Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: Max Payne 3 (PC)

Max Payne isn't a broken man.

Hooked on pain killers, a stumbling alcoholic, and plagued by guilt, loneliness, and rage, Max Payne is a shattered man who continually screws up his job as personal security for a rich family in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Ultimately, he tries to pull himself together as an act of some kind of redemption, if not forever then at least long enough to "fix" things. It offers a simple contrast to the disassembly and dysfunction that drives the entirety of the plot, which plays out in extensive cutscenes and flashbacks to explain how Max wound up in Brazil.

Rockstar has done a good job making Max Payne 3 a stand-alone game, where knowledge of the previous two games is not required. In fact, Max Payne 3 barely acknowledges any events from the first two titles, aside from regular references to his wife and daughter. It's to the game's benefit as the story is complex enough that any mention of Valkyr, Vlad or Mona Sax would doubtless muddy the waters even further.

Max Payne 3 also leaves behind any notion that shootdodging is the best way to approach any situation. A cover system has been put in place and even playing on the easiest mode, there's no way around using cover in many instances, especially late in the game when the enemies are more numerous, better armed, and almost exclusively susceptible to headshots. A hallmark of the first two games was diving around every corner and just blasting; Max Payne 3 requires a little more deliberate action. Taking cover, activating Bullet Time, popping up and eliminating enemies one at a time isn't the rule but it's prevalent enough that if Max keeps dying during an encounter it's a give away that he's not using enough cover.

There's plenty of opportunity for the classic run and gun and dodge combination and Rockstar also provides some turret sequences and some really cool slow-mo set pieces to keep the action from getting stale but they don't really come into their own in the regular story mode. For that, players have the option of playing the New York Minute mode where racking up kills quickly is the only way to keep time on the clock and keep playing.

Multiplayer is a whole different bottle of pills.Max Payne 3's multiplayer could have easily been poured into the first-person mold, but it sticks with 3rd person and that changes up the combat and strategy inherent to the team-based modes. Because it's in third-person, players can see more of the immediate area, offering more awareness and as a result more exhanges of gunfire.

The risk/reward system of awards and leveling up seems to be par for the course in comparison to other shooters, like Call of Duty, with rewards constantly being unlocked. There's no blaring of Ode to Joy when the extras are earned but the rewards are offered incrementally enough that players are always within striking distance of something new so it comes down to "just one more match" to unlock something else.

Cover is useful in multiplayer, but it's no replacement for rolling the dice and just leaping into space to try for a lucky shot. That tends to get the adrenaline pumping a little more than hiding.

What you should take away from everything above is that Max Payne 3 is a worthy sequel to the Remedy Games originals. Max's monologues aren't quite as faux-serious (and are instead depressingly serious) and the cover mechanic will certainly be an adjustment for fans of the first two games, but there's a lot of action, challenge, twists in the story, and plenty to do after the credits roll that Max Payne 3 gets high marks indeed.

Alienware M18x
- Aaron Simmer

(Check my blog for more screenshots!)

The Good:
- Incredibly high production values
- Bullet-time never gets old
- Max without McAffery's voice would make Max just another dude with a gun

The Bad:
- Max is utterly depressing as a protagonist
- Why am I collecting golden gun parts?
- Showcasing end-of-area headshots made me look for an option to turn it off
- Why do I always need to be connected to the Rockstar Social Club?

SCORE: 8.5 / 10