It’s been a ten year wait but the endearing crime fighting cop, Max Payne, is finally back in another action packed third-person shooter. The question is though; will those who have followed the franchise stay in love with the game? I ask this because it’s the first Max Payne game that hasn’t been developed by Remedy Entertainment, instead Rockstar Games took over the job of making the latest instalment. They replaced the series creator with their own Dan Houser who helped write both Red Dead Redemption and most of the GTA series; and unlike other Rockstar games the world is structured and it isn’t a sandbox game where you are walking around an open world. So does it live up to the past Max Payne games?
Well the storyline follows as you guessed, Max Payne, who after a hard few years losing his wife, child and his job, is nothing more than a ruined pill-popping alcoholic. However he has been given a second chance that offers him a whole new life and a chance of escaping his troubled past and redeeming himself for all he has done and what he has become. Max takes a job in São Paolo, Brazil, as part of a security team protecting the wealthy Branco family, but as events start to spiral out of control all is not as it seems. You end up lost on the streets of the São Paolo favela fighting for your life and desperately searching for the truth.
I really enjoyed the storyline, especially the flash backs to how you ended up in São Paolo, it seemed more mature than previous Max Payne games and was like following a well written crime drama, and you know when Rockstar are involved it is going to be graphic even in the smallest details. At one point you walk into a grungy brothel and all around you there are men doing the nasty with cheap looking prostitutes on stained mattresses. It’s little things like this that make you instantly know it’s a Rockstar game because no one portrays situations like this quite the way Rockstar do. The cut scenes may upset some people though as Rockstar have changed the style and tone of the game; so long gone is the graphic-novel style and now there is a much more cinematic experience. Personally I thought it was done really well and the fact that occasionally the screen would go hazy as if you were Max and the alcohol was affecting you really humanised the character. However my one problem was certain cut scenes really did take too long, to the point I thought I was watching the TV and not playing a game.
So what have Rockstar done to please the fans of the Max Payne franchise? Well fans will be happy to know that the Bullet Time® and Shootdodge™ mechanics in the game are still here, however they’ve been enhanced for better precision and more life-like movement by using Natural Motion’s Euphoria Character Behavior system. For those who aren’t familiar with this, Bullet Time is a feature where you can slow down time allowing you to take on larger groups of enemies by giving you a better chance of taking them out with headshots. Don’t be fooled into thinking this makes the game easy though, even with this feature a couple of bullets from an enemy and you could be on the floor dead. You really do need to time everything perfectly so when coming up from cover to use Bullet Time make sure you aren’t about to come under fire because you can still be hit. This feature is sometimes automatically activated as well by merging a cut scene into gameplay where you jump straight into action.
One new feature linked to Bullet Time is Last Man Standing. This is activated when you’re on your last legs and you have some pills available to regain health. What happens is when you’re in the midst of a gunfight with bullets flying left, right and centre and you take a hit that puts you on the verge of facing death, time slows down giving you the chance to take out one particular target to give you a burst of health to keep you going. However if you fail to shoot the targeted enemy and don’t pounce on the opportunity you’ll pop your clogs. Keeping with the slowing down time theme, once dispatching with all enemies in one area, you will have the chance to slowdown time for that final kill watching your bullet rip into the enemy and see blood squirt out. You can even keep firing to watch more bullets fill your target as they drop to the floor.
The arsenal available should also please many gamers; you have everything from small handguns to large machine guns and sawn-off shotguns to explosives and some weapons even come with special attachments like red-dot sight to increase accuracy and torches for searching those dark areas. You also have the opportunity to duel-wield some weapons so you can run in all guns blazing and pumping lead into all those who stand in your way. One feature that really deserves credit with regards to the weapons is the reloading of ammunition which is so detailed you may not even notice it. Where usually carrying two guns or large two-handed guns can cause problems with reloading, Max Payne 3 really is some of the best game mechanics I’ve seen making the process so smooth. If you switch from an assault rifle to a handgun the assault rifle doesn’t just disappear or get put into some kind of holster on Max’s back it is held in his left hand while you use your right to hold the handgun, then when reloading he puts the larger weapon under his arm as he changes the ammo cartridge, it truly shows just how much effort Rockstar have put into making even the smallest of details perfect.
Additionally to the single player campaign, Rockstar games have introduced for the first time ever in a Max Payne game, a new multiplayer mode that certainly engrosses the player. There is plenty to please gamers and keep them glued to the game with a whole host of dynamically altered maps, entertaining match types, a huge range of customisation options that allow you to create an avatar, stimulating in-match challenges and rewarding unlockable content through a levelling system. Along with creating avatars you can also make crews with your friends to further reward you with in-game content and exclusive benefits on the web. So what makes it different from your usual multiplayer experience? To cut a long story short it’s the fact you can still use Bullet Time and Shootdodge to make multiplayer games more tactical, and it does this without making it feel forced up on you. It’s a testament to how well the Rockstar development team have worked in order to make it seem so natural.
Graphically and sound wise the game is magnificent; as mentioned the old graphic-novel style is gone and has been replaced by a new more cinematic experience which although may upset fans of Max Payne, is kind of needed so Rockstar can put their own stamp on Max Payne. The small details as again already discussed throughout the review show how much work has been put into the game to make it a success. Other graphical features that also make the game that bit more special are the cut scenes that see key words spoken come up on the screen which is a nice effect and how going through the story Max is made to feel more human as your view becomes impaired by the screen becoming hazy as if though you can see how the alcohol and drugs diet is affecting him. The game sound is also great with excellent voice acting for the characters and some brilliant sound effects for bullets flying through your enemies as you activate slow motion finishing.
Overall credit is due to Rockstar games for how well they’ve developed Max Payne 3; the story writing as always is captivating, the gameplay is hard to find a fault with except maybe it’s a little easy to die and they’ve done amazingly well to bring in such a large new multiplayer experience that is new to the series. In addition like I’ve already said the graphics are amazing as well, and the small details really do make this game, however sometimes the cut scenes although looks great really does drag out a bit, and can leave you feeling that you aren’t getting as much gameplay as you could be having. That aside the game really is a credit to the developers and they’ve done a great job at picking up the Max Payne series and putting their own twist on it, it really is worth playing.
Disclaimer: All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game
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