If there’s one thing I hate when it comes to playing video games, it’s having to sit through cut scenes that won’t let you skip. I just want to get on and have some fun, shot the bad guys and blow some shit up. As such, I began Max Payne 3 with a bit of irritation as I couldn’t skip through the opening cinematics. Forced to sit through them, I did however have to admit to myself that they were quit impressive. The presentation feels a little like Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, with the almost online video feel of the flickering and distortion, though Rockstar manage to pull it off a whole lot better, and you get easily drown into the story-line. From this point on, I don’t mind any of the cut scenes that punctuate the game-play. In-fact I look forward to them, with the impressive use of type to make sure we get the most important parts of the conversation, over-layed on the stunning visuals making a slick presentation that would be a graphic designers wet dream. The story itself is like a cheap paperback crime novel, with cliched charaters, but done well and done by Rockstar, it works really well, only adding to the immersive feeling.
Rockstar have this rare ability to make me care about the stories their games tell, especially in their recent offerings, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noir. It’s something Activision could learn from with their Call of Duty series which has become a drag to play because of the lack of emotional attachment.
As for the game-play in Max Payne 3, as the title suggest, this is the third time Max has been asked to step up, and he’s still refusing to deal with the pain that the death of his wife and child bought on him so many years ago. Max is at the end of his wits, starring down the neck of copious bottles of Jack Daniel’s and popping little white pills. But just as things are about to take a dive towards a permanent end, and old friend steps into the picture and offers Max a job protecting a rich business man and his family in Sao Paulo, attending parties and hanging out in nightclubs.
Of course things go south as the bosses wife is kidnapped on Max’s watch, and now it’s a race to try and get her back in one piece.
If I wanted to be unkind, I could say that Max Payne 3 is nothing more than a third person cover based shooter. And essentially it isn’t. But add in Max’s signature style, the Matrix style Bullet Time and Shoot Dodge, and a running gun fight in an office where glass partitions are exploding around you and shredded paper is flying around and the adrenaline soon kicks in and you become a part of this huge action blockbuster, driving the story along as you take out copious bad guys.
And then there’s Max’s health. Get shot too many times and Max will die. You can take some drugs to regenerate his health, but you only have a limited number of those. You could hide behind a pillar and as it slowly deteriorates around you as the bad guys pummel it with hot lead, you’ll suddenly realise that you’re not playing COD and no matter how long you try and hide, your health isn’t slowly regenerating. This is a great way to keep you constantly on edge, mirroring how Max must feel. It’s just one of the many little touches that Rockstar has put into Max Payne 3 that makes it so damned enjoyable.
And then there’s the game’s kill camera, where you follow the bullet as it leaves your gun right to where it punches though your intended victim. It’s a thing of visceral beauty. And it’s shows, just how you’d expect from Rockstar, that Max Payne isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, that bullets maim, rip and tear flesh and life from human bodies. It’s a nasty business that Max has got himself into, and whilst the cut scenes might be stylised and clean, the end result of Max’s gun battles are anything but, with blood literally spurting from some wounds.
Once your done with the single-player story, Max Payne 3 has a few arcade mode that you can try out, but it’s online that you’ll want to head, with the usual death match and team death match options to keep most gamer happy, though if you’re like me and are more accustomed to FPS the third person view will take a little getting used to. But there’s also Gang Warfare where Rockstar have tried to mix things up a bit, with a degree of success, but I’ll let you decide on how well they pulled it off, because you will be wanting to play Max Payne 3, trust me on this.