Friday 1 June 2012

Max Payne 3

“Rockstar seamlessly intertwine a breathtaking story with gruesome combat to set the scene for Max Payne to tell the next terrifying chapter of his life.”

It’s almost impossible to give the Max Payne all the credit and praise that the series deserves. To put it simply, if it wasn’t for the original Max Payne games, modern third-person shooters perhaps wouldn’t be how we know them today, that’s how influential this franchise has been on the video game industry. Now Rockstar have taken up the job of bringing the third installment of the series to the masses and what a fantastic job they have done. Max Payne 3 is a shining exemplar of fantastic gameplay, brilliantly story-telling and intricate pacing. This isn’t the Max Payne you remember, our protagonist is older, wiser and a lot angrier, making this a bloodthirsty adventure you won’t soon forget.

Max Payne 3 sees our hero leave New York to flee from his demons and take on a security job in Sao Paulo. The millionaire family and their lifestyle certainly don’t mix with Max, but any opportunity to drink is taken with open arms from the man yet to kick his drinking and pill habits. Max Payne 3 is more than just a third-person shooter; it’s a tale that delves deep into the psyche of Max with James McCaffrey reprising his role perfectly. Max narrates the story from his twisted and introverted perspective, making for an engaging and amusing plot line as you watch things go from bad to worse. While Max is engaging with you the storyline is told in beautifully designed cut scenes that pay homage to the traditional way Max Payne’s story was told. Clever use of blurring and varied colours makes the screen distorted and this intertwines cleverly with Max’s drug and alcohol habits, giving these moments in the game a little more depth.

It’s absolutely apparent that Rockstar are masters of story telling and their skills are showcased exquisitely here. This revenge story dwells much deeper than simply hunt and kill. Max Payne and all the characters around him show certain levels of depth that you’d expect from a Rockstar venture and it’s clear for all to see how the Max Payne story has evolved way beyond its original roots.

When you’re done absorbing Max’s story and the beautiful world he finds himself in, you will eventually be forced to draw your weapon and protect those who fund Max’s intoxicating habits. Max Payne 3 is a third-person shooter that doesn’t stray far from the original formula allowing you to run and gun using the series’ trademark bullet time mechanic. This time round however, enemies are a lot more dangerous and Max is certainly more fragile; as a result a cover mechanic has been implemented to allow Max time to plan his assault. The bullet time mechanic also offers you extra time to carefully place your bullets for that deadly and satisfying kill. Max Payne 3 is all about the gruesome kills and the slow motion bullet camera that occurs when you kill the last enemy in any location. The last bullet is followed and you can continue pumping lead into the poor soul who dared to take you on – messy stuff.

Max Payne 3 is by no means an easy game and as a result you have the option of not only changing the difficulty settings but also aiming options. Gamers looking for the most challenge should use free aim where all the work has to be done by you. Those wanting a little bit of help can opt for soft lock, which sticks the reticle to enemies who are in your sights. Novices can use the game’s handy hard lock system that automatically targets the nearest enemy. Playing using the former two ensures you have a challenging and engaging time with Max Payne as tough and intelligent AI ensure you don’t get through unscathed, but clever use of cover and bullet time will leave you the eventual victor of every conflict.

Once you’ve become accustomed to Max Payne 3’s gameplay mechanics, you’re surely going to want some bigger weapons to play around with. There’s a whole arsenal to choose from and Max has the ability to dual-wield smaller weapons for maximum damage. Launching yourself through the air in bullet time and spraying double Uzi’s has never felt so awesome and there are plenty of opportunities to really make the most out of the action here. There are event golden gun variants of each gun in the game, with 3 pieces of each weapon scattered in secret locations across each level. When you find all 3 pieces you get the golden gun version of that particular weapon next time you pick it up with extra bonus abilities.

The campaign sets these incredible set piece battles so well and pacing is impressive throughout. From dramatic moments like shooting rockets out of the sky in bullet time to the slow paced walks through the slums of Brazil, the campaign takes you on a rollercoaster ride full of fantastic highs and dramatic lows that are sure to cater to fans of story-driven games.

When you’re done with the campaign then perhaps you might be intrigued enough to try the multiplayer. Standard game modes are present with a variety of load outs available to unlock. The perk system known as bursts also help make the action more intense by providing players with a whole variety of abilities like increased damage, bullet time-like abilities, powerful weapons and health boosts. Of particular interest are the two game modes Gang Wars and Payne Killer. The former is a five-round objective game with each round spawning a new objective. The latter has you trying to kill whoever is Max Payne or Passos and then trying to stay that character for as long as possible. The multiplayer isn’t extraordinary, but it’s certainly fun and the tight mechanics Rockstar have created here ensures you’ll have a fun time online.

Altogether then Max Payne 3 is a wonderful package that shines with the expertise you’d expect from Rockstar. A fantastic campaign with one of the best protagonists is intertwined with excellent gameplay and supplemented with a very engaging online multiplayer. I feel that it’s almost impossible for Rockstar to make a bad game and as usual, it’s an absolute must have for everyone.

9.0 | Gameplay |
Excellent gameplay that oozes with style and brutality makes this one of the best third-person shooters on the market. Max Payne’s fantastic bullet time mechanic keeps the action fierce and bloody and the camera slow down implemented for every last kill just never gets old.

10 | Presentation |
An incredible story is told through the eyes of Max Payne, a well thought out and interesting protagonist. Fantastic script writing and dialogue make sure you’re invested in all the characters and everything Max has to say. His pessimistic view of the world and the rich is intriguing and the battle with his inner demons makes for a thoroughly entertaining and dramatic tale. Max Payne is without a doubt one of the most interesting heroes in modern gaming.

8.5 | Replay Value |
You have the options of playing through the campaign again on harder difficulty settings or opting for leaderboard runs in arcade mode. Finding all the hidden clues and golden gun parts is a blast and the online offering is definitely worth checking out. There’s a lot to do throughout this challenging campaign and I’m sure you’ll want to do it more than once. Even if you don’t, the variety of content to unlock in multiplayer could have you hooked on gang wars for a lot longer than you initially expected.

9.0 | Final Thoughts |
It’s obvious that Rockstar are iconic video game developers as each project they take on comes out with a golden lining. The Max Payne series has a serious following so bringing out the third and appeasing all the fans and newcomers alike would not be an easy task. As per usual Rockstar made it look so easy as Max Payne 3 delivers a breathtaking campaign alongside excellent and technically sound gameplay mechanics. There’s something hear for fans of story, narrative and gameplay alike and together these features combine to create one of the best games we shall see in 2012.

Igor Kharin.

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