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One of my favorite games from Rockstar is Max Payne 3. I’ve always enjoyed the Max Payne games and I just love what they did with 3. Despite not having the same tone and atmosphere as the previous games, the action in 3 is phenomenal. Payne Evolution is a mod for Max Payne 2 that “will evolve your Max Payne 2 experience to a whole new level, one step closer to its successor Max Payne 3”. I believe it was made by the same person who made the Payne Effects mod which I thought was fantastic. Payne Evolution not only changes up the gameplay but also expands the Dead Man Walking mode and integrates other mods like Max Payne Chronicles, Mona: The Assassin, Boiling, and The Aesir Project.
When you fire up the mod, you’ll notice the main menu has been changed. The New York Minute and Dead Man Walking modes have been moved to the Arcade sub-menu and the other mods or scenarios can be found in the DLC sub-menu. All scenarios or campaigns except maybe The Aesir Project have their own plots and levels and the Max Payne 2 plot is unchanged. In Max Payne Chronicles, Max is sent out to find a woman who has been kidnapped. In Mona: The Assassin, a mob boss sends goons to kill Mona but she’s not exactly easy to kill. In Boiling, you play as man who sets out to get revenge for the murder of his wife. The Aesir Project is more or less just a new set of levels or missions. You infiltrate a building, steal some chipcards, and escape. Each campaign is extremely short, Boiling comes with its own voice acting, and I don’t think English is the native tongue of whoever made Max Payne Chronicles just based on some of the dialogue. They’re all well crafted and some of these mods come with their own game modes.
The core gameplay of Payne Evolution is that of every Max Payne game. You run around environments activating bullet time, killing enemies in slow motion. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is the weapons, character models, and visual and sound effects. The mod really does feel like they took the gameplay of Max Payne 3 and just put it in 2. And it plays great. The sense of weight conveyed in Max Payne 3 isn’t really carried over but that doesn’t hinder the experience. Weapons have been replaced with those seen in Max Payne 3 and they must be picked up manually which I found to be finicky. I would sometimes struggle to pick one up because the character just wouldn’t do it. You can switch weapons through the weapon wheel and trying to scroll through and select one can be tedious when multiple weapons are stacked in one slot. I would sometimes get killed just trying to switch weapons. You can also pick up and equip weapon attachments like laser sights and tac lights and sometimes when I picked up ammo, I would end up with tons of it. Seven hundred or more rounds for example. It seems like a bug.
The readme file states vanilla save games are not supported nor are cheats but that’s okay because I feel like the mod makes the gameplay easier anyway. I played through the Max Payne 2 story on Detective and each scenario on Hard Boiled. On Detective, some encounters were so easy that I didn’t even need to use Bullet Time. Bullet Time still functions as expected and you can still perform a shootdodge but it all looks and feels like Max Payne 3, and that includes the bullet cam. The Last Man Standing feature from Max Payne 3 has been implemented. If you have painkillers and take a shot that would normally kill you, you have the opportunity to shoot and kill an enemy as you go down which will save you from death. You can now aim down sights when using any of the scoped weapons and pressing the “pick up weapon” button will make Max roll if he’s already on the move. I was very impressed with how well the mod implements all the new features. The Payne Evolution Moddb page indicates there are some gameplay tweaks but many of the noticeable changes are in the visuals. It just goes to show you that changing some visual effects and animations can go a long way.
The levels in the new scenarios are really well made. You’ll get to blow enemies away in an asylum, on the streets and in alleyways, a hotel, high-tech facility, and slaughterhouse among other locations. I thought Mona: The Assassin and Boiling include some of the more detailed levels in the package and I like how The Aesir Project captures the tone and atmosphere of the Aesir building areas from the first Max Payne. While each mod has good level design, I did get stuck from time to time because it’s not always clear where you need to go or what you need to do to proceed. Enemies still behave the same for the most part. Wounded enemies can now shoot at you while on the ground which is pretty cool. New enemy types are added in like ones that resemble the armored guys wearing helmets from Max Payne 3 except they go down a lot easier here.
One of the more impressive things about this entire package isn’t the gameplay tweaks or visual changes believe it or not. It’s the expanded Dead Man Walking mode and other game modes. The standard Dead Man Walking mode returns except now you not only play as Max and Mona but you can also play as Neo, John Wick, and Bryan Mills and some maps can only be played with specific characters. For example, the Lobby map can only be played with Neo. Each character plays the same with Neo being the only character that feels slightly different due to his different animations which do match up with what you see in the Matrix. New maps were added in for the mode, including maps that resemble areas from other Max Payne games.
Max Payne Chronicles comes with a lot of content including it’s own Dead Man Walking mode. It has its own maps and there are some features added in to mix up the gameplay. In some maps you’ll be accompanied by cops. There are some maps where things will happen or change after killing a certain amount of enemies or surviving for a certain amount of time. For example, more cops will spawn in or they’ll become immortal or new areas become available. Max Payne Chronicles implements one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. “Fog Mode by Stephen King”. This is actual text that appears on the screen. If it wasn’t for Stephen King, we would have missed out on the groundbreaking fog feature in this custom Dead Man Walking map. Yeah, that text just really made me laugh. In all seriousness, fog just fills the map, making it harder to see things. These new maps and additional features are actually really cool and make the Dead Man Walking gameplay more interesting.
In addition to the Dead Man Walking mode, Max Payne Chronicles includes several other game modes like Bonus Boxes. This is basically Dead Man Walking except there are only two maps and boxes are peppered throughout them that provide different bonuses for a limited time. It’s an okay mode but either the boxes are well hidden or only spawn at certain times and/or in certain places because I didn’t come across many so it just felt like the standard Dead Man Walking gameplay most of the time. Cooperative is another game mode and despite the name, it can be played solo. It’s a cops versus mobsters mode. The goal is to kill the VIP on the other team. You play in a custom map with AI teammates and enemies. Each team has their own bunker and you can interact with buttons that set your teammates to attack or recycle which kills them all. While this game mode is a cool idea, it doesn’t really work in practice in my experience. For one thing, the AI team never came anywhere near my base and as far as I can tell, there’s no way of knowing who their VIP is. I would usually kill a ton of enemies before dying. Another game mode is Mortar & Mortals. The objective here is to use the mortar in the center of the map to kill enemies within the allotted time. It’s neat but I can’t say there was anything about it that made me want to keep coming back. Finally, there’s the Defense mode where the objective is to keep enemies from reaching the center of the map. It’s an okay mode but nothing special.
The Boiling mod comes with more than just the scenario. There’s an Angry Granny mode where you get to play as Granny and defend your home. The mode is set in the Hotel which is where you spend a majority of your time in the campaign. You need to clear out each floor of enemies. The areas you can move around in on each floor are small and enemies will come from multiple directions. Once a floor is cleared out, you move onto the next floor. After clearing them all out, you win so I guess the ultimate goal is to set a record time.
While the levels and texture work are primarily unchanged in Max Payne 2, the new character and weapon models look excellent. They actually look like they were taken directly from Max Payne 3. Max’s animations are a solid reflection of what you see in that game as are the visual effects. The new particle effects look excellent and particles will slowly descend during firefights making the action look and feel more intense and the new blood splatter is a welcome change and makes the kills feel more satisfying. In addition to the new Max model, all of the other character models minus Mona are good reflections of their on-screen counterparts. During bullet time, Neo will actually move like he does in the first Matrix film. Many of the new levels are extremely well detailed with solid texture work. Much of the music was borrowed from Max Payne 3, Max will spout more lines during combat, and all of the weapons sound excellent. On the technical side, I noticed that some Dead Man Walking maps would not actually end or take me back to the menu after dying. The frame rate would take a serious hit in some of Dead Man Walking maps, usually after playing for a while when there’s a ton of weapons on the ground and enemies and cops running around all over the place. During my time in the Defense game mode, I think enemies would often get stuck where they spawned. And finally, the game crashed on me once.
Payne Evolution is a stellar modification. I had a great time with this and while it doesn’t capture everything that makes Max Payne 3 great, it’s an impressive recreation of the gameplay. And when I really think about it, it’s mainly due to the visual effects. There are gameplay tweaks but most of what makes the mod feel great are because of the visual changes. I think some more balancing is in order because the gameplay is made even easier than vanilla but it’s still fun as hell. Playing on higher difficulties is the best way to experience the mod in my opinion. Furthermore, the integration of other mods and the expanded Dead Man Walking mode are all certainly welcome and give the game more replay value.
I would absolutely recommend Payne Evolution to fans of the series. You get a lot of content and its free to download. All the changes made breathe new life into the gameplay. The entirety of Max Payne 2 is fully playable and enjoyable with minimal issues. If you haven’t played Payne Evolution, definitely check it out.