Do you remember the Bullet Time Wars of the early '00s? Every game had to have it, and not one of them got it right. We lost a lot of good games during that time; lost to the unnecessary addition of a dumb movie gimmick.

But then Max Payne [$2.99] was released, and overnight the war ended. There was no disputing that, finally, a game had gotten bullet time right. That day was almost 11 years ago, and since then the world has changed. Games still implement bullet time, most of them successfully, but they all owe it to Max Payne.

For those of you who somehow missed out on it the first go around, Max Payne is revenge story wrapped in a noir coat that is so thick that the game occasionally comments on how warm it is. It serves as almost a noir for dummies book. Can’t sit through Chinatown? Max Payne will teach you all there is to know about noir.

But, for as silly as the writing occasionally is, it is still a good story. You will run into some truly gut-wrenching moments before you hit the 5 minute mark. But I wouldn’t dare spoil an 11 year old game, so I’ll stop right there. If you want to know more… Well, I assume you know what to do.

There is little sense in reviewing an 11 year old game that won nearly every award it could when it was first released. It's well established that Max Payne is a fantastic game, but it is also ELEVEN years old. That means it comes with all the baggage that an 11 year old game has earned. So, rather than focusing on Max Payne the game, lets talk about Max Payne the iOS port instead.

This is the absolute best this game has ever looked. On the new iPad, the game sees resolutions and clarity that were pipe dreams when it first came out. Granted, the textures are low resolution, but they still look pretty good rendered on the iPad’s Retina Display. The between level “comic book” sequences are not Retina resolution, but it’s not a great mystery as to why.

I doubt anyone at Remedy envisioned people wanting to play the game at ridiculous resolutions, so it’s likely that they never created super high-resolution assets for anything. But, thanks to how well everything upscales, they still look pretty good. While it didn’t age as well as Grand Theft Auto 3 [$4.99] did visually, it is still a great looking game. Bonus points if you can make it through the whole game without giggling at Max’s facial texture.

Controls are about what you would expect from virtual joysticks. Max feels a bit floaty when he moves, and looking around can be a pain, but the game is still very playable, thanks in part to a pretty competent auto aiming system. I know a lot of folks scoff at the idea of auto-aim, but it really does make the experience more cinematic and fun. When I turned off auto-aim, the results were decidedly less than fun (and often borderline frustrating), but your mileage may vary.

The real problem with the default virtual control layout is that the hit zones for buttons are too close to each other. Because you are aiming at a nondescript part of the screen, rather than a button, you will often find yourself jumping when you want to enter bullet time. A minor problem once or twice, but growing in annoyance significantly over the course of an 8 hour game. Like GTA3, you can move the buttons around on screen in the options, but you never really shake the feeling that this is a game made for a controller (or keyboard and mouse).


(Original E3 2011 trailer for PC version.)

Playing Max Payne to completion takes anywhere from 7 to 10 hours. If you intend to make that journey, please be sure to manage your own save files. Yes, Max Payne offers an auto-save, but I found it to be unreliable at best, and downright abusive at it’s worst. Unfortunately, games ported from PCs seem to bring more quirks than if they were ported from a console. Max Payne is from a time where we didn’t trust the game to save for us, so we took that responsibility upon ourselves. Max Payne for iOS has ported that feature spectacularly, so make sure you adjust your habits accordingly.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was super stoked about Max Payne coming to iOS. It was a game I loved on the PC 11 years ago, and I wanted to see how rose the colored glasses were. The answer is, surprisingly, not that rose. While it looks old, and has virtual joysticks, Max Payne is every bit the great game it was 11 years ago. I wish Rockstar had put more love into the port, but for costing me 1/25th of the original game, I’ll cut them some budgetary slack.

Now if I could just get rid of these war flashbacks, I’d be in business.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • squirrel squirrel squirrel

    What's with the inflated 5-star rating?

    "...offers an auto-save, but I found it to be unreliable at best, and downright abusive at it’s worst."

    "Max feels a bit floaty when he moves, and looking around can be a pain..."

    "The real problem with the default virtual control layout is that the hit zones for buttons are too close to each other."

    "...you can move the buttons around on screen in the options, but you never really shake the feeling that this is a game made for a controller (or keyboard and mouse)."

    Sounds like there are a number of issues. Shouldn't 5-stars be reserved for games near perfect in execution (ie Tinywings)? These are frustrating issues that shouldn't be encouraged to let slip from the likes of Rockstar.

    From this review, it sounds like if this game were of different IP, it would be rated lower.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      It's a game with issues that's still about as must-have as it gets, especially for three bucks. Regarding the rating, our star system doesn't represent any traditional measure, and more just serves as a display of how much we recommend the game overall. In this case, if you have a device that can run it, you need Max Payne.

      • http://twitter.com/LearnIIBurn Tyler Piderit

        Plus Max's story is EPIC. Seriously this game is awesome for the film noir alone. Drugs, violence, cops, guns, slow motion. Its a really really good game.

      • farnsworth_pro

         Your review is on point, Eli. Don't worry about the haters.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CLLXFT32FZNJFCUBVZ4AKCHSZY Poor

        I don't want to be a hater but I have to agree, I think your rating is too high for what it is. Personally, I think 5 star reviews and this amount of adulation should be reserved for games that are built on iOS and take full advantage of the unique properties of the devices, not ports of ancient games with notable issues and controls that could be considered adequate at best.

      • GSJ1977

        This. On what planet is a port of a decade-old game made for a completely different UID a "must have"?

      • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

        It's not a must have. You can play it on an old PC or laptop with a decent control system. It's often cheaper on Steam too. I think I paid the same amount for a bundle include Max Payne 2 as well. And here's the thing; even on that platform you admit this game has not aged well.

    • Flare_TM

      Your whole wall of text got made irrelevant the moment you said tiny wings

  • dearapple

    This is stupid, you can't aim and shoot at the same time when in bullet time.

    • farnsworth_pro

      You absolutely can. It might not be as easy with virtual controls, but it's entirely possible

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Ostrovsky/1267560948 Nick Ostrovsky

        Technically it is possible, but in practive you got to reply on auto-targetting.

  • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

    Dumb movie gimmick? The Matrix's bullet time? It's widely used in practically all action/sci-fi/fantasy movies today, it's not a gimmick. This game did use it best back then though.

    • Quarkles

      "practically all action/sci-fi/fantasy movies today"

      What movies are you watching?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ana-Maria-Gilabert-Orengo/100002116452645 Ana Maria Gilabert Orengo

    If you install max payne in your pc, the controls are bad too, 10 years....so much, for a simple port.

    • http://twitter.com/MrCheeseballs Mike Crumpley

      The controls are bad on the PC?

      ... are you playing with your elbows?

      • farnsworth_pro

         Pretty sure he is referring to the "floatiness" spoken of in the review, which was also in the original version.

  • http://twitter.com/LearnIIBurn Tyler Piderit

    I loved this game to death. The 2nd one was amazing as well. I am so ready for the 3rd one it hurts. Gladly play it again on my 4S. Guys, the fact that we are playing full blown games on our phones is really, really cool. GTA III and now this. I only expect more games to be released like so in the future.

    And it's $2.99. I just spent $7.89 on a burrito at Chipotle. It was good and all, but I'll forget about it in 20 minutes.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      Depending on your salsa choice, you sure as hell won't be forgetting that burrito tomorrow morning.

      • http://twitter.com/LearnIIBurn Tyler Piderit

        You are so right. 20 minutes never came around for forgetting. I will never forget.

  • Joe Burkett

    max payne is a great port but its missing one graphical effect the bullet time bullet effect its missing the bullet trails, its minor but the old game had it...

    • http://www.facebook.com/LilNomad Brian Keith

      Yeah, the bullet trails were also a problem in the GTA 3 port as well, but thankfully it is a minor detail and doesn't take away from the game too much.

  • http://twitter.com/ZildjianKX Jeff

    "costing me 1/25th of the original game"...

    The original game cost $75?

    • Quarkles

      If he bought the Collector's Edition like any true gamer would have. Christ, what is this, amateur hour?

  • http://www.facebook.com/LilNomad Brian Keith

    I can't find any serious complaints about this game because I realize that it is on an IPod, an IPod! And that's amazing for me. Opening the tab to select guns can be a little bit of a hassle due to the notification center, and I don't know how to get rid of the notification center :/ I would absolutely love to see them port manhunt to IOS next, and it should be there next project for the Iphone!

    • Bytebrain

      You can swipe your finger over the weapon icon in the right hand corner to shift between weapons. I don't believe it's documented in the tutorial nor help in the game.
      I stumbled over that feature through experimentation.

      • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

        Actually the Tutorials explains it ;)

  • http://twitter.com/emerica2001 Tony Mack

    Max Payne owes respect to The Matrix for it's use of bullet time.
    Without that movie it would have never become as popular as it is today.
    It's no gimmick. Besides, Max Payne sucked to me when I played it. 

    • http://twitter.com/riChchestMat Chris Matchett

      The Matrix owes respect to Jonathan Glazer for his use of bullet time in his music video for Radiohead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lonnie.gunther Lonnie Gunther

    May be a stupid questiom, but for the life of me, I cant figure out how to take painkillers in the game....What am I missing?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sebastian-Paul/1186812355 Sebastian Paul

      Doubletap the painkiller symbol

    • http://twitter.com/touchgameplay TouchGamePlay

      Play the Tutorial... or watch some Trailer of it *Damn, I`m Good* :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/erich.heintzman Erich Heintzman

    Deleted

  • http://twitter.com/DanceSoldier Maximilian Markgraf

    So the Game won't start unless I reboot my Device completely and even then I have to have an amazing portion of Luck and I have an iPhone 4S with 64 GB so I ask you: WTF??? They have to get this Issue to go away else I want my money back

  • http://www.facebook.com/backudog Richard Eastwood

    Max Payne was great back in the day and is great again now on my new ipad. I just wish i could remember where all the easter eggs were in the game (other than the hidden room in the tutorial).

  • NPeart

    I hope they would put a Gyro aiming option as an update.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jacob.noergaard Jacob Nørgaard

    Avid Max Payne and iDevice fan here. The game looks horrible. Where are the so-called updated hd textures? Sure, it runs in hd resolution on my new iPad, but controls are bad, game looks horrible and hasn't aged too well. Sure, the story is ok, but this really needs a mouse to be playable. I gave it 2 stars on AppStore.

  • gnomekingofpain

    I picked up the game awhile back when it was on sale but had not gotten around to playing it yet. I played it back when it it first came out on the X-Box and it really is a classic shooter.

    I am actually really pleasantly surprised at the iOS port. The controls are not perfect, but movement and shooting is easier and smoother then most of the iOS shooters out there. In and of itself that is a pretty low bar, but it really does work well enough to be fun.

    Max is floaty, but that is not actually new to the iOS port. I replayed the console version awhile back and remember that Max was pretty floaty in that version as well.

    On my IPad 4 it looks both really good, and really bad. It is amazingly crisp, but wow are a lot of the textures bad. Even by the standards of its era, Max Payne excelled in style, but was graphically ugly. I remember the PS 2 version being particularly hard to look at. The comic book scenes however look great on the retina display regardless of the image resolution.

Max Payne Mobile Reviewed by Brendan Saricks on . Rating: 5