The original Max Payne came out in 2001 and I remember playing it on PC, diving round corners in ‘bullet time‘ and swinging my mouse around to shoot bad guys. Forgetting about those silly dream sequences where you had to walk the red line, it was all a lot of fun and very trendy at the time thanks to The Matrix pulling the stunt first in the movies and making the effect very “in”. 11 years on this third game featuring the grieving alcohol and pain killer-fuelled ex-detective is developed by Rockstar Games instead of Remedy and features some trademark style and some mixed feelings when it comes to combat.
This time you’ve upped and left your old life and are working as a bodyguard in Brazil. Things go awry rather quickly when one of the family you’re looking after is kidnapped. Off you go to rescue her, playing through flashbacks along the way and ventilating everybody in sight who tries to turn you into Swiss cheese first. Immediately you’ll be hit by the style of the game. It’s sort of a mix between film noir and pulp with Max narrating his thoughts along the way and long cut scenes playing out from multiple camera angles. There’s also a colour twitch fading in and out most of the time which to be honest only sought to give me a bit of a headache. Maybe I’m just getting old.
Characters aren’t very charismatic but at least there are a lot of them and they’re all acted very well. There’s even a few subtleties thrown in there such as Easter eggs to find if you choose to explore and collectibles to hunt down to encourage replaying the story.
Although The Matrix looks a bit tired to watch now, thankfully Bullet Time in Max Payne 3 is still fun. You can click the right stick to slow down time to give you the edge or tap the right bumper to shoot dodge and fly through the air John Woo style shooting people’s faces off whilst they can’t hit you. In an action movie however, you won’t jump into a chest high crate and land vulnerable in the open thanks to an object that’s only there to help the new cover mechanic. It’s also not very pleasing when you start a new section armed with your pistol when previously you had a machine gun, shotgun or Uzi selected. Something that really should have been spotted in play testing!
Health only regenerates in multiplayer mode so you’ll be hunting down painkillers in order to top things up. Unfortunately checkpoints aren’t well placed and the difficulty can spike resulting in some frustrating sections where you’re flanked, shot, die and have to play things through time and time again. It is fun, however, shooting the last guy in a group and watching the bullet slowly fly towards him. You can even pull the trigger for added measure too for some extra violent fun!
There’s a lot of style here but because there’s no sandbox play seen in GTA and Red Dead the shooter mechanic should be on the money. Unfortunately it’s not of the same calibre as Gears of War or Uncharted and could have done with a few more refinements and tweaks to make it truly great. Max Payne 3 gets a very good but ultimately slightly disappointing 7 out of 10.
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