MAXIMUM Action (Early Access) Review

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I’m a big fan of action movies. Always have been and when I was a kid, I accumulated a large collection of toy guns. I still have them somewhere, actually. My friend and I would play with them all the time, blowing away imaginary bad guys. Developed by George Mandell and published by BalloonMooseGames, MAXIMUM Action entered Early Access on Steam in September, 2018. We were going to do this review sooner but after reaching out to BalloonMooseGames for promotional material, they requested we wait for the latest update to release and we happily complied. And I’m glad we did because in June 2019, it was revealed New Blood Interactive was secretly working with George on the game and would be publishing it. This is the same publisher for DUSK and Amid Evil so it was very exciting news. When I first saw clips of MAXIMUM Action, I was immediately interested and finally bought it not too long ago. It’s a first-person shooter influenced by Hong Kong action films like the ones directed by John Woo. Sadly, I’m not too familiar with the Hong Kong action genre believe it or not but I do enjoy some of John Woo’s Hollywood films. Everyone talks about Face/Off and I like it but I’ve always enjoyed Broken Arrow more. It’s a very underrated film in my opinion. if you’re familiar with John Woo’s work, then MAXIMUM Action may be very appealing to you. It aims to deliver the same kind of intense chaotic firefights, complete with the slow-mo effect, seen in the action films that influenced it.
MAXIMUM Action lets you create a character with limited customization options that I hope are expanded on in future versions. You give him a name and decide on a Movie Studio Name then proceed to customize his appearance. You can choose from different faces, headgear, glasses, vests, bodies, you can colorize different parts of the character, and you can change anything about him any time you want. As of right now, there’s no real story in MAXIMUM Action. If anything, you’re filming a story in-game. No dialogue, all action. The campaign (if you want to call it that) contains one Act consisting of numerous scenes. You could say each scene is like a mission and I assume the finished game will contain multiple Acts. The objective of each scene is to acquire the highest action score possible. To do that, you need to kill the bad guys any way you can and you’ll earn points for different things. At the end of each scene, you can see your action score and have the option to watch a movie which is really just a replay that can be viewed from different angles. It’s pretty cool but buggy as hell.

You can run, jump, dive, crouch, slide, and pick up and throw objects. The game includes a mechanic called Action Time where time briefly slows down, allowing you to easily kill enemies and avoid gunfire, and you can regain time through movement. You can activate Action Time at the press of a button. There are many weapons at your disposal which are usually littered about the environments along with ammo and medkits which restore health. Weapons will be dropped by fallen enemies and you can dual wield any two weapons which is really cool. If holding just one, you can aim down sights. Some weapons are equipped with suppressors, others have laser sights, one has a grenade launcher, and I would love to see more attachments and even weapon customization options added in future versions. There’s multiple handguns, submachine guns, assault rifles, and shotguns, among some other types and you can also throw grenades. If you’re low on ammo, you can always rely on your fists and kicking which is a great way to keep enemies at bay. You have to pick up and drop or throw weapons manually but you can throw them at enemies and you can knock the weapon out of an enemy’s hands and grab it while it’s in mid-air.
The gunplay is quite satisfying in MAXIMUM Action and there’s many stylish ways to defeat your foes. You can beat them to death with your fists or foot or blow them away with awesome firepower. You can use a combination of melee and guns. You can jump and dive through air, through glass windows, over obstacles, and if you enter Action Time, you can pick off numerous enemies before you hit the ground. You can kick them out of windows, perform drop kicks, throw weapons and objects at them, slide along the ground while simultaneously pummeling them with bullets – you have options. The controls may take some getting used to and why the “throw weapon” and “grab items” functions are tied to the same button is beyond me but once you have the controls down, you’ll be blasting your way through scenes in style. There’s just something addictive about quickly moving through areas, jumping all over the place while being surrounded by gunfire, slowing down time, and shooting every enemy in sight without interruption or taking damage. The enemies look like your typical thugs and goons and their appearance varies depending on the environment. They’re not very bright at the moment and I assume the AI is still being worked on. Sometimes they’ll just stand around and do nothing, although I can’t always tell if they’re stupid or just stuck because the game is full of bugs. I’ve seen them get stuck behind things, blow themselves and each other up, and they just exhibit very basic behavior. If you don’t actually kill them or just knock them down, they can still attack you. If they spot you, they’ll start attacking you, they run around, shoot at you, fire rockets, some throw grenades, and they have access to the same weaponry you do. In one scene, you’ll get to shoot down some helicopters but it doesn’t take much to bring them down.

The scenes or levels are quite small and there’s only seven to play through right now. You can get through all of them in under an hour. After reaching the scene’s exit, you can view your Action Score and one minor nuisance is that whenever I clicked the “Continue” button, the game would take me back to the main menu. I imagine it should take you to the next scene. It could be a bug, I don’t know. The levels are filled with breakable objects, obstacles, and walls that can be used as cover. Many levels are linear and include a lot of basic hallways and rooms and as it stands, the level design is lackluster. The game does indicate these scenes are a “work in progress” and that’s good and leads me to believe the final product will include bigger and more complex environments. I think bigger levels with more enemies and ways to approach encounters would do wonders. I also think randomized weapon and enemy placements or the options to enable them would be neat. I played through each scene multiple times and even though there’s plenty of weapons to mess around with, there’s only a few ways to approach each encounter. On the plus side, the scenes are all diverse. You’ll get to blow bad guys away in a jungle, hospital, rooftop, restaurant, saloon, on the streets, and in an arctic area. There is an Endless mode where you get to kill an Endless amount of bad guys and it comes with several arenas. The one called Lobby is easily the most enjoyable arena in the bunch in my opinion. You can select from arenas or levels from previous versions and they do feel unfinished and buggy. A couple of them feel more like levels or scenes. The newest arenas have enemies coming in waves and a new wave won’t begin until all the enemies in the current wave are dead. Unfortunately, if there’s bodies all over the place, you may find yourself running in circles shooting at all the dead bodies or looking for that lone enemy that’s still alive. Sometimes downed enemies squirm which makes them easy to spot and other times they’re just stuck somewhere. It can become annoying.
You can access a Sandbox Menu which is basically like a cheat menu. You can enable God Mode, no clip, disable the AI, and spawn enemies, weapons, ammo and medkits. It does add a bit of replay value to the game and it can be fun to just mess around with cheats. There is a level editor called the Scene Creator which allows you to create scenes and arenas. It’s actually pretty user friendly. You can create any kind of layout and place objects, walls, weapons, and enemies wherever you want. Unfortunately, you can’t create anything that matches the aesthetics of any of the official scenes and it just feels very limited at the moment. But if you’re looking for more reasons to keep playing because the official scenes just aren’t enough, then the Scene Creator and custom levels should suffice for right now. There’s a nice guide on Steam that goes through how to make levels and includes a link to a bunch of custom ones. The latest version of the game added Steam Workshop support and New Blood promises that the game will support more mods other than just custom levels.
MAXIMUM Action aims for a retro aesthetic with a touch of VHS effects. It looks like its going for an early 2000’s look. Although, the character models look like they came straight out of the nineties. Maybe it’s going for the GoldenEye or Perfect Dark look but with it’s own visual flare. I find it hard to pinpoint an exact era. Character models are blocky, there’s a lot of clipping, and some environments do appear rather bland. I do like the look of the weapon models and the ragdoll animations are just one of the reasons why the combat feels so satisfying but they’re also wonky as fuck right now which can sometimes produce comedic results. Each scene has its own motif which keeps the game visually interesting and some of the details and gore effects helps to make the action feel intense. You have full body awareness. You can dismember enemies, body parts will fly through the air from explosions, bullet impacts can result in an explosive puff of blood, blood will spray out of bodies and splatter onto surfaces, bullets will rip through parts of the environments, particles will fill the air, and it’s all just sublime. From what I heard so far, the soundtrack contains pretty catchy tunes, some of which remind me of James Horner’s scores from 48 Hrs. Not every scene is accompanied by music at the moment but the soundtrack is off to a great start. The sound effects for the weapons are great, they have a nice punch to them. Sometimes you can hear baddies groaning in pain when they take damage but there’s not a lot of voice work at all. I would love to hear more screams and shouting during firefights. On the technical side, MAXIMUM Action is just a mess in its current state. It crashed on me once in the Scene Editor and the frame rate stutters quite often. During movies/replays, the camera angles aren’t always ideal, the audio is sometimes out of sync, and parts of the environment and character models will disappear and reappear. Granted, the Movie feature is in an alpha state so I did expect some bugs. Sometimes the colors of my character changed to white even though I set them to something different. Every now and then my character’s hand would appear as if he’s holding a gun even though he’s not and the only way I could fix it was by restarting the scene or arena. In some of the custom scenes, I would restart and spawn outside of the playable area. Parts of character models or their textures would glitch and stretch. Enemies would often get stuck in the environments and appear to shoot through some walls. And on two occasions, I fell through the ground.

I love MAXIMUM Action. I love the entire concept of this game. The fast-paced action, movie studio aspect, arsenal, and its ties to the action movie genre make for an excellent time. But in its current state, it’s in desperate need of some serious polish and bug fixes. It’s often janky and you can easily spot issues almost anywhere you look. Despite all this and the lack of content at the moment, MAXIMUM Action is still a lot of fun. The core gameplay is phenomenal and the satisfaction gained from quickly and seamlessly moving through areas and blowing away enemies is addictive and I was always left craving more. I was actually getting frustrated at the short levels. I just wanted to keep going. When you have the mechanics down and get into a rhythm, it’s just hard to stop playing. I do think the current scenes need a bit more love and I’m assuming any future Acts will add more scenes with hopefully more complex level designs. I do hope for better enemy AI and difficulty options to be added in. As it stands, there are no difficulty levels so once you’ve mastered the mechanics, there’s not much in the way of challenge. I think options to randomize the weapon and enemy placements and maybe even modifiers to change up the gameplay would be welcome additions and could add a ton of replay value. The Scene Creator is a good start in terms of modding and hopefully MAXIMUM Action develops a large active modding community because I can see this becoming an awesome action sandbox which it kind of is already and the thought of a more polished and complete experience could be an action movie fan’s wet dream.
I would recommend MAXIMUM Action to fans of action films and games but you may want to wait for more updates or the final release. At the moment, it’s got a lot of glaring technical issues and is lacking in content but if you think you can get passed these things then go for it. Otherwise, I would suggest you wait. It is an early access game so taking the chance on it now only for it to be abandoned in the future would really suck. And that would be a shame because the core gameplay in MAXIMUM Action is fantastic. It appears to be a long way off from being finished and we can only hope the developer keeps at it. It’s an excellent fast-paced shooter that, so far, does a great job at capturing the intensity of the chaotic action seen in the films that influenced it. It just needs more. The finished product could very well be one of the most enjoyable first-person shooters of the modern era.

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