Just keep me away from those damn rocket launchers…
Grabbing a peak from the second story window of the trashed warehouse in the centre of the slums, I spot an opposing team member cautiously walking round the corner of another building. Slapping the shootdodge button, I leap through the window in slow motion whilst firing my two handguns at the enemy. As I fall through the air, I clip a lower roof and tumble to the ground, still in slow motion and still shooting the bemused opponent. Time returns to normal and I get up from the floor, walk over to the body of my former adversary and steal some pain killers from his pocket. Damn, I love this game…
Max Payne 3, from Rockstar, seems to have really hit the multiplayer spot for me. Let’s move on to that in a minute though, as tradition dictates that we discuss other aspects of this game first. This is the third game in the Max Payne series, but the first to actually be developed by Rockstar. The end result is a cinemtaic tour-de-force featuring the usual levels of gritty depravity that you would come to expect from a Rockstar game, albeit with a decidedly linear story rather than the more wandering worlds that players would usually expect from this publisher.
Our anti-hero, Max Payne, really has hit rock bottom. The story is played entirely through Max’s pill-addled, drunken haze, which is evident from the occasional doubling of vision or the saturation of colours that flood the screen, leaving the player with no doubt that this is a man who has very little to live for. Having never recovered from the murder of his wife and daughter, the ex-cop now finds himself working as a bodyguard for the powerful Branco family. The story that follows takes Max, and the player, on a rollercoaster ride that will last a good ten hours, from fancy nightclubs to depressing slums, as they deal with drug gangs, corrupt cops and the kidnapping of a trophy wife, amongst other things.
Whilst the overriding story is impressive, it is the Max’s personal anguish that makes the game so compelling. The stylish cinematic feel and the constant internal dialogue from Max, as he laments the loss of his loved ones and the direction his life seems to have taken, give Max a depth that is rarely found in a videogame hero.
Looking past the impressive cinematic action movie experience that is Max Payne 3, the game wouldn’t be worth its salt if it didn’t play well. But as with the story, Rockstar have hit the nail on the head with the gameplay mechanics as well.
Your basic third-person shooter mechanics are all tight and work well. I will admit that grenade throwing may take a bit of getting used to, but for the most part shooter players will feel quite at home here. Catering to all levels of skill, the game includes three different aiming options to make sure everyone can get the most from the game. Hard aim will pull the aiming reticule directly to the enemy, whilst soft aim will give the player room to move and go for the headshots. Then there is free aim for all of the shooter veterans, giving complete freedom.
Bullet time and shootdodge round out the interesting parts of the games mechanics, allowing the player to indulge in cinematic slow-motion sequences as they blast multiple enemies, sometimes as they leap through the air, whilst the opponents have trouble getting even one shot off. There is something incredibly satisfying about using these mechanics and and using them will make even the newest player feel like a pro. It is also damn good fun.
The story is linear and whilst there are reasons to play through more than once, such as to collect golden gun parts, there are plenty of other reasons for the player to keep Max Payne 3 in their drive. Two Arcade modes are included which have global score tables so the player can compare and compete with others. Score Attack has the player working through chapters whilst earning points, whilst New York Minute sees the player trying to get the highest score possible in a time limit, which is extended by achieving kills.
But the multiplayer modes are the real reason to come back for more Max Payne action. There are your standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes, both of which are an absolute blast, and then there are the more exotic Payne Killer and Gang wars modes. Payne Killer is like a reverse version of the playground game “It” in which the two players will take on the role of Max and Passos, whilst other players will try to kill them and take their place as the characters. Gang Wars is a team-based mode set across multiple stages with a variety of challenges, such as holding territory or placing bombs.
Players earn experience and money from playing online, which can be used to customise their loadout as new weapons and items are unlocked. Then there are “Bursts” to assign, which basically infer an advantage as the player achieves kills. These really mix the game up, from something simple such as providing the player with a grenade launcher or a health boost for the whole team, to the more quirky such as making all of your opponents drop their grenades without the pins, or making your enemies see their team mates as enemies. These rewards are a lot of fun.
Which is something that can be said about the entire game. As a package, Max Payne 3 really doesn’t have a weak point. From the grittiness of the story and the challenge of New York Minute, to the frantic action of Team Deathmatch in the Branco Headquarters (one of the best maps ever in a multiplayer shooter), every single aspect of the game is enjoyable and will simply soak up the hours.
Once again Rockstar have managed to create a masterpiece. I don’t want to say game of the year as there are other games on the way, but it wouldn’t surprise me. If you enjoy playing shooters, Max Payne 3 should be top of your list.