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Max Payne Returns

This week returns an older and wiser Max Payne, who was the star of Remedy Entertainment's 2001 third-person action game. In that game, Max took on the role of a one-man army in a quest to avenge the murder of his family, and he mowed through armies of mobsters and thugs, armed both with a huge arsenal of modern-day firearms and with bullet time, a dramatic special effect inspired by Hong Kong action movies that let Max briefly slow time and actually dodge oncoming bullets. Max was finally apprehended by the police, but not before he finished off the last of the thugs who had wronged him.

The weary cop was ready for a death sentence of his own, but at the beginning of the sequel, we find that he is instead exonerated with the help of the very influential Alfred Woden, who makes Max seem like a hero in the public eye. In true film-noir fashion, Max is haunted by demons of the past and abandons his highfalutin job at the DEA in favour of a regular NYPD beat.

We caught up with Max on what seemed to be a routine distress call--the sound of a woman screaming for help in a warehouse. As Max pulled up in his patrol car in an in-engine cinematic sequence, he heard shots fired and called for backup on his police radio, then readied his gun. Before heading in with Max, we took a brief stroll around the perimeter of the building, which was lit at each corner with floodlights that generated diffuse, dynamic radiosity lighting (rather than the preset shadow-mapping in the original game). We also passed through an alley with a crate-loaded freight pallet that was precariously balanced on an oil drum. Tossing a Molotov cocktail at the pile of junk launched the oil drum into the air, while the pallet slid from the ledge and crates tumbled realistically to the ground--a result of Remedy's integration of the Havok physics engine into the sequel.

Max then busted into the warehouse, only to find that the source of the screaming, and the gunshots, was nothing more than a TV on a table with the volume turned all the way up to one of the game's new TV programs. The original game featured an in-game comic book, Bat Boy, that Max would occasionally find issues of in his travels. The sequel features similar "running gags," like the TV drama Dick Justice, a cheesy 1970s blaxploitation cop show about a police officer whose family was also murdered and who also has an all-too-familiar penchant for melodramatic soliloquy. As a Rockstar representative explained, this TV show, and other tongue-in-cheek references in the game, is just Remedy's way of poking fun at itself. For some reason, Max himself seemed less than amused.

Max then apprehended a member of the warehouse's cleaning staff, who happened to wander in at just that moment. After frisking and interrogating the man, Max demanded a tour of the rest of the warehouse, to which the suspiciously cheerful janitor assented. While keeping the seemingly harmless man covered, Max was free to explore the confines of the warehouse's ground floor, nudging some of the larger boxes as he ran past. When the janitor turned the corner and opened the door to the foyer, it was revealed that he and his fellow cleaning staff were actually illegal gunrunners who immediately attacked Max, both by leaping from the shadows with guns blazing and, in some cases, by trying to flatten him by driving straight at him with a forklift. Max then entered another room to see another forklift driver plow right into a huge metal shelf covered with boxes--the collision caused the forklift and its driver to burst into flames, and it also sent the shelf and its contents crashing down toward Max.

A Bunch of Stuff Flying Around
We then jumped from that particular warehouse in Max Payne 2 to a completely different warehouse to get a better look at the game's implementation of Havok physics. Developer Remedy Entertainment had apparently decided to use Havok only to create rag-doll death animations for Max's enemies, but once they saw what the engine could do, they removed all of their existing engine's physics calculations and replaced every last bit of it with Havok. We watched a showdown between Max and a single thug atop a tall, industrial scaffold, which was replayed a few times using different weapons to show that no two death animations will be the same. For instance, we watched the thug get blasted with a pair of grenades, the first of which sent him hurtling through the air--and the second kept his corpse pressed against it before it slid down to the ground. We then watched the game's souped-up MP5 automatic weapon actually launch the same thug's body up in the air briefly, then pin his corpse to the wall with successive fire.

After this demonstration, we moved to an isolated test area full of boxes, chairs, and other items to see even more examples of how Havok physics will work in the game. We watched as Max used gunfire to knock a series of picture frames off the wall, which caused them to either slip downward or tumble end-over-end to the ground. We also watched Max use his new heavy-duty street-sweeping weapon, the Striker, to blast a thug into a pile of cardboard boxes, which fell realistically to the ground atop the body. As a Rockstar representative explained, the new physics not only look good, but also provide a new sense of tension, especially when Max is trying to take cover from incoming fire--the pile of boxes he ducks behind could get knocked apart at any second. Finally, we watched a grenade explosion, and its resulting shock wave, knock over a nearby ladder and send piles of tires flying and bouncing through the room. As the Rockstar representative explained, these physics features will come into play in the game's most intense gunfights. Bullets won't be the only things that are flying around--boxes, ladders, tires, barrels, and even bodies will fly.

Finally, we moved on to a rescue mission at the Ragnarock club, the former home of the vicious crime lord Max had hunted in the previous game. In the sequel, the club is bought out by Vladimir Lem, the leader of the local Russian mafia, who seems rather fond of Max, even though the two are on opposite sides of the law. It seems that Lem is trying to turn the club into a respectable establishment, but he's being held hostage in his own establishment by a bunch of insane, gun-toting thugs. As Max entered through the back door, he heard Lem finishing up a phone conversation with a mysterious woman over the intercom, then demanded to know Lem's location. Over the course of the next few areas, Lem shouted a few words of useless encouragement as Max went berserk, tearing through his enemies with dual Ingram MAC-10 submachine guns .

Since the club is still under construction, it was full of scaffolds, piles of lumber, and white sheets tossed over furniture, and the architecture seemed to provide not only good cover, but also good opportunities for Max to swing around corners or jump down from heights in bullet time to blast his enemies. In this area, we got our first demonstration of Max Payne 2's "bullet time 2.0," an improved version of the ability, which turns Max's bullet time meter yellow and actually lets him move at an almost normal speed, while his enemies are still stuck in slow motion. According to a Rockstar representative, bullet time 2.0 represents Max being "completely in the zone," and as such, it's available only rarely, and it can't be replenished normally just by waiting, like standard bullet time. Between the different architecture (which lets you duck for cover, then come out swinging), different weapons, and different kinds of bullet time, Max Payne 2 should very likely provide hardcore fans plenty of opportunity to stage their own dramatic, slow-motion fights as they play through the game multiple times.

Over the course of this mission, we also encountered Mike the Cowboy, a nonchalant Russian Mafioso equipped with an AK-47, a thick Russian accent, and a cowboy hat. Mike was introduced by a brief, movielike title that appeared next to him onscreen in floating text before he stood up and introduced himself. Even though Max fights most of his battles alone in the sequel, he occasionally joins computer-controlled characters like Mike on cooperative missions, though if Max doesn't watch where he's shooting, he may turn Mike and his other buddies against him.

Max Payne 2: the Fall of Max Payne seems to be coming together well, and publisher Rockstar has confirmed that the game is on schedule for its projected release date of
October 15.

A Gamespot preview


By He Who Sleeps

Slipknot is probably best known as "the middle of nowhere." Most non-residents consider the corn-and-pig-state a geographical black hole. Since rock n' roll's dawning in the early '50s, Slipknot has had no singular voice to put on the musical map. Naming a significant musical entity from the state is inarguably a fruitless task; it simply can't be done. However, nine freaks from Des Moines, draped in industrial coveralls, surrealistic self-made masks, and an attack that combines violently regurgitated "L.A. neo-metal," death metal, hip-hop, and down-tuned screeching horror--are about to leap upon the unsuspecting world like a musical of Clockwork Orange.

Have you ever thought about what a messed-up hard-core metal band from "the middle of nowhere" would sound like? "Ultra-violence" only begins to describe it... Meet 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. (In human terms that's DJ Sid Wilson, drummer Joey Jordison, bassist Paul Gray, percussionist Chris Fehn, guitarist Jim Root, sampler Craig Jones, percussionist Shawn Crahan, guitarist Mick Thomson, and vocalist Corey Taylor, respectively.) Each comes equipped with not only a frightening visual persona and number assignment, but a talent on his particular instrument that combines and collides to form the nine-headed savior/destroyer of modern heavy music dubbed Slipknot.

Now, with the tools and talents (not to mention complex-yet-infectiously-catchy songs) that this band holds in its grasp, the world has no choice: Slipknot has arrived, and you must now decide how to deal with it. Formed during the latter half of 1995, the band went through necessary lineup changes to arrive at what they now describe as "a family unit." All native Iowans, their rather unassuming, un-happening locale gave the members plenty of space and time to perfect their unusual take on 'heaviosity'.

The band recorded and distributed the self-released debut Mate, Feed, Kill, and Repeat in 1996, and the ball hasn't stopped rolling since. Attracting the attention of a number of labels, Slipknot finally signed to Roadrunner through noted producer Ross Robinson's I AM RECORDS imprint in 1997 and entered Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu with Robinson to record their self-titled debut.

It's a gross understatement of what actually transpires when it all comes together on stage. Until you hear the sound they create, having nine members in the band might seem ludicrous. Shawn claims it couldn't work any other way: "We've maintained an excellent practice schedule for the last three years. Everybody's on time, everybody's always there, and we always practice as a unit. Our music is so reliant on each other that if one guy, even the DJ, is gone, it's just wouldn't be our songs without him. Without even one person, something is really, really missing. Everybody has to be present. Even the littlest things make the songs magical."

Just as striking visually as they are musically, Slipknot stresses that the visuals do not take precedence over the music. "We never put on the s*** we wear to try and get people into us," says Joey Jordison. "We did it because, after being degraded constantly for trying to play music or do something in Des Moines, it just came to be like we were an anonymous entity. No one gave a f***, no one cared, so we were never about our names or our faces; we're just about music. So we just put it on and it started getting people, and it just started to turn into this big thing. The music's the most important, though. The coveralls and masks happened, and for some reason it worked, therefore we had to kind of continue with it. We got stuck with it."

Thanks to a hefty Ross Robinson production job on "Slipknot", Slipknot's vision, part one, has been successfully realized. Shawn feels that Robinson was as highly motivated to work on the record as the band was to work with him. "We're a highly, highly aggressive band, and very seldom do we meet people who are in the realm of our aggressiveness when we play as a unit, and Ross took us into the recording room and was throwing punches at us. He was into it. Ross got up every day and went and worked out so he could be in shape to do our album."

Slipknot self-released a CD in 1996, "Mate, Feed, Kill, Repeat", before signing with Ross Robinson's I Am Records, an imprint of Roadrunner. Their label debut, "Slipknot", was released in 1999 with their latest, "Iowa", following two years later.

Album Review

The Watson Brothers: Ohom

By Hamdan Kabir

The concept of side projects is yet to become popular in Bangladeshi music. We see people pursuing solo careers apart from their bands. However, the concept of artists from different bands coming together to form an altogether new band is new. The Watson Brothers has introduced with their album "Ohom".

The Watson Brothers is basically a side project of people from Cryptic Fate and their friends. (I had heard of it a year ago when I was taking an interview of Cryptic Fate.) Shakib from Cryptic Fate is just the vocalist, whereas guitarist Farhan plays the bass. The guitarist is Imran, who used to play in a band called THE ATTEMPED BAND. The drummer is Arafat, who is well known for having played with Cryptic Fate for quite some time. They are not the only artists featured in the band. One song in the album has been sung by Jon of Black while Tahsan (Black) has played the keyboard for another song. Moreover, Elita has done some additional harmonies.

The good part about The Watson Brothers is that it is nothing close to Cryptic Fate and unique in its own way. You'll find lots of different influences in their music. Track 1 called "Akash" and track 3 called "Rong" are especially reminiscent of U2 with those familiar guitar tones. Both songs are quite commercial but still worth listening to. Track 2 is called "Chaya". The most romantic song on the album, this song has good lyrics and vocals and has some nice and fairly fast keyboard solos by Tahsan. Track 4 is another pop rock number. This one is called "Aamar notun aami" and has good lyrics. A personal favourite is track 5, the title track "Ohom". The song seems to be deeply influenced by Tool with striking bass tones and dark lyrics and tunes. Track 7 is called "Jhor" and can be termed as the only hard rock number in the album. It's quite long too and crosses the 10-minute mark. The bass work is quite awesome and Farhan really shows his talent here. The tune reminds you of Arabian scales. Track 8 is another commercial number based on a groovy acoustic rhythm. Track 9 is an instrumental number based on acoustic rhythms. Track 10 seemed the best song to me. It's a blues rock number and the longest on the record (over 11 minutes). The vocals have been provided by Jon from Black, who has done some great work. The guitar work is great too, with some strong lead solos that may remind you of Carlos Santana. Imran turns out to be a delightful and compact guitarist with a good deal of variety in his style.

"Ohom" is really great when it comes to sleeve design. This is the first time in Bangladesh that a CD has had an inner sleeve bigger than four pages. The sleeve of "Ohom" features lots of cool photos and depicts how The Watson Brothers was formed.

Overall, "Ohom" is a commercial album. In spite of that, it has some great tunes and a good album with which to pass your time. The sound mixing has been great too. Hardcore metal fans may not be pleased with it. People who listen to all sorts of stuff will definitely enjoy it. Moreover, the sleek and suave CD design makes it something that you won't mind adding to your collection.

One More Galaxy

This NASA Hubble Heritage Team image shows the Sombrero Galaxy. HHT astronomers, who assemble many of the NASA Hubble Space Telescope's most stunning pictures are celebrating their five-year anniversary with the release this image. One of the largest Hubble mosaics ever assembled, this magnificent galaxy is nearly one-fifth the diameter of the full moon. The team used Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys to take six pictures of the galaxy and then stitched them together to create the final composite image. The photo reveals a myriad of stars in a pancake-shaped disk as well as a glowing central bulge of stars.

Waltzing the Web


September has just said good-bye. It's a month when some of us, also, had to say good-bye to some very close friends as they set off across a sandwich of blues (sky + sea) to join Fall semesters in pursuit of … err… what? Well, many things for all that I've gathered. But I'm not going to list them down now as almost all of us already have a very vivid idea of what Shangri-La lies at the other end of the rainbow. Some of us think the toughest part is getting there (TOFEL, SAT, GMAT, GRE, IELTS, forms, applications, persuasions and what not). According to the book of Experience and Wisdom, however, what might be tougher is holding a steady stance afterwards and not get kicked out. That of course all depends on resolve.

Why have I stated all this? Well it's when I came across statistics that accredited that out of all the foreign students that go abroad to the You-Know-Which-Countries for higher studies; only 17% come to achieve their initial purpose. Very alarming! To prevent these mishaps one should be well equipped with facts. Well, here are a few sights to help you do just that:


This education school directory lists 188 schools US nationwide that offer doctoral programs. One hundred fifty-five schools responded to the U.S. News survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2002. Their data, including information on accreditation, entrance requirements, enrollment, the cost of attendance, fellowships and assistantships, and areas of student specialization, are reported in our Premium Online Edition directory. Schools that did not respond to the survey have abbreviated entries. You can search the directory for schools with characteristics that are important to you by using the Advanced School Search option.


A beginner's guide on how to select the right university, a few very crucial points regarding admission and financing education. You will also find a ranking of the Top Engineering Colleges for the year 2003 which have been compiled by graduateshotline using various resources on internet, comments by current students, NRC rankings etc. Importance has been given to funding, placements and research facilities.


A valuable tool that will help you find the financial assistance you need to successfully complete your education. ÊThis financial aid source database was stated to be current at the time of its release.
Well, hope that will be of some help. Happy surfing!

Is Keanu Quitting Showbiz?

Concerned friends are worried that Keanu Reeves may give up show business in order to cope with one of the toughest times of his life. Sky News is reporting that the "Matrix" star has become depressed ever since he got word that his sister Kim has yet to win her fight against cancer.

Reeves thought that she had actually conquered leukaemia after responding well to treatment at a Hollywood mansion he had converted into a hospital for her. A pal tells the Sunday Express, though, that despite taking her to the world's best specialists, "The diagnosis that it is back has really hit him hard... It's yet another tragedy in his life and it seems to have pushed him to the edge."

"She's the most important thing to me," Keanu told reporters last year. "She was always there for me. I'll always be here for her."

Reeves, who dined alone on his 39th birthday after turning down six models who offered to help him celebrate, now has friends worried that he might soon become a recluse. One studio insider said: "During shooting breaks, unless he has to rehearse or talk to the director, he'll sit alone, often just staring at the ground.”


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