Max Payne for iOS: Can twitch-based shooters work on a touchscreen? We can only say “nearly” at this point. Rockstar’s effort to port Max Payne to mobile devices was met with skepticism since accurate movement, aiming, and firing on a touchscreen is all but impossible. As a result, earlier today, Max Payne Mobile was made available on iOS systems. Is there any progress being made in resolving the vexing problem of input from touch screens? Once again, “nearly.”
Can twitch-based shooters work on a touchscreen? We can only say “nearly” at this point.
This is why Rockstar’s effort to port the original Max Payne to mobile devices was a surprise: accurate movement, aim, and fire are all impossible on a touchscreen. And so they have, debuting Max Payne Mobile for iOS devices earlier today. But have they worked out a solution to the terrible touchscreen input issues? Once again, “nearly.”
Max Payne Mobile’s controls are the most significant difference from the original, which was played by most people using a mouse and keyboard. On iOS, the controls are unsurprisingly touch-based, but Rockstar was savvy to give a dizzying amount of customization choices in the hope that gamers would be able to find something that works for them.
In the game, you may opt from a range of auto-lock settings for targeting or just go with a free look for a more conventional feel. You can relocate any input button to wherever they want on-screen and even switch the pointing and movement sticks. You have the option of altering the sensitivity of the screen or having it leap every time you press it. In the end, it took me about an hour to discover the settings that were satisfactory to me.
It’s the control’s reproduction of mouse-look functionality that’s the most stunning part. Other action games on iOS have attempted digital-analog sticks for aiming, but Max Payne Mobile’s default option is on mouse look, which recognizes even the least bit of movement produced by your thumb. It’s comparable to how a mouse would pick up even a millimeter’s shift to the left or right. The implementation provides for some of the most accurate targetings I’ve ever encountered on the platform.
But there’s an issue. Shooting. This is Max Payne after all, and you’ll be doing plenty of shooting as he rampages around NYC. Imagine holding an iPad in your hands, for example. You’ve got the left thumb controlling all your movement and your right thumb handling targeting. So how do you fire? To use the fire button, you must remove your thumb from the pointing button.
Here’s the answer I came up with: In order to make room for it, I shifted it to the left edge of the screen. I can’t move or shoot because of Max’s Bullet Time descent, but that’s okay because I don’t have to. Basically, I dive and use my right thumb for pointing and my left thumb for fire. So you can see how my controls are set up, I’ve provided a screencap of it.
Is it ideal? No. The fact that Rockstar allowed me to discover a solution that worked for me is a testament to their openness. And I’m not sure I could come up with a better solution short of finding a method to integrate mouse/keyboard capability to the iPad.
As for the remainder of the game, it’s a pitch-perfect port. Every level, every absurd bit of narration, and every corny comic strip has been reproduced with painstaking authenticity. Even though the character models and backgrounds employ the same blocky graphics from years past, I played the game on the new iPad and was blown away by how crisp it looked.
I do take issue, though, with the lack of Game Center support in Max Payne Mobile. Instead of Game Center, Rockstar has built its own proprietary Social Club, which includes its own set of achievements, stat trackers, and friends list. I don’t blame Rockstar for wanting its own service, but where’s the harm in integrating Game Center support on top of that? For whatever reason, Rockstar has never supported Game Center with any of its iOS products and it seems like a fairly huge oversight, especially given the amount of work that goes into their mobile versions.
Nothing else really needs to be criticized. In preparation for Max Payne 3’s debut next month, Capcom has released an outstanding mobile reproduction of one of the finest action games ever made: Max Payne. That it’s simply 3 dollars for a Universal app is frosting on the cake.