Sunday, June 3, 2012

Max Payne 3: PC Review

Max Payne has been out of the spotlight for a while. After his well-received, Inspector Tequila and film-noir premiere by Remedy entertainment, Max was a well loved action game hero. After a nearly ten year long hiatus, Max Payne is back.

In Max Payne 3, Max has spiraled into a pitiful depression, and has become addicted to painkillers and alcohol. After being contacted by an old police buddy, Raoul Pasos, he lands a gig working as a bodyguard for a wealthy Brazilian family. After the family is targeted by a group of neer-do-wells, Max is forced back into action. As far as plot goes, it's practically a carbon copy of the film Man on Fire, though told somewhat poorly. Where the plot falls short, though, the classic Max Payne dialogue tends to pick up the pieces. In typical Max Payne fashion, the story starts relatively simply and then unfolds into an overly complex mess, and by the end, you might find yourself wondering who exactly the characters are talking about, and who is on Max's shit-list now.

Max has aged, and this reflects greatly in the game. He's a lot more sluggish to control, and he moves a lot less gracefully than in previous entries in the series. The controls aren't poor, but they definitely take some getting used to, especially if you're used to the previous entries in the series. Max's glacial aiming while prone makes shoot dodging a little more risky than it used to be--not hitting your targets while flinging yourself through the air in bullet-time can wind up getting you killed very easily. Max is also not in much of a hurry to get up either, which can be frustrating at times. The game has a new cover mechanic, which thankfully, is not entirely necessary. There are three moments in the game that I recall forcing the player into cover (the only other option is death), but the rest of the game allow Max to run frantically from corner to corner of the room in true Max Payne style. What is frustrating is attempting to shootdodge into waist high cover. Instead of opting to simply get up into cover, Max will clumsily stand upright, often taking a few hits before you can actually get him to get behind something.

Another new mechanic is "Last Man Standing" where (if the player has painkillers), upon losing all health, the game will cut into bullet time, and Max will fling himself around (sometimes humorously so) in order to fire a final killing shot at his attacker. If the player managed to hit the target, you will be "revived" with a portion of health. This can be extremely frustrating at times though, as if you manage to get "killed" while behind a wall or your target is otherwise obstructed by anything, you'll be forced to watch Max flail around in slow motion before simply dying. You also can't just pause and hit "restart checkpoint" during Last Man Standing, so if you're in a claustrophobic area, prepare to be forced to watch Max die in slow motion several times. Also, if you're caught without any ammo left in your current magazine, you're out of luck--Max cannot reload during last man standing.

Max Payne is a difficult game, but sometimes the experience is cheapened by the game's hand holding. My initial playthrough was on Hard difficulty, and I died over 100 times during my run through. On some of the tougher sections though, after dying about 5-10 times, the game would start handing me painkillers, which really made it feel like less of an achievement to make it through those sections.

Rockstar's RAGE engine continues to shine in Max Payne 3. People react to getting filled with bullets in a scarily lifelike manner in the game, and nearly every shootout has amazing moment. Rockstar's attention to detail is also bar-none, with Max's clothes getting appropriately sweaty when you begin to frantically move about the room, or appropriately soaked when out in the rain for a duration of time. The animations are phenomenal, so much so that I wish I would watch a computer controlled Max make his way through some of the levels just so I could have enough time to truly appreciate all the detail.

The multiplayer is just as you'd expect: all the single player mechanics have been ported over (except for last man standing), and Rockstar has managed to cleverly implement bullet time into the experience. There's a vast progression system that should keep fans of customizable loadouts and characters coming back for me. Me, I prefer the single player, as I find a more rounded and entertaining experience.

Max Payne 3 is a solid game, and easily the best Third Person Shooter of the past few years. The gunplay is incredibly satisfying, and the game has plenty to offer. On my first playthrough, I clocked in around 8 hours, which is quite long for a single player action game. It's not quite the homerun the original Max Payne was, but I can't imagine a better return for a film-noir video game action hero whose story seemed to end with the last entry in the series.

No comments: