GAME NAME: Max Payne 3
DEVELOPER(S): Rockstar Vancouver, Rockstar New England, Rockstar London, Rockstar Toronto
PUBLISHER(S): Rockstar Games
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360
GENRE(S): Action, Shooter
RELEASE DATE(S): 18 May 2012
What the heck was going on with Max Payne? After two smash hits the series sort of… vanished. Then, six years after his fall, this thing emerged from PR shadows. Rockstar claimed it was the tortured Noir PI, but the hulking, bald, bearded beast in the Hawaiian shirt is a million miles from the lean, clean-shaven New York cop. Now a bodyguard of sorts for some rich sod, this chapter in Max’s life explains how he went from biting the Big Apple to dancing the Macarena.
In traditional Rockstar fashion the narrative flip-flops back and forth like an episode of Lost whacked out of its brain on Bar One chocolates and Cherry Cola. Jumping from the iconic leather jacket Payne in New York to a boozed-up, Barnet-receding wreck of a man in Sao Paulo is commonplace in this game. The visual presentation is beautiful. The comic strip interludes are out – replaced by in-engine footage edited together in a dynamic animated collage. That, combined with James McCaffrey voice returning to narrate Max’s thoughts brings his general optimistic views, followed by more-often-than-not dreadful outcomes, to life. You never quite know what to expect as the story unfolds. Serious plot twists and the odd in-your-face shock to the system moments are going to happen. “But what does the damn thing play like?!”
Though Max Payne was a revolutionary shooter based on bullet-time (that’s still intact) it’s now a bygone era. Intriguing corridor shooting is out – sprawling levels and dynamic set pieces are in. That doesn’t mean it’s not the Maximilian you know and love. Bullet-time, bullet-cam, those van der Sar-esque dives are made fresh like never before thanks to Rockstar’s NaturalMotion Euphoria tech. Bullets ejaculate smokey motion trails, shell casings career crazily, bottles explodes into a million tiny shards of pain. It’s the type of bullet ballet that would have John Woo fluttered. Selecting weapons is as simple as pressing and holding LB and using the right analogue stick to select one of four weapon setups. Finding pinpoint accuracy on a target is made that much easier by opting for either soft or hard lock-on. Select free-aim and you’re in for a serious challenge. It presents completely balls-out wacko shootouts, though the cover-based shooting bits does pale compared to the Gears of War’s of the world.
You would think that working Max Payne’s iconic bullet time into a multiplayer mode was always going to be a struggle but Rockstar has got this covered as well. Every time you score a kill you gain adrenaline. Fill your meter and this gives you perks, known as bursts. Bullet-time is one of these. If someone is within a certain radius everything will turn to slow-motion. End up outside the area of another player activating bullet-time and you’re free to shoot away at the usual pace. Other perks let you disguise yourself as the enemy gang member or trick the opposing team into seeing select friendlies as hostiles. Though there are your usual Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch options it is the new mode called Gang Wars that has all the lobbies boiling over. The mode pits two teams against each other in a game of shifting objectives. Say both groups have to collect a shipment of drugs and return the package to their base. In the second round the previous victors might find additional obstacles in their way to peg back their chances… and it’s all told in a story format by once again making use of that distinctive narration by James McCaffrey, as with single player.
This is definitely Max Payne then, linearity n’ all, but with an irresistible glossy 2012 finish. Especially on that balding plate, naturally.