Genre: 3rd Person Action
Publisher: Gathering of Developer
Mod: Kung Fu V3
Created By: Kenneth Yeung
Release Date: 3/5/2003
Review By: Anthony Mitera
For the most part mods for games all try to integrate aspects or themes of another game. While not a bad thing at all, there are very few mods that have enough quality to warrant a game purchase rather than buying a game specifically made to cater to a certain theme. The third iteration of the Kung Fu mod for Max Payne is one of the few exceptions to this general rule, anyone that currently owns a copy of Max Payne should go and get this mod right now and even those who don’t should seriously look into buying a copy of Max Payne if only to experience one of the freshest, high quality mods released for any game or platform.
The original Max Payne is a game taken straight from action movie film noir, a lone hero diving around with akimbo pistols blazing, striving against all odds and hundreds of foes, complete with slow motion action that is completely controllable by the player. While Max Payne was one of the greatest games of its type (and a game that many others have tried to copy in their own work) the gameplay was limited to gunplay for the most part, using one of the few melee weapons in the game was only a last resort as it would most often get you killed.
The Kung Fu mod takes the original gameplay mechanics of Max Payne and extensively builds upon it, adding an additional type of dive for both big and small guns, the ability to wall-run and wall-flip, and (most importantly) a full fledged kung fu system utilizing both your bare fists and feet or a staff. The end product is very similar to Hong Kong film noir and Hong Kong Blood Opera style, in which tactics are nearly forgone and everything from dives to hand to hand fighting is done in the most flamboyant way possible.
To effectively explain the Kung Fu mod it must be broken into two parts, the gunplay and the kung fu. The general feel behind the gunplay remains the same from the original method but with significant changes. In Max Payne there are two “classes” of weaponry, small (pistols, Ingrams) and large (rifles, shotguns, grenade launchers). With the unaltered Max Payne you were able to simply dive while using small arms (with or without slow motion) and were limited to merely rolling sideways when using larger weaponry. With the Kung Fu mod each class has two types of evasion techniques, performed by both running and pressing the dive key or by tapping a direction from a standstill and pressing the dive key. With small arms, if you perform the running evasion you do the same dive al la the unedited Max Payne. However, the tapping evasions are a style called “drunken shootdodging”. In this style Max will lean to the sides, bend over backwards, or turn away from the enemy and bend over backwards, all the while shooting at the enemy while at the same time becoming a near-impossible target. With the large guns a tapping evasion will now let you perform a dive, but the running evasion is a whole different breed. If you perform a running evasion while carrying a large gun Max will so everything from side flips, cocked front flips, and a near indescribable back flip, all the while allowing you to keep your weapon leveled at the enemy and blaze away.
The mod wouldn’t be called Kung Fu without a sizable kung fu aspect and Kung Fu mod does not disappoint. There are two ways to reach out and beat someone, the conventional way using your fists and feet and the staff, both of which are easily accessible from the weapon selection menu. Both ways are the same in the way you execute them but differ in the actual moves performed. When in kung fu mode the attack button becomes a primary attack button and the evade button becomes a secondary attack button. The primary attack button always does the same thing no matter if you are running or standing still, with your fists it’s a flurry of punches and with the staff it’s a quick series of hits and jabs. The secondary attack is much more versatile, with moves executed by either tapping or holding forward, forward-left, or forward-right and pressing the secondary attack button, totaling 6 different attacks per type.
With the kung fu system there is also a leveling system to lets you gain access to better moves and abilities. To gain a level you simply must use kung fu, use it enough and you gain a level. When starting a new game you start off at kung fu level one and are only allowed the basic moves. As you use kung fu and gain levels you will gain the wall-flip, wall-run, and takedown abilities at levels two, three, and four respectively. The wall-flip is executed by simply jumping straight at a wall or similar surface, when Max hits he will run up the wall a ways and then back flip off, useful to dodge enemy attacks from behind or when cornered. The wall-run ability is similar to execute, simply run diagonally to a wall and press jump, when Max hits the wall he will run along the wall for a few steps then side flip off, over any obstacles or enemies below. The takedown ability is one of the coolest aspects of the kung fu system. Occasionally after an enemy has been hit he will be stunned, if you are in kung fu mode and press the reload key Max will execute a “finishing move” of sorts that does huge damage and looks awesome.
To top off the kung fu system there are various combos that can be performed. While the primary attack and tapping secondary attacks all automatically go into preset combos if they connect with an enemy, if you run slightly away or dodge you can cease the current combo to start a different one or break combat. Thus you can customize what combos you perform and pummel the enemy as long as you like. The longer you keep a combo going against an enemy the more damage you do, and keeping a combo going will give you health gains. In addition to being able to customize and break combos you can temporarily pause them and execute them on another nearby enemy. When in a combo Max will give off audible grunts, if you press and hold the control key using those grunts as a guide, face another enemy, and release the crouch key Max will continue whatever combo you had going on the new enemy. This really useful if they guy you have been beating on is incapacitated and someone else is getting close to attack you.
The enemies in the game can also use kung fu, even though they are just as armed as you are. One on one kung fu fights can be a blast, since there is no other AIs to interfere with the combat and it all comes down to who can fight better. When enemies in the game lose all of their health they either fall down or do a half-spin and then tumble. However, if you hit them before they fall over you can keep bashing on them, giving you health gains just as if you were performing a long combo on a live opponent.
Another notable aspect of the kung fu system is the throwback that some moves can cause. With high power moves like the jump kick and certain combos enemies can be physically knocked off of their feet and sent flying, knocking down any enemies behind them and slamming into any objects behind them. This can be useful to knock over a close group of enemies but can also simply be used to slam a particularly annoying opponent into a wall, upon impact a good amount of dust flies around and the enemy falls over with a lot less health than it did before the impact.
Graphically the Kung Fu mod doesn’t change a whole lot. The new animations for the new dives and evasions are notable, as well as the very fluid kung fu moves. The Max Payne skin is changed to a more oriental look, but other than small changes to the weapons menu and the addition of the staff model there isn’t a whole lot new. However, this should not be viewed as a bad thing as this mod doesn’t aim to change the way the game looks but rather how it plays.
The audio is slightly changed as well. The opening movie to Max Payne is replaced with a new one that showcases some of the kung fu moves complete to the tune of White Zombie’s “More Human than Human”. The menu music is also replaced, swapping the gritty Max Payne theme with a more fitting track. Other than that, the sounds made in both the kung fu combat and the gunplay are all stock from the original but also fit very well with the content of the game and there is no real need to fix anything that isn’t broken.
As a whole the Kung Fu mod for Max Payne is one of the most well designed and implemented mods to grace any game, let alone Max Payne. The fact that a single man, Kenneth Yeung, created the whole thing is extremely impressive. While the mod doesn’t change the whole game it is extremely fun to play through the original storyline of Max Payne with your new found kung fu abilities, drunken shootdodging around corners, flipping off of walls, and beating someone up with kung fu in glorious slow motion. If you enjoyed the original gameplay style of Max Payne you would really do yourself good to get your download on and have the Kung Fu experience. With copies of Max Payne going for as low as $10 now due to the games age even those who don’t have the luxury of owning Max Payne should seriously consider picking up a copy to simply have their own peek at what modding excellence is all about. The Kung Fu mod isn’t going to change the way everyone thinks of mods, but what it will and has already done is shown what exactly a great mod looks like.