 2012, set in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  It is being developed solely by Rockstar, without the original writer of the series.  The game will use RAGE (Rockstar Advanced Game Engine).  Personally, I think the name of the engine is dastardly slander against id's Tech 5 engine used in RAGE.  Or, at least, confusing. 

Final Thoughts

If you have the Max Payne bundle, this game offers more of the same, but without any humor, or much plot.  While it clearly is not, this comes across as a third-party expansion.  The first Max Payne was pretty sweet, and this is... not much worth the time.  I wouldn't highly recommend this one. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quake 3 Arena Review

Game:  Quake 3 Arena
Year (s):  1999 (original), 2000 (expansion)
Company:  dev.  id Software
            pub.  Activision
Engine:  id Tech 3
Type:  First-Person Shooter, multi-player emphasis

Price (as of April 13, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99 (includes expansion)
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (used, with shipping):  ~$20 for original + expansion

Obligatory Trailer:

Plot... or not, that's ok too.

There is no plot, and the single-player campaign is purely a death-match tournament.  The only continuity to other games are Space Marine characters from Doom, Stogg from Quake 2, and some familiar weapons and scenery.   


id Tech 3 looks a whole lot like id Tech 2 (the Quake and Quake 2 engine) that had been new only a couple years previous.  It's definitely dated, with hard edges and polygonal-based everything.  id released the source code for id Tech 3 in 2005. 


Every map is a death match, and the winner is the first to reach X frags.  Guns are standard out of the Doom/Quake universe; none with secondary fire modes.  Jumping around is a great way to dodge, but otherwise the game is reflex and aim.  Knowing the level is also paramount, as certain weapons, armor, and temporary power-ups (like quad damage, or speed, etc.) can give a player a huge edge. 

Team Arena

Team Arena added a few team-based game types, the most notable being Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.  New power-ups last until you die, and differentiate the team members.  Some of these are Scouts, who move faster, or Guardians, who have full health and armor.  Though the general interface is clumsy, Team Arena allows full bot support, letting a single-player like me kick ass alone.  Note: all bots are not created equal; some seem to be completely superior to others.

Other Neat Stuff

Sonic Mayhem did the music for Quake 3, and Front Line Assembly did the music for Team Arena. 

Quake 3 has been featured in professional gaming tournaments including QuakeCon, Cyberathlete Professional League, Electronic Sports World Cup, and others.

Fantasy author R.A. Salvatore wrote many of the bot chat lines, triggered usually by killing, or being killed by, a bot. 

Final Thoughts

This game was good when it came out, and the multiplayer emphasis was popular.  Everything since Doom has death match, so that component isn't a huge sell nowadays.  Unreal Tournament had more game types (without an expansion), balanced bots, and (via secondary-fire) more weapon diversity.  So, good game, but dated, and Unreal Tournament has more bang for the buck.  No need to rush to buy this one. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 Review

Game:  Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2
Year (s):  2008 (first one), 2009 (second one)
Company:  dev.  Turtle Rock Studios, Valve Corporation
            pub.  Valve Corporation
Engine:  Source
Type:  Cooperative Multiplayer First-Person Shooter

Price (as of April 1, 2012)

Regular price on Steam:  $19.99 each
Lowest Buy-It-Now on eBay (new, with shipping):  $10-$20

Game Time:  Not Applicable

Obligatory Trailer: 

Left 4 Dead Intro:
Left 4 Dead 2 Intro:


Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are both focused on four gun-toting people (unique characters in each game, though functionally the same) fighting against zombies in the greater New Orleans area.  The four progress from one wave of zombies to the next, with a climactic battle at the end of each chapter, where they hold out until they can escape.

Graphics and Turtle Rock Studios

It's the Source engine, so you know what to expect.  It was top of the line in 2004, and remains surprisingly resilient. 

Turtle Rock Studios developed the first game, and were then acquired by Valve.  Valve closed the doors of Turtle Rock's base, though they retained personnel willing to relocate from California to Washington.  Both companies (or what was left of them) then developed the second game.  For a brief span Turtle Rock Studios was named Valve South. 


You're limited in the number of weapons and items that you can carry.  Some health items are only temporary, and, except for the pistols, weapons have finite ammunition.  These limits give a small degree of survival horror to the game, but only just.  If you run out of health, you are restricted to your pistols and cannot move or use items until a companion helps you up.  If they take too long, you die.  Some enemies also have attacks that leave you helpless until an ally helps.  For these reasons and the sheer number of zombies, the four have to stick together to get anywhere.  Items can be used on, or given to, one another.  The AI is very well done, and I usually find my bots being much better team players than I. 

Left 4 Dead 2 adds a slew of additional multiplayer game types, the option to use melee in place of pistols, more campaign chapters, a few extra items and "special" zombies, and a bunch of new achievements. 

Expansions / DLC / Sequels

So far, just the two games and nothing in the works.

Final Thoughts

Both titles have some small amusements, like banter between characters, or references to movies.  Each chapter of a campaign, as a load screen, has a mock movie poster, complete with slogan (these can be purchased as actual posters). 

Left 4 Dead is a well-done co-op game, with solid AI to back you up.  Gameplay is identical in each chapter though, so things are pretty redundant if you are playing with bots. 

Left 4 Dead 2 adds quite a bit more to mostly end up with more of the same. 

Don't get me wrong, these are not bad games.  They are, if nothing else, quite well developed.  If my friends also owned these, I think they could be a hard option to beat for co-op gaming.  Playing them with bot companions is, though, mindless.