Max Payne has been absent from duty for ten years. His trigger finger has gotten itchy once more, and he picks up his pistol to shoot down thousands of dudes. Max Payne 3 brings back the noir-film storytelling and bullet time diving action to modern day consoles. Much like Max himself, the game isn't without its hangovers.
The presentation in Max Payne is top notch; the gravelly voice over of Max Payne's inner monologue greatly accentuates the mood and feeling of every moment. He breathes a little bit of life into everything you do. The character dialogue is also smartly used to guide you to the next objective, giving clues on where to go next. The voice acting is excellent for every character, and it all sounds very natural.
If Rockstar nailed anything, it's the animations. The way Max handles himself during cutscenes or manipulates objects is superb. Even during gameplay, the way Max moves himself around the environment or stands up from the ground is amazingly lifelike. Enemies realistically react to being shot, from reeling back or falling down from leg shots.There is an insane amount of detail put into the guns, which is very noticeable during the slow motion kills. The particle effects are just as great, especially when the environment is easily destructible.
If you're unfamiliar with Max Payne, it's a noir-inspired cop story filled with slow motion bullet time fights. The story this time around is Max chasing after a woman he was hired to bodyguard, before everything goes to hell. From there, Max shoots every dude in his way.
New to this entry is being able to use cover. Using the same cover system as Grand Theft Auto 4, you can peek out and fire, or fire blindly. Moving into and around cover can feel a little stiff at times, and there is no way to quickly move from cover to cover. Instead, you'll use the shoot dodge maneuver.
Hitting the right button causes Max to leap in any direction you choose, and provided he has the adrenaline, slow motion occurs. During this time, you can easily line up head shots and take out enemies in your way. In fact, using the leap dodge is far more useful than cover. You can manually activate bullettime without leaping too, which again, is integral to staying alive and getting the advantage over the slew of enemies.
And slow motion happens frequently. When you kill the final enemy in an area, time slows down and follows the final bullet into its prey. You can continuously fire for humorous effect, and no matter how many times this happens, it never gets old.
One of the most refreshing additions in Max Payne is an omission: there is no regenerating healtlh. Instead, Max downs painkillers to heal himself. This will make death far more frequent, but the challenge is very much welcomed. A great mechanic is being shot down while Max still has painkillers left. It will automatically go into slow motion, and if you manage to shoot down your assailant, you'll heal up and be given another chance. Towards the end of the game, you'll find yourself being shot down quite a bit.
If there's one grievance, it's that the game feels clumsy. It may be because of Rockstar's penchant for realistic movement, but he feels stiff to move. Quite often, he'll get caught on something in his surroundings, which becomes aggravating in tense shootouts.
It's still enjoyable to play, though. The extremely well-written dialogue amplifies a decent cop drama, and the shoot out gameplay is competent enough to keep you interested. It does feel like it drags on a little bit, but you'll get a longer story than you expect.
Through every level of the campaign, you can find pieces of golden guns. Collect them all, and you'll have a golden version of that weapon to use, although the bonus is only cosmetic. You can also use the Arcade mode to go for a high score in already completely parts of the campaign.
The main reason to keep the game in your disc tray is the brand new multiplayer mode. This plays out like a typical third person shooter complete with experience points, custom loadouts and unlocks, but with leaping and slow motion that comes from Max Payne. Defeating other players gets you a bit of adrenaline, and when you slow down time, it slows down for everybody. You'll have the advantage of slightly faster aiming, and it's much more difficult for anyone to get enough adrenaline for slow motion. Which is good, so that each match isn't bogged down from constant bullet time.
You can loot bodies for additional ammo, adrenaline, or painkillers, and the last stand slow mo works in multiplayer as well.
The different game modes are about what you would expect. Variations of death match, domination and capture the flag are intact, and a Payne Killer mode has players battling to play as the overpowered Max Payne. The most unique mode is Gang Wars, which pits two teams in five rounds with each round having a different objective. Winning each round gives you a bonus to your team score in the final round's death match.
All in all, the multiplayer is okay. It's a decent distraction and can hold your time for a while, but it won't be on your mind several weeks from now. Because of the unlockables and levels, those who have played more have a considerable advantage over everyone else. The Gang Wars mode is the best one, aside from the vanilla team deathmatch. It's certainly worth checking out, but the single player mode is the biggest attraction.
When you get right down to it, Max Payne 3 is simply a decent cover-based shooter with extremely well presented cutscenes. It doesn't do anything new or spectacular for the genre, but nothing is done especially wrong either. It's well made and it's an enjoyable ride, with the multiplayer adding in a few more hours of entertainment. It's worth seeing through to the end, all the way up until the hot metal casing of Max's last bullet drops to the floor.
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