Some argue that Max Payne 3 didn’t reach the heights of its predecessors and the franchise, as a whole, went out on a whimper. That case aside, Max Payne 3 left a glaring hole on its way out, a void that hasn’t yet been filled. The franchise is usually associated with an irresistible euphoria of epicness that no game has been able to emulate even after almost a decade. Nothing has come close to Max Payne in terms of what it delivered during its lifetime, especially during an era when games featuring bullet-time were uncommon. In fact, they’re still uncommon to this day. If we take a look back, Max Payne helped the mechanic gain the recognition it has today.
In the quest to discover more games like, I discovered a few games similar to Max Payne in terms of gameplay mechanics and the usage of bullet-time. These games are Stranglehold, Dead to Rights 2, and Wanted: Weapons of Fate.
1-John Woo Presents: Stranglehold:
This was one of the most anticipated games back in 2007, especially by those who already got their hands on the demo. Everything about Stranglehold screamed Max Payne from the get-go. The game was developed by Tiger Hill Entertainment and published by the now-defunct Midway Games. Sadly, the game didn’t sell as well as some of the other titles that released in 2007, such as Bioshock, God of War 2, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare etc. In case you didn’t know, Stranglehold acted as a spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed Hong Kong movie Hard Boiled by John Woo. Stranglehold was one of Midway’s last published games before they disappeared forever from the market after 62 years of service to the gaming industry. What’s more saddening is how Midway left so many IP’s behind that are stuck in a cliffhanger limbo. The place where every good underrated game met a miserable fate. The Suffering and Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy being other prominent examples.
In Stranglehold, players take on the role of Tequilla, a Chinese inspector, who goes on a mission to investigate the disappearance of a policeman. In the process, Tequilla discovers the kidnapping of his wife and daughter by the Russian mafia. This leaves him with no choice but to place his family first and neglect his duties. A family man to the rescue of his only family.
The gameplay puts great emphasis on action and the Tequilla gauge. Stranglehold feels inspired by Max Payne in all the right ways. It takes some elements but does enough to distinguish itself and carve an identity of its own. A neat idea is the use of the surroundings as a tool for the slow-motion features such as riding a trolley while shooting waves of enemies one by one, sliding on the stairs…etc. Techniques like these fill the Tequilla gauge that lets the player execute 4 different abilities. The player can choose between healing Tequilla’s wounds, use a slow-motion precision aim to take enemies from a distance, a vulnerable mode for a short limited period of time with unlimited ammo, and lastly, the Tequilla bomb where Tequilla spins around in circles to take on enemies nearby (cue in Total Overdose Tornado ability).
In terms of level design, Stranglehold is definitely not winning any awards, which is understandable considering that the game is more focused on making the player feel like a badass. The levels are pretty straightforward with some bosses sprinkled here and there. As for the graphics, Stranglehold looks on par with any good 7th gen linear shooter with Unreal Engine 3 helping John Woo achieve
The animations are well-done, especially the sniping-scope mode. The cutscenes are decent as well, nothing special, but serviceable. The lack of gore is definitely felt and the game would have been more cathartic if they implemented more limbs flying off.
The original soundtrack is again, serviceable and gets the job done. However, the ringtone the players hear every time Tequilla kills an enemy is unique. Another subtle feature implemented by the developer that deserves praise.
To recapitulate, Stranglehold offers a package full of intense action shooting where you can feel stylish and badass. If you’re looking for a third-person shooter with bullet-time, Stranglehold is ready to slake your thirst.
Gameplay for you:
2-Wanted: Weapons of Fate:
Coming next in the list is Wanted: Weapons of Fate. A third-person shooter video game published by Warner Bros Interactive in 2009 for PC, Xbox360, PS3. The game was developed by Grin, known for their games such as Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Bionic Commando reboot, Terminator: Salvation and other cancelled games such as Strider Reboot and Streets of Rage remake before they went bankrupt. The game is based on the movie that was released back in 2008.
The story of the game is set five hours after the events of the original movie. It picks up with Wesley Gibson, as he continues his transformation into a complete assassin. In the beginning, Wesley is attacked by SWAT-like soldiers in his apartment. After he gets rid of them, he comes across a picture of his mother which reminds him of some dreams he was having about a mysterious guy who murders his mother. After accomplishing several missions, Wesley will seek the french chapter of the fraternity, the organization responsible for the killing of his mother. He’ll hunt down the immortal, and finally solve the truth about his family.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate’s gameplay has some engaging mechanics, and other mediocre ones as well. The game not only offers detailed tutorials but also sends the player to a training room to practice upon starting the game for the first time, and when obtaining new abilities throughout the playthrough. The game puts great emphasis on the cover system and implements all the mechanics that you would expect from a standard 7th gen third-person shooter. There’s also an auto-healing mechanic similar to what is seen in the Gears of War games. One unique idea is the melee finishing move. Its usage essentially allows the player to take out an enemy while activating bullet-time for a short period of time.
Unsurprisingly, even enemies are capable of taking cover, and they’re good at it. However, this is where Wanted: Weapons of Fate shines with a unique borrowed technique from the movie called ” Curved Bullet ”. Instead of waiting for enemies to pop up and then taking them down, the player can use the mechanic which is essentially an enemy tracking bullet.
The graphics look okay for a licensed video game movie. However, do note that the PC version suffers from fatal bugs that may come in the way of the player having fun. For example, flickering colored textures all over the place, black screen on some occasions (and praying to God that it’ll get solved on its own) and other weird problems such as the game crashing every 2 hours or so.
The level design is bland; all the levels look the same, and the objectives are identical throughout the game- Go to this place, shoot that, shoot this, and voila the chapter is over, repeat the same thing until you encounter a boss fight and beat the game.
The animated cutscenes are okay, they share a vibe similar to the movie. But the game makes the player sit through cutscenes quite frequently. That’s where Wanted: Weapons of Fate gets extremely tedious.
Wanted: Weapons of Fate is a 5 hours game where you’ll begin with shooting enemies and end up shooting your brain because of how frustrating the bugs, the mechanics and repetitiveness of the game can be. But, if you’re looking for a decent game to spend the weekend on and don’t mind the jank, go for it.
Gameplay for you:
3-Dead to Rights 2:
The good old Namco back in the PlayStation 2 era had quite a different philosophy. They made games that were meant to compete with every famous franchise out there. And Dead to Rights is one of them. (Kindly forget about the mistake they made with Retribution by removing every element that made Dead to Rights fun to play.)
Dead to Rights 2 is a third-person shooter published by Namco back in 2005 for PC, PS2, and Xbox. It was developed Widescreen Games, known for making some of the rarest games, such as Black Buccaneer, Airborne Troops, and Wild Water Adrenaline.
Dead to Rights 2 acts as a prequel to the original game. It starts with Jack Slate and his side-kick dog Shadow before the events of Dead to Rights. Jack and Shadow are thrown into a mess with one of the most dangerous criminals in the city, and both have to fight for their lives to survive and fulfill their revenge on the person responsible for turning their lives into hell. Jack will go through a series of violent investigations to solve the truth behind this chaos.
In Dead to Rights 2, you either kill or get killed. Enemies are not screwing around, and they’re after one thing, to kill you. The gameplay is pretty much similar to Stranglehold. However, enemies are more challenging and deadlier. And let’s not forget how they appear all of a sudden from the corners.
The game puts great importance on the cover system, but more importantly, what matters is the fast movement and being able to react to enemies coming in from every corner of the screen. The slightest delay in movement awards enemies with a huge advantage on Jack. In spite of all these difficulties, Shadow plays another essential role. Players are able to command Shadow to attack selected enemies, but doing so uses up a part of the bullet-time gauge. A great risk to reward system in my opinion. Thankfully, the pacing of the game is kept up due to the rapid regeneration of the gauge.
Shadow is able to attack, kill, and steal some weapon ammo for Jack. Another thing to note is how the game puts the player’s skills to the test by not providing health packs every five minutes or so. This nudges the player to survive and conserve HP. Finally, the exciting part of the game is the hand to hand combat segments. Jack will have to use his fists sometimes in the game to beat the crap out of anyone standing in his way. He can also grab objects upon defeating enemies such as a knife, broken bottle glass, a long sword…etc and creatively use them for a finisher.
The game consists of stages similar to the games I mentioned above with no riddles to solve. The graphics look okay for 2005 game. There’s nothing beautiful to look at. It is the action that counts the most, and more importantly the music score. Some soundtracks are neat to listen to.
Dead to Rights 2 offers intense action, challenging enemies, a helpful sidekick dog to help you through the mess. If you’re looking for a challenging third-person shooter video game similar to Max Payne game. Then I recommend Dead to Rights 2. However, stay away from the third game on the PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.