Sunday, May 05, 2013

Tech: Max Payne 3 review

Remedy's "Max Payne" was a fairly big hit back in 2001, and the sequel released two years later, "Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne," was also well-received. Most people, including yours truly, loved the combination of Hong Kong-style slow-motion gunplay and hardboiled noir that the series offered. It's surprising that it took nine years (and a developer change) before the next installment in Max's story, "Max Payne 3":

The previous Max Payne games had some obvious nods to classic movies (John Woo, Peckinpah, and film noir in general) but Rockstar Vancouver has taken things to the next level here. For one thing, the entire plot is basically a retread of "Man on Fire": Max, like Creasey, is an alcoholic, burnt-out American bodyguard who tries to track down a kidnapped girl in a foreign country, meting out death wherever he goes. The main setting of the game - destitute favelas in São Paulo, Brazil - is straight out of "City of God." Heck, Max even goes for the John McClane look (white undershirt, shoulder holster, bald head) halfway through the game.

All the cinematic aspirations haven't changed the basic third-person shooter gameplay the series is known for. Max can still activate "Bullet Time" at will, slowing down the gameworld but leaving you free to aim at normal speed (which effectively gives you superhuman reflexes). Though there's a new cover system in Max Payne 3, Max is still just as fragile as he was in earlier games, and there's no automatic health regeneration. The upshot of all of this is you'll have to alternate quickly popping and shooting bad guys in cover with dramatic slow-motion leaps and dodges, especially when navigating the game's tougher stages.

Thankfully, the levels themselves have the amount of detail you'd expect in a Max Payne game, especially one developed by Rockstar. A shootout in an office will shatter glass, spin desk chairs, and scatter papers into the air, whereas a pitched "Black Hawk Down"-esque battle in a favela might leave bullet-ridden ruins out of wooden shanties and trash piles. It's all very entertaining, top-tier action gameplay.

The main problem with Max Payne 3 is that there's actually too much "action gameplay" - 10 to 12 hours' worth, to be precise. Going from gunfight to gunfight is common in shooters, but becomes ludicrous in a Max Payne game - it's hard to be world-weary and cynical when you're gunning people down by the literal thousands. The previous two titles were much better paced, both in terms of setpieces, length (only 5-7 hours each), and difficulty. Still, it's hard to complain about getting stuffed full of ultranoir violence, so I'll give Max's third outing a...

Rating: 85/100


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