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Ever since seeing the lobby shootout scene from The Matrix as a kid, I’ve been obsessed with slow-motion physics-based shooters. Games like Stranglehold and Max Payne attempted this to great success, but it’s been a long time since anything like those games has been released. Enter Maximum Action, the frantic, fast-paced shooter that makes you the director of your own action movie.

Maximum Action is an Early Access title in development by Balloon Moose Games. It’s the brainchild of George Mandell and has come a long way since its initial demo release in 2018. This preview is based on the current build 0.78.1 Aptly titled “Gun and Blood” update and for Maximum Action, it’s about as accurate as you can get.

I first learned of Maximum Action thanks to a video by Rabbit’s Respawn highlighting the absolute blast that this game is, it promised a fast-paced shooter that delivers upon every action fantasy I had as a kid. The game focuses on giving players a sandbox to make their own action movie complete with studio name and main actor, currently, it offers a collection of levels as well as an endless mode and user-created workshop content, adding a good amount of content to the game I’ve already clocked 40 hours on it.

Source: Screen Capture – Chris Clawson

VHS meets PlayStation 1 visuals.

The first thing you will notice when loading up Maximum action is that this game is from top to bottom a recreation of VHS action movies. Players are immediately greeted with a synth score and dimly lit room, complete with a CRT television and a collection of VHS tapes, these tapes are your levels.

These VHS covers lovingly capture the art style of 80s and 90s VHS box art even down to the frayed edges, combined with other aesthetics like the scanlines and CRT bluescreen, the game takes this a step further by hiding collectable VHS tapes in each level which then unlocks an endless level, allowing you to battle unending waves of enemies in new arena-style maps.

Source: Screen Capture – Chris Clawson

Once you pick a tape and load it up you’ll notice that player models are reminiscent of low poly early PlayStation models, but with modern touches such as dynamic lighting and particle effects.

The effects in the game really sell the action movie vibe with brutal gore effects and destructibility with bullets tearing up walls and pillars collapsing,  your guns will leave smoke trails and spent shell casings, and by the time you’ve cleared a room only blood spatters and bodies will remain. This all combines to make you feel like the hero in any of the action movies that inspired the game. This combination of visual styles gives Maximum Action a look all of its own and will definitely help it stand out amongst the sea of modern and throwback FPS games we are seeing an influx of.  

This was a nice place before you showed up. – Source: Screen Capture – Chris Clawson

“Guns lots of Guns”.

Although Maximum Action has already done many things right, the aspect that completely sells the game is the guns and gunplay. Maximum Action‘s shootouts are fast, brutal, challenging and of course cinematic. Guns are weighty and every shot packs a punch, with the game having a unique physics system that seems to be moving towards a kind of Rockstar Euphoria system where locational damage causes dynamic animations, this leads to gun battles that feel brutal with each weapon creating a different impact on an enemies body.

There is also a lot of variety when it comes to the guns from the classic berretta’s or 1911s all the way to revolvers and lever-action rifles. All the guns look and sound fantastic with high-quality weapon animations and models that whilst fitting the retro aesthetic sneak in details not seen in the retro games it imitates. Players are able to carry any 4  weapons at any time and the dual wield combinations you can create would be enough to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime blush.

RPG and M60 you got it! – Source: Screen Capture – Chris Clawson

Choose your “shooting” location.

In keeping with the films that inspired it Maximum Action has a good variety of locations in its levels from an Asian inspired teahouse, to the dingy city streets seen in classic action cinema, all the way to a jungle raid in the spirit of Rambo complete with M60s, tanks and a miniature open-world level design. The game has both added new levels as well as revised old ones since it was released on Early Access, with the aforementioned open-world jungle section being a fairly recent addition to the game.

The levels are currently my only real gripe with the game and that is because some of them don’t showcase the game at its best at least for me, the jungle location, in particular, doesn’t work for me as I feel the game is at its best when you are placed in cramped interiors scrambling for cover.  The levels that showcase Maximum Action at its best are the hospital, teahouse and restaurant. These missions flow together nicely and show off the games destruction and tight gunfights. Some levels are currently also a little more outdated but this is simply due to the game still being in development and I have every faith that we will see some exciting new content soon.

Make it your own.

Workshop support is also a large part of the game’s longevity with player-made maps and weapons already numerous, modded weapons are definitely the star of the show currently with some fighting right in with the games vanilla roster thanks to high-quality models and sound effects. Mapmaking, in its current form, is fairly primitive and Balloon Moose have been very clear that the feature is in early development. Still what’s available already has yielded some interesting results with players recreating Goldeneye maps and ridiculous weapons like the massive Glock.

That’s not a gun, this is a gun – Source: Screen Capture – Chris Clawson

Where did this all come from?

I was extremely fortunate to be able to reach out to George Mandell (Balloon Moose) and find out how Maximum Action was conceived and built upon. When asked where the idea of Maximum Action came from Mandell stated that his inspiration first came from experimenting with mods on Max Payne. Whilst he thoroughly enjoyed these mods he always felt the title was missing the more sandbox oriented elements of titles like Garry’s mod.

My original concept was a sort of sandbox version of Max Payne but as development went on I expanded that concept to all types of action genres through the decision to make each level a different movie scene.

Speaking on his influences for the game Mandell noted that aside from the obvious 80s cinema influences, he also took inspiration from newer films like John Wick but his biggest influence was John Woo‘s filmography, particularly Hard Boiled.

From a personal perspective, I was fascinated to know if Hardcore Henry had an effect on the game’s development as the title was something that immediately jumped out to me when I first played Maximum Action.

That movie made me think differently as a first-person shooter developer and explore what other mechanics and gameplay could be derived beyond just waking, shooting and jumping. I would say things in Maximum Action like drop kicking or dive sliding have a bit of influence from films like Hardcore Henry.

Source: Maximum Action – Steam Page

However, the most exciting bit of information that Mendell shared was his plans for upcoming content for the game which included:

  • An updated level editor “Where users can create levels as detailed and fleshed out as the core levels”
  • Improved mod support, bug fix and improved AI
  • New content (more Wild West levels, WW2 inspired levels)
  • Narrative tissue to connect the scenes and provide context.
  • Improved replay system allowing you to add custom one-liners adding even more cinematic flair.

Is it worth it?

In its current state Maximum Action already surpasses its namesake, its chunky and addictive gunplay make it a great game to blow off steam too or practice at to pull off more high-level play. The incredible atmosphere that Balloon Moose Games have created puts you in the heart of the action, it truly is unlike any other modern shooter.

Maximum Action is currently available on Steam for £11.39/€12.49. It’s absolutely worth the price and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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