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Monday
May282012

Max Payne 3 Review

The words "Max Payne" will have one of two effects on you: Either you will read the words and recall the noir storyline, the complex character progression and the revolutionary gameplay mechanics that made such waves back in 2001... Or, like me, you see a ridiculous person's name which obviously means 'maximum pain', and remember hearing about this game where there was slow motion and painkiller addiction and was fashionably "controversial" for it's time, 10 years ago. Well here we are, 11 years after the release of the original Max Payne and we're getting a third instalment, or at the very least, a game called Max Payne with a number 3 on the end.

The game picks up a year or 2 after the events of Max PayneWhen he's not shooting people, he's just drinking. 2. Max is still managing to survive, even finding some work in private security in Brazil. His vices remain intact, obviously still reliant on pain-killers and getting drunk at pretty much every opportunity, lamenting over almost everybody he meets in his own head while shit hits fans all over the place. He finds himself surrounded by rich socialites, whom he is forced to not only protect but also tolerate. I imagine I would be less than thrilled myself, being in that situation (the people he has to watch really are quite prickish) but what's immensely irritating, is hearing his drug-addled, drunken inner ramblings about how disgusting the rich upper class are when he can't even function without a drink in his hand or a pill in his stomach. Who the fuck is Max Payne to feel contempt for somebody just for having money? He's a fucking prick! Max Payne as a 'person' is an immensely unlikeable character from beginning 'til end, but that's only the start of the game's problems.

As with the other games in the series, you play in the third person perspective and shoot enemies in the head, torso and limbs repeatedly, utilising Max's ability to slow down time (activated by clicking in the right stick and refilled by killing people or being shot at) to shoot people in the head or to tip the odds in your favour in a tough spot. Pain pills return as your source of health, and you either administer them yourself by hitting 'Up' on the D-pad or by waiting until you die, then you start a Borderlands-style 'Last Stand' minigame whereby unless you shoot the person who just landed the killing bullet on you, you die, but if you manage to peg your killer then you come back to life but spend a pain pill. This fails entirely 50% of the time by having enemies shoot you from impossible angles at which you could never shoot them back, effectively making it more frustrating than helpful. The game has 3 modes of shooting: Hard The gameplay is good on paper, just not so good in action.Lock, Soft Lock and Free Aim. Hard Lock is an auto aim, which is a guaranteed hit every time; Soft Lock auto aims when you initially hit the left trigger but then doesn't follow the enemy after that (the way I played) and Free Aim is, predictably, where you are given no aiming assistance. Max can roll by double-tapping A, can jump with 'RB' (which will also trigger some slow motion) or he can take cover with a press of X by an appropriate surface.

In one sense, the gameplay is fine, but in another, less untrue sense, the gameplay is actually pretty shite. The cover feels shoehorned in and unbelievably poorly integrated, to the point where you wonder exactly how close to shipping they actually decided to ram it in there. Max Payne doesn't so much as get into cover, as he just sort of sloppily collapses onto it. I've been playing Gears Of War 3 a little bit recently and the way cover feels in that game, it's a necessity, it's so easy and intuitive to flit from cover-to-cover, slamming up against the wall with a satisfying thud that tells you "Dude, it's fine, you're in mother-fucking cover!!!", conversely, Max will often run up against a piece of waist height cover as you frantically hammer the X button and just sort of wipe his trouser leg on it, or, even worse, you'll rub up against a surface expecting to get straight into cover, only for Max to stand near it, then his delayed reaction will get him into cover AFTER you've pressed the cover a 2nd time, resulting in him popping out of cover, again with a delayed reaction. It just doesn't work well enough, especially because they make Max super fragile to account for the new cover mechanic.

Another huge problem with the combat is it's animations. Max will do a slow motion dive, but before he does it he steadies himself, bends his knees and then does the dive. Doesn't sound like much, but considering it's also followed by slow motion it feels like an unnecessary addition. After diving, Max will lie there until you flick the stick in a direction then he will stand up, but his standing up animation takes fucking AGES, and all the while you're just getting fucking shot repeatedly. The same thing with all the other animations too, plus, if you're slow motion diving and you hit something (a cardboard box, a window ledge etc.) it will take you out of slow motion instantly and leave you stuck in either a getting up animation or an ouch-I-just-hit-a-thing animation, each leaving you to get riddled with hot, painful bullets. I found, after about an hour of play time, that diving in order to activate slow-mo was more trouble than it was ever worth. If, say, you did the dive as Luckily, cover is shit for your enemies aswell.soon as you pressed the dive button, then once you landed on the ground you could get up and sprint away quickly, the combat would have a much faster, more satisfying pace, but as it is, it's slow and painful, not just for Max, but for the player aswell. You stand behind cover, slow down time, headshot, wait for Max to get back in cover, then release slow-mo. It's boring and when you're not watching cutscenes it's ALL you're fucking doing, for fucking hours. It gets tiresome.

Fortunately, though your time is split between cutscenes and lackluster shooting, the cutscenes are actually pretty well done. They're all done using the in-game engine and for the most part they look really good. They contain little flairs, which are unusual, like key words flashing up on screen as a character says them, or coloured flashes to show how fucked up Max is all the time. They're distracting at first, but a necessary evil if you want to try and enjoy anything about the game, as they're everywhere. There's no polite way to segway into this, so I'll just say it... The story is ridiculous, and in a bad way. You start out as basically a bodyguard for a powerful family and stuff just keeps happening that defies character logic, or any reasonable person's behaviour, I mean you could make the argument that Max isn't a reasonable person, but that's just another reason to dislike the game. If there's a saving grace in the story apart from the presentation, it's Max's partner and friend, Passos. He's Hispanic and a badass and he and Max have some great banter. He's basically the only proper friend Max has had in a long time, largely due to Max being a cunt, and he's constantly giving him shit in a friend-y way that rings super true to how guys actually talk to each other. Pretty much the entire game I was either hoping he would turn up soon, or didn't want him to leave Max's side when he did. Passos is great.

Get used to red coming out of people's faces.As are the game's graphics. The game looks a treat, thanks in no part to the varied locations Max gets to visit, from skyscrapers and nightclubs, to the rainforest and the slums of Brazil, the colour palette of the games is bright and vibrant, and despite the fact that all you do is shoot guys and watch cutscenes, it remains just the right side of tolerable due to the presentation, which remains impressive throughout. If there's one main problem I have that stands above all else story wise, it's that every single advert and piece of promotional material for the game depicts Max as a bald guy in a blood stained vest. Not going into story details here but Max's baldness happens a good halfway through the game! I was expecting, after seeing the adverts and trailers and such, that Max would be bald from the beginning, but knowing it was coming totally ruined the impact for me. The worst thing about this though, is that had I not know about the baldness, it actually would have had TONS of impact! The things Max goes through leading upto the baldness would have had way more impact had I not already had in my head he would be bald at some point, but Rockstar's marketing for the game basically ruined the game's most impactful moment.

The game has other modes than the story, it has a scoreI'll be honest, this is just a cool as hell picture. attack arcade mode, and a multiplayer where you use slow-mo on people by being near them or by having them in your line of sight, but I didn't play either of these modes. You do so much of the same stuff in the game's story mode (literally JUST shooting guys), and I was so burnt out on the gameplay by the game's ending that I just couldn't be bothered doing more standing around waiting for a slow motion gauge to fill up. In the end it all got a little bit... tedious. Not to mention that it's a depressing world to be in, with people living in squalor and constantly getting murdered horribly and unnecessarily. It's made to look like the worst place in the world, and I didn't enjoy spending a great deal of my time there.

Scoring this game is hard, and reading my review back I realise that, whilst I haven't exaggerated my feelings at all, I still feel like the game was better than alot of others I've given low scores to (Neverdead springs to mind instantly, that got 2 stars, and was WAY worse than this). In Max Payne 3 I found an experience. One that I got fairly bored of, and one whose tone I didn't often appreciate (if at all) but despite that, the most important thing was, that I found it to be an experience. For all the stuff I thought it did wrong, the game must have done something right, because it kept my attention for 12ish hours. Content-wise it's certainly fits into a niche of game that gets made all too seldomly, and I give it props for that, but it's not enough compensation for the damages it makes you suffer.

What score do you give a game with below-average gameplay and above-average presentation? Turns out you reluctantly give it a 3 and don't really give it a second thought. Oh God, I hope it doesn't come and kill my fictional wife and children in a vicious bout of revenge! I doubt it, not really sure where I'd get such a grim and horrific idea as that though...

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Max Payne 3 is out now for PS3 and Xbox 360, with PC coming very soon. This review was conducted on an Xbox 360 and has been represented as such, with Xbox-specific controller terms being used.

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Reader Comments (2)

Its not a year or 2 its actually 8 years, hence the extra weight and gray hair.

June 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercritbot

8 years? Of constant drinking and popping pills and he can still stand up? That doesn't seem right :/ If anything that fact makes me like the game even less.

June 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterGaZZuM

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