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THE GAMES REVIEW : PAYNE KILLER; It's all in the game for this superior sequel which could be a blockbuster.

Byline: BOB LOW

THE FALL OF MAX PAYNE PC 5*

THERE are few games that excite Hollywood enough for them to consider big-budget movies. Lara Croft is an obvious one and it looks as if Max Payne could well be the next.

When the original game was released, it was clear then that something new and exciting had happened. The visuals were a cut above everything else and the now-famous Bullet Time, stealing the Matrix-style slo-mo, was an innovation now much-copied.

A sequel clearly has a lot to live up to - but it does it, in spades.

The original Max Payne graphics look cheap and nasty up against the sequel. The old Max was, we now see, like a Botoxed zombie who had never eaten fresh veg. The new Max can blink, is lip-synched and can express emotions by altering his expression.

Similarly, the people he meets up with look totally realistic and behave in a more lifelike way - well, until he kills them.

Bullet-Time is the innovation that Max Payne hung his twin shoulder-holsters on and, despite being so obvious you wonder why no-one thought of it before, Max Payne would have been just another bog-standard third-person action game.

Bullet-Time is back and better than ever - the term New York Minute now means something fabulously Peckinpah and as smooth as The Matrix. Bullet traces hiss past , empty shells fly over your shoulder, sound effects have been time-stretched to perfection, bodies twitch and fall in ragdoll effects courtesy of the latest Havok 2 physics engine and there's a superb `time-twist' when you pull out of Bullet-Time and back into the land of the normal.

They've also fixed the clipping problems that, in Bullet Time, sometimes saw Maxie nosedive into a wall, legs waggling and all his bullets lost in the plasterwork.

In the original game, much was made of the story, told in film noir hard- boiled language and in flashback, through panels of a graphic art novel and voiceover.

It was smart and adult, so console owners hated it at once and complained it just got in the way of the shooting. They won't like this, then. The script is three times as big, the game is much deeper and it's a love story, with a woman the designers chose to call Mona Sax, without realising what that would mean if she married Max.

I mean ... Mona Payne?

Not only that, but it has an adults-only certificate on it. Not, you'll be sorry to hear, because of any salacious sex scenes, but because of such events as Max breaking in to find his lady strapped to a chair. Too late to save her, he has to watch as she is shot, graphically, in the head.

The Fall Of Max Payne is a rougher ride than anything you've known in gaming and, if you have a wee greet on the way, brush it away and take it out on the people around you.

Despite all the smart graphics, that's what they're there for.

B17 THE MEMPHIS BELLE PC 3*

THIS is the add-on game of the plane, of the movie of the sequel.

The Memphis Belle is one of the most famous B-17s of WWII, mainly because it was one of the few that completed 25 daylight missions with her original crew.

It inspired a classic 1944 documentary, later made into a movie with Matthew Modine and Harry Connick Jr.

This is an add-on to Combat Flight Sim 3, Just Flight's incredibly accurate flying extravaganza.

The beauty of this is not only the incredibly realistic graphics, but the fact that you have umpteen-plane formations. Another game, B17, did a lot of the same stuff, but you never managed any more than a handful of planes, which sort of defeated the purpose of B17 mass formations.

If you get through the 25 missions and retire, it isn't game over. You can then do the War Bonds hero tour, flying everywhere in the US.

CHEATMASTER VOL1 PS2 3*

FIRE INTERNATIONAL are better known for gaming peripherals and their Xploder cheat software.

This, then, is a logical and brilliant extension - a tenner's worth of cheats for the latest top-selling blockbuster titles, including Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, The Hulk, SOCOM:US Navy Seals, Def Jam Vendetta, Enter the Matrix, The Sims, GTA Vice City and many others.

If you've been stuck, sunk, shot-up and left hanging in level umpteen, you can find game aids including infinite lives, unlimited ammo and much more.

It's a nice touch, offering a wide range of cheats for the latest games, rather than the usual single-game disc and, more importantly, is the only budget cheat product offering built-in game saves.

And, yes, we know the purists huff and puff about cheating - but they ain't playing, you are.

When Lara keeps falling with that awful shriek, you have to do something to help.

KORSUN POCKET PC 3*

JUST PLAY specialise in more off-the-wall games. Warring Suns: Titans Of Steel is one but, thank God, this isn't anything like it.

Korsun Pocket re-creates the epic WWII battle in early 1944 which almost became the second Stalingrad.

It's played in12-hour turns of real time, at a regimental scale, using a traditional "I go, you go" turns system.

While it plays like an old-fashioned board game, no tabletop war game was ever this refined and user-friendly.

The mass of rules and tables required for historical authenticity means a cliff-faced learning curve. Pop-up boxes and colour displays on the map help, but you can just leap in and start humping units over the board, uncovering the multiple layers of complexity at a speed to suit.

But this is for fans of the wargame, or the boardgame.

RTS people will be bored, action junkies will nod off. But, for the discerning, this is a real brainteaser of strategy and tactics.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 29, 2003
Words:978
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