Rockstar return, and boy, do they bring the Payne...
What kind of guy is Max Payne? He's the type who, amidst an outnumbered gunfight, has the ability to pop pills with one hand and shoot guys with the other. What sort of guy am I? Depressingly, my eyes leak if I take tablets without a glass of water. I'd barely have time to slaughter the enemy as I wipe salty tears away from my face. I'm bound by the laws of gravity, as my Bullet Time describes how quickly I hit the floor. Worse yet, I can't even rock leather.
This is why we need Max Payne. His trials and tribulations aren't only engaging, they'll make you feel like a bonafide badass. It's been over 8 years since we visited Max, and in that time, nothing much has changed. He still blames himself for the death of his family, he continues to struggle between assignments, and most importantly, he's still hooked on drink and drugs. It doesn't matter that he's escaped New Jersey in favour of Sao Paolo, the demons continue to shadow his every move.
Max is back, gruffer than ever
In fact, such gremlins haunt more than Max's personal well being. His work life is grim, whether in Brazil or USA. The game begins with the gruff-voiced grump losing the girl he's being paid to protect. He drinks on the job, letting his guard down enough times for a Brazilian street gang to snatch his client. Without giving away too much, Max enters into a wild goose chase that takes place across a host of impressive venues.
In the early stages, you'll be lavished with high-class locations. Stepping foot into a bustling nightclub almost feels like a Rockstar trademark these days, but it's never any less fun. It presents the perfect opportunity to gawp at Max's famed 'Shootdodge' mechanic. Diving through the glass windows of the VIP section, Master Payne unloads a clip into the terrorising goons. Backed by the jittery strobe lighting, at full pace it's exciting, but in slow-motion it's absolutely glorious.
Throughout Max's journey, the contrast of locations is remarkably stark. You'll spend time sniping in a Brazilian football stadium, traversing through favelas, and biting off more than you can chew in New Jersey. The story time-line hops back and forth, interchanging key events so they're easily followed. Locations echo Max's state of mind: graveyards at his most self-loathing, sun scattered Brazilian slums when he creates a new beginning. Once the Britney moment happens, it's fascinating to see the leading character progress.
The supporting cast are memorable and full of character, just like in GTA IV
While Bullet Time and Shootdodge remain the bread and butter of the series, the introduction of Bullet Cam is absolutely spectacular. When you've eliminated a group of foes and only have one opponent left, the kill shot is slowed down completely. A cinematic camera follows the bullet through the air and into the body of the unlucky victim. You control how quickly this takes place, and have the option to slow proceedings down to savour the kill. Hell, you can even fire off a few more shots, just for the sake of it. Bullets will burst through chests, shatters limbs, and best of all, penetrate the depths of a gang member's skull. If the enemy ever needed their tonsils removed, a quick shot to the mouth will eliminate all pain for good. It really can't be understated just how entertaining this is.
On the whole, gunplay is extremely satisfying. Bullets might be hard to come by at times, but this emphasises the need for accuracy. Any enemy can be obliterated with one well-placed shot, a set-up that many other games need to follow. In fact, the likes of Uncharted 3 would do well to observe this title for a while. A.I works coherently, flanking your position and storming cover when it's the correct decision. Thankfully, there's no stupidly overpowered shotgun behemoths or endlessly accurate grenade throws to break up the fun. Cover splinters under fire, meaning a tactical game of exposure opens up. People commend Nathan Drake for his charisma, but in a straight up gunfight, Mad Max is the only winner.
This translates successfully into the online arena. As a frightfully fast-paced shooter, it's great to see skill is rewarded. Health depletes quickly, so aiming for vital areas is a must. Bullet Time and Shootdodge make an appearance in this section, but you need to earn it. Players who ramp up a decent killstreak will be rewarded with extra weapons (such as a grenade launcher), and adrenaline bursts. It might take a few games to get in the groove, but once you're set, online competition is enticing and, dare I say it, addictive.
For those of you who have friends (there must be some), creating a crew is an excellent way of killing time. This new inclusion is designed to add a sense of rivalry to the game, as you and your team hunt down members of other gangs. With public and private gangs available, this works on many levels. While you can easily represent a global organisation, building up personal challenges against other crews is where the most fun lies.
Battles are tense but massively rewarding
Alongside this, the addition of vendettas means each match is a distinctly direct affair. Kill the same player twice in a row and they can call a vendetta. Extra XP will be awarded if they hunt you down, but if you slaughter them first, humiliation is complete. This provides a cat and mouse element that isn't present in titles such as Saints Row: The Third, or even GTA IV. It's a simple addition, but one that works rather well.
Unfortunately, multiplayer currently suffers from one nagging issue. Spawn killing is rife in every single contest, and can kickstart a nasty chain of deaths. Maps are tightly-constructed, but there's plenty of angles which provide an entire view of play. When spawning, the opposition can swarm before a single movement is made. Rockstar need to iron this out, as it will undoubtedly receive a huge amount of complaints from fans who just want to be given a chance. With an easy patch, this can be sorted in no time.
Platform Played:Xbox 360
MAX PAYNE 3 VERDICT
As with Rockstar’s other franchises, Max Payne 3 is enveloped in love and a huge amount of dedication. This is a consistently thrilling and explosive tale that states its case as one of 2012’s best. I’d be hard pushed to find a game that has made me scream with excitement on such a regular basis, as the compelling narrative and rewarding gunplay conglomerate into a truly spectacular product. Max Payne 3 lets you star in your favourite action movies, minus the Wahlberg.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Bullet cam bullet cam bullet cam what a mighty good cam.