Release date: 18/5/2012, Format played: PS3, Developer: Rockstar, Publisher: Rockstar Games, Genre: third person shooter.
“This place was like Baghdad with g-strings”. That is one of the many classic one liners you will hear in Max Payne 3. The action-packed sequel, developed by Rockstar is the first of the series to appear on current generation consoles. The famous ‘bullet time’ returns, alongside various, smaller elements that make for a very good game.
There are three main game mode options. These include the story, arcade and multi-player. The story is played through chapters and plays like a movie. Both the cut scenes and actual gameplay are very cinematic. Max Payne is a drug addict in the game and this is symbolised on screen; the graphics are regularly distorted to show his current state. Initially, these graphics reminded me of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Often the cut scenes are broken up into a split-screen format and various other transitions take place. They add a sharp edge to the major events of the story. Also, final kill cameras that are triggered after you kill the final enemy in a particular sequence are slick, giving gamers the opportunity to milk their progression through the game. Max mutters a voice-over throughout, as if he is re-telling the story to someone. Think Goodfellas meets Bourne; and you have Max Payne.
The story mode maintains this cinematic element and it works well. It is certainly very stylish. The storyline is linear however. There are no plot defining moments that the player has to decide on. Not to say that the game doesn’t take you on a ride, it certainly is a thrill to play. The soundtrack is also engaging.
Often, in the cut scenes, subtitles pop up on screen, reciting important words or phrases. Also, Max walks into them carrying the same weapon that he was carrying in the actual gameplay. In many games, this isn’t the case. Even though it wouldn’t have a detrimental effect if it weren’t the case, it’s a nice little feature that is refreshing. Also, bloodstains would stay on Max’s clothes. It suggests that the developers really cared about continuity. It is possible to pause in a cut scene, meaning you don’t miss any of the action. Another interesting feature was a comic book style montage that would be shown when you load the game up. This provided a recap of the most recent events in the story.
Both arcade modes play through the story chapters with added incentives including a global leaderboard. In ‘Score Attack’, you battle other players for the highest possible score on each chapter. You gain points for kills and head shots and lose points for taking damage. In ‘New York Minute’ – which is only available after you complete the story mode – you start on a timer of one minute and have to complete the level within that time. You gain time bonuses for kills and head shots. Both arcade modes provide a fun alternative to the main story mode and add to the re-playability value of the game. As well as the global leaderboards, there is also a leaderboard amongst friends.
Multi-player centres around a typical progression system where you can unlock items, weapons and game modes as you progress. The cash system – where you have to buy items once you are at the qualification level – is also used. Multi-player is solid and there were no issues with connectivity, however the lobby loading time is too long; at least a minute and a half. Progression in arcade mode contributes to your level in multi-player. Unfortunately, there is no split-screen multi-player.
The gameplay centres primarily on action and shooting. The unique style that the slow motion kills brings takes a few chapters to get used to. Once you get familiar with the game mechanics, you should find yourself in a rhythm. There are many ways to fight your way through the levels; including the ability to take cover or dodge bullets in ‘shoot dodge’. Max realistically uses one hand to carry his larger gun when not in use. If you were to dual-wield two smaller weapons, he would drop the heavier one. There is no health regeneration. If you were to die several times, the game would grant you an extra painkiller, which is used to gain health. This was a nice feature as the game gave you a challenge, yet if it became too frustrating, it would allow you to slide past. Not one for the hardcore gamer though.
The controls for the majority work well and are responsive. However, occasionally when in last stand slow motion – where you would be given the opportunity to kill the enemy who is about to kill you – I was unable to kill my target, even though I was shooting directly at them. Alternatively, the controls occasionally became sticky and didn’t allow me to aim at the target. Another glitch was visible on the one occasion when Max’s body poked through his surroundings. Additionally, it was also difficult to tell where I was aiming with the laser sight weapons. These negatives however, were all minor issues when stacked against the many good features of the game.
With GTA V scheduled to be released before the end of the year, Max Payne 3 offers a lot to whet the gaming appetite of many before then. Undoubtedly, many gamers will make comparisons with the GTA franchise, however Max Payne 3 is a very good game in its own right. It is clear that Rockstar have put a lot of effort into making a solid game, as is normally the case for them. The storyline isn’t the best, but I recommend this to anyone looking for a stylish, action-packed third person shooter.