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Not the return of the king
on 21 June 2012
Max Payne 3 is an unfortunate departure from what made the series so respected and interesting in the first place, and the game's not better for it.
In Max's long absence he's been tarted up considerably by Rockstar; gone is the grey and black noir of New York, replaced with a cornucopia of colour in Sao Paulo where max now wears fashionable suits well cut suits rather than the distinctive old leather jacket. The changes are obviously an overt push to make Max more appealing to a new generation of players. However, it really doesn't help to frame, or support the plot: Max is now working as a private security guard for people he hates. So, it's surprising as to why he becomes so emotionally invested in retrieving a kidnapped socialite. The plot from here is weakly elaborated and elucidated on, with the principle antagonist changing wildly. I really didn't understand what was going on at most points, which for a game with this many cutscenes is really criminal.
The gameplay is quite good early on, gun battles are tense and exciting bullet ballets when compared to most stale shooters on the market. However, things become a little sour about halfway through the game; enemies become more numerous, and they start wearing body armour. This makes encounters with large packs sterile cover based affairs trying to randomly land a head shot. Shots to the chest do negligible damage. Bullet time helps affairs but its mechanics are slightly different from the previous two games the principle difference being Max no longer gains bullet time from kills made whilst using it. In Max Payne 2, Max could become a bullet spewing ball of pain inflicting massive amounts of damage on his enemies. In Max Payne 3, unless you have a full meter there's no point in even straying out of cover, unless you have a particular fondness for the grisly tableau which frames every death in comic book style. Max's patented shoot dodge also becomes very irritating in the new game especially in confined environments. Any collision with a bit of scenery will cause Max to come out of bullet time without warning, leaving you extremely vulnerable lying on the floor. Max, also stands up so glacially, during which time you're completely unable to return any type of fire you're more likely to be shredded by enemies unless you landed behind some cover. When it works together as it is supposed to the gameplay is unparalleled, although most of the time a army of small annoyances conspire against you to make the game very, very annoying.
If there's one thing Max Payne 3 does better than anyone it's the music. Rockstar understand in game music better than anyone and the Music in Max Payne 3 is peerless, the original soundtrack by Health is always there, always driving you forwards with an understated sense of urgency.
Multiplayer is forgettable. It seems most people have forgotten it already a month after launch there's not too many people playing it.
All in all Max Payne 3 is not quite the triumphant return of one of my gaming protagonists. That said no one should be put off from trying it.