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Bullet Time

Words and Music: © 2003 by Tom Smith
Max Payne and its sequel, Max Payne 2, are dark, "film noir" crime dramas cleverly disguised as third-person shooters. The big selling-point gimmick, "bullet time", throws the game into slow motion... but you can still aim in real time. Can you say John Woo and The Matrix? I knew you could. But this is not a slam at it, not at all. I'm actually amazed at how well it all works -- which it wouldn't if the storytelling weren't as innovative as it gets, mixing graphic novel pages, flashbacks, voiceovers, cut scenes, and carefully timed clues, all held together by superb graphics and excellent sound. Big problem, of course, is your character, Max. He's watching his life being destroyed in front of his eyes, with no real control over events... until the bullets start flying.
Hell of a way to live. Hell of a way to die.

There is a dream / that they try to sell you,
Peaches and cream / but no one'll tell you
That under the gloss / the whole thing is rotten,
And once you get lost / you're gone and forgotten.

Last time I looked / bein' a cop meant
you worked by the book / the law is the fine print
But not around here / it's screwed up my life
It killed my career / my daughter, my wife

And I can
Feel time crowding me in to a choice I can't stand
Seems the only time I feel like I'm in command --
Bullet time makes me a man.

The bad guys are good / at gaming the system,
So often I should / have hit 'em, I've missed 'em,
My vict'ries were mor / al, failures were mounting,
I needed a score / they'll think is worth counting.

In all of this time / I'd never killed any-
One solving crime / now there's so many,
Gun in my hand, lots of / blood on it too,
But what in the hell / is a man s'posed to do?

And I can
Feel time slippin', how long should I try to survive?
Seems the only time I can steer that inner drive --
Bullet time keeps me alive.

I got a moment here and a moment there
When I can focus on the how and why and where,
I can hear the clock tickin' in my head,
Counting down to the second when somebody's dead.

It's like makin' love, only lots more grim,
As the universe contracts to me and him,
The brush of a kiss, the squeeze of a trigger,
The smallest of motions and emotions get bigger....

The dream that they sell / we all try to be it,
A cold day in hell / before I ever see it,
And my only chance / for any salvation
Is seat-of-the-pants / straight into damnation

But I don't despair / you need hope for that one
I don't need a prayer / long as I got my gun
But in me's a cancer / the memory from back when
Death wasn't the answer / or even the question

And I
Feel time slowing, or am I just going insane?
Seems the only time that I can explain --
Bullet time eases the Payne.

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All original content © by Tom Smith