Life is often too short to replay a game. And, at the end of the day, there’s always more new games to take my attention. But there a handful of games that I have played almost to death, and the original Max Payne is top of the list.
So perhaps that explains why I’m finding this newest iteration more than a little disappointing.
There is a lot to like about MP3 (hehe), though, but it’s one of those games that doesn’t hold up well to close examination. And that’s exactly what some of the levels of the game force you to do. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves...
Cleverly, Rockstar’s set the game a number of years after the first two titles, and aged up Max appropriately. If fact, as a greying, older dude myself, it’s really nice to see a more hardbitten, wrinkled hero in a game. And there are few characters in gaming as gleefully hardbitten as Max Payne.
The game’s told both in a normal narrative, and through a series of flashbacks to explain how Max has ended up doing security work in Brazil. There’s a lovely juxtaposition between the shabby New York-set flashbacks, which wonderfully evoke the earlier games, and the exotic locales of Sau Paulo. It’s also nice to see that Max’s painkiller abuse is now a fullblown addiction, as he washed down pill after pill with cheap whiskey.
It’s like my life made into a game!
What my life does lack, though, is dead mobsters, kidnapped trophy wives, and a body count of something like twenty bazillion. Or a noir-inspired tale of revenge and inevitable double-crosses. As usual, though, all the plot’s really just there to drive two things – nihilistic voiceovers as Max bemoans his mistake-ridden life, and bullet-time-driven gunfights.
The up-gunned graphics and physics engine make the combat in Max Payne 3 a real pleasure, especially when you drop into slow motion. Sparks fly off impacts, blood splashes from your opponents, and all kinds of scenery gets thrown about. Even without bullet time, some of the set piece moments are amongst the most dramatic in gaming, and Max has an array of new moves that make for some truly balletic action. There’s a killer soundtrack in play, as well, making the game feel like an interactive Michael Mann crime epic.
However, the game makes a couple of mis-steps. First up, the difficulty levels seems all over the place, and in some parts you’re forced to constantly reload and keep trying, only to get a little further into the level, taken out again, and then have to start all over from the last checkpoint again. The lack of a save system is annoying, but even more annoying is how artificial the game can feel when you’re forced to play the same sequences more than a few times; enemies seem to appear out of nowhere in a couple of instances, and some of the level design is really nonsensical.
The controls are bit of a problem, too. Rockstar made a lot of noises about the PC version absolutely not being a console port, but more than once I really felt like I was fighting the cursor, even with all the auto-aim options turned off. This was especially evident in the game’s menu systems, where the cursor is particularly sluggish; in some instances, the cursor bugs out entirely. The odd crash to desktop doesn’t help either.
Finally, as cool as the game’s executions can be, more often than not the camera freaks out makes you suffer a bout of vertigo, while not showing you any of the action.
And I have to admit – I miss the comic-book cut scenes.
It might be the combination of nostalgia for the original games (which is always a tough thing for a new game to come up against), and a possibly too high an expectation for this one, but whatever it is, I’m just not feeling it for Max Payne 3. There is a lot to like – the graphics, the music, the stunning locations – but it seems like all the tricks the game pulls to amp up the action and drama are too easy to see through.
Or, perhaps like Max, I’m just getting too old for this shit.