Blood, gore and guns

Rating: NNNMAX PAYNE for PlayStation 2, $80. Rating: NNNGRAPHICS: Unimpressive, except for the blood.ADDICTIVENESS: Massive, particularly when the killing.

Rating: NNN

MAX PAYNE for PlayStation 2, $80. Rating: NNN

GRAPHICS: Unimpressive, except for the blood.

ADDICTIVENESS: Massive, particularly when the killing begins.

ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Unless your partner is into graphic gun battles with mobster wiseguys, high.

PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: Here, the baddest guy wins.

it’s good to know that a mere

five months after September 11, unbridled violence and wanton destruction live on in the world of video games.

Entertainment watchdogs may have held back on shoot-’em-up films like Arnie’s Collateral Damage in the wake of the terrorist attacks, but the full-throttle mayhem that is Max Payne rolls on.

Of course, endless killing is predictable — hell, expected — in video games. That said, Max Payne is without question the most violent game I’ve ever played.

After watching his wife and daughter die, undercover cop Payne is framed for murder and goes on a wild manhunt across New York City. Justice is the ostensible goal, but Payne is also happy to exact revenge on everyone he runs into. That includes thugs, mobsters and bank robbers, but also junkies on the street who might lash out as you walk by.

Endless retribution is dispensed through an arsenal of stunning weaponry, everything from sniper rifles to a particularly effective baseball bat. If you happen to get shot, you can take drugs to make the pain go away.

A lot of attention has been paid to the killing action of Max Payne. The location of bloodstains on the walls moves depending on where you happen to dispatch your enemy. Of particular note, the game’s delightfully named Bullet Time function lets you employ Matrix-style slow motion, where you fall backwards, guns blazing, and dodge bullets while taking out your enemies.

Play for a few hours — the game’s cruelly addictive — and it’s amazing how casual you become about killing vast numbers of people. I have no idea how many people died during my overwhelming slog through Max Payne. 100? 200? Either way, it was a lot, and most times it felt good.

For all of its often horrifying graphic detail, though, Max Payne often underwhelms, particularly in the looks department. Character movements seem blocky and primitive, and there are none of the slick movie sequences of games like Grand Theft Auto 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2.

Maybe all the cash went into the killing sequences. Those are really all I can remember about Max Payne.

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