Max Payne 3 Review: Welcome Back Old Friend
By Tony Ibrahim | Friday | 22/06/2012
Too often you walk away from a game feeling the artist's original vision was negotiated by accountants and other studio big wigs. At that moment you realise something good could've been great, but the people pulling strings held other interests.
Max Payne 3 isn't one of these games. You're left with the feeling they had an idea, downed some jelly beans and then ran with it. It is boldly violent, unapologetically vulgar and narrated in language that adds flesh to its character's bones.
Nine years have gone by since Max Payne 2 and the titular character remains defined by the memories of his butchered family. To ease the pain he pops painkillers as if their TicTacs and washes them down with scotch neat.
When the game starts, Max is hired muscle working a security detail for the wealthy Branco family in SÃ£o Paulo, Brazil. In a town burdened by poverty, flooded with drugs and perverted by prostitution, Max watches the Branco family attend night clubs in helicopters and party on lavish yachts. When the time comes for his services to be rendered, the clichÃ©d trophy wife gets kidnapped and things slowly spiral out of control.
As Max wreaks havoc in search of the missing wifeâ€”and ensuing red herringsâ€”the game elegantly flashes back to his days in Hoboken, New Jersey, explaining how the gun-yielding, bullet-dodging anti-hero ended up in God's forsaken city, stuck between the past and the present:
The way I see it, there's two types of people. Those who spend their lives trying to build their future., and those who spend their lives trying to rebuild the past. For too long I've been stuck in between, hidden in the dark, locked on a course of destruction.
At times, Max's story seems stretched for the sake of facilitating gameplay. There are always more goons around every corner, more guns to pick up, more pills to pop. But it evades complacent repetition through gritty language:
When you're stuck in a foreign country and don't know the words for "reverse charges" and you're in some lonely skin joint in the middle of some poor slum and just had every last cent robbed from you and you call yourself a bodyguard, then you know you're a loser.
The latest Max Payne shifts the role of storytelling from the traditional graphic novel to cinematic cut scenes. Just like a Tony Scott film, images are distorted and the action is contextualised by keywords that flash on the screen, as if you're looking at the world through Max's drunken eyes.
This world couldn't feel as authentic if it wasn't for the graphics. Each venue is unique, characterised by its own garbage, street scum, colouring and layout. When people walk, run and shoot they appear natural, as does the blood that sprouts from their wounds. Max himself appears life-like, to the extent you believe his chiselled wrinkles were born from tragedy and raised by alcohol.
Players get a unique chance to look at this world during bullet time sequences, where, in the midst of heavy gun fire, Max leaps from cover and discharges bullets in slow motion. There are countless situations where bullet time livens gameplay; in fact, most gamers will be scanning the room, hoping someone else is witnessing the awesome spectacle every time they give it a whirl.
When gamers finish the long story mode, they can reap more value from multiplayer modes. Although no Call of Duty, it is a cut above the norm for Rockstar, and handles the addition of bullet time with ease. If one player engages in bullet time, both characters slow down. How much gameplay slows down is based upon the distance between two players, where the closer they are, the slower time elapses, and vice versa.
Between the colourful language, unapologetic plot, smooth-as graphics and the fleshed out characters, the successor to the Max Payne series faithfully recreates the hard-boiled attitude gamers around the world fell in love with. It brings a level of engagement familiar to profound cinema, and will leave an impression that resonates longer than usual. This, then, is a worthy addition, carrying the beloved legacy forward and not just cashing in on the name.
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