Max Payne

Boosting the bank balance for the final development push for Grand Theft Auto 5, the long-delayed, highly anticipated threequel to the hard-boiled Max Payne franchise has finally arrived.

The years have not been kind to Max Payne. Still mourning the loss of his wife and child following the Valkyr situation from the first game, Max is still a pill-popping drunk, only now he’s a pill-popping drunk working as a private bodyguard for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It doesn’t take long for trouble in paradise to brew and explode into a story of intrigue, deception, action and despair that makes this game far more involving than your standard run and gun entry.

It’s interesting to play a game with this sort of depth that’s not a sandbox release. MXP3 is definitely a game on rails, like Call of Duty etc. but you’re so firmly entrenched in the story and action it’s easy to forget you’re being guided how Rockstar want you to play the game.

It’s obvious Rockstar are learning from every release; L.A. Noire introduced highly complex facial graphics for emotive purposes. Here they’ve been boiled down slightly, but still retain a certain air of realism and they certainly haven’t been utilised to a point where it affects the actual game environment, as everything looks highly detailed. More on this later.

MXP3 features the same control system as GTA4 and Red Dead Redemption so it should be familiar to anyone who’s played these games and it is very similar to the controls from the previous Max Payne games. Though if you’ve not played these (and why not -where’ve you been for the last decade?!) The game benefits from the cover system used in GTA4 and RDR and you can make excellent use of the blind-fire system too, something which was lacking from the previous games. The control system is fairly simple; point, shoot, etc., though it’s not without the occasional glitch when moving to/from cover.

Speaking of glitches, be wary when the game autosaves. The game autosaves as you progress through a level, though it’s somewhat disappointing there is no facility to save your progress yourself. However, make sure the circular save icon has completely vanished before quitting to XMB; my save file for Chapter 5 corrupted itself ever so slightly – I’ve no idea how as I waited for the icon to disappear – and would only load into Chapter 5 (the docks) thinking Max Payne had died.

Three times I got the death screen and three times the console CRASHED. Fourth time was the charm, though it’s something to be aware of and again, it’s somewhat disappointing you don’t get the option to save your progress yourself as you go as autosave obviously cannot be trusted! Whether this has been patched in the two patches that have been released I’m not sure as Rockstar haven’t yet released a changelog for the 1.02 patch.

Rockstar claim there are no loading screens, though they have cannily worked around this by providing extensive and sometimes over-long cut scenes which, surprise, surprise, can’t be skipped (at times) as surprise, surprise, the level the cut scene leads into is “still loading”. Six of one, half a dozen of another. It’s a sly trick that is irritating at times, dull at others and, at all times, gets in the way of the raucous fun that is to be found at the heart of this shooter.

Which is really what this game is about; shooting. And fun. And shooting! Though the Max Payne franchise is over a decade old, Bullet Time has still lost none of its awesome charms. MXP3 takes Bullet Time and runs with it – in the final killcam you can continue to riddle your foe with bullets long after the kill shot. It’s wanton violence, it’s lingering on injury, it’s disgustingly good fun, never gets dull and it’s exactly why MXP3 has got a proper BBFC ’18’ certificate as it’s stuffed with bloody mayhem.

You get the option to carry a two-handed weapon such as a shotgun or assault rifle, but there’s so much more fun to be had dual-wielding a 9mm pistol and 9mm micro sub-machine gun, for example, that I rarely use anything else. The dual-wield was introduced in the original game and of course its seed lies with fabulous Hong Kong action cinema,which was then brought to a wider audience in films like Face/Off and The Matrix – but over a decade on, it’s still effing cool. Seriously cool – PS3 has been waiting for a third-person shooter like this since launch!

Walking into an open plan office filled with filing cabinets, desks, computer screens, wooden cubicles, glass, paper and bad guys, when the proverbial hits the fan, things go off in style. Choose your cover carefully as the environments are now destructible too, but stuff the cover and watch as the room erupts into a spectacular orgy of shredded paper, shattered glass, splintered wood and blood…coupled with a stunning aural cacophony of gunfire, spent casings tinkling on the ground, screams, paper shredding, glass shattering and wood splintering…Nowhere is safe.

Oh yes, Max Payne 3 brings out the vicious killer in us all make no mistake. It’s stirring stuff, gleefully violent even, and there’s nothing more satisfying than the kill-cam at the end of a shootout where you can, as mentioned above, riddle your final foe with as many rounds as the clip in your weapon(s) will carry.

I’ve not even finished the game yet and there are memorable sequences a-go-go; surfing a collapsing water tower, hanging upside down from a helicopter shooting rockets from the sky, a Live and Let Die-inspired speedboat chase. It’s all inspired mayhem and makes for tremendous fun, which offers an interesting juxtaposition with Max Payne’s miserable, cynical character.

He’s a wordier, grumpier, lazier John McClane – always in the wrong place at the wrong time and with a glib answer or pithy retort for everything. He really can’t be arsed with anything (or anyone) so would much rather be slumped at a bar, stoked to the gills on painkillers and booze.

The game also has an excellent multiplayer, which adds tremendous replay value. It also brings over the original New York Minute arcade-style feature and a new Score Attack feature which is a lot of fun.

Looking to the future and GTA5, if that game offers the immersion and action of MXP3 alongside the sandbox features if the illustrious GTA4 I suspect I’ll be barricading myself in my games room for a considerable amount of time.

A return to form for Rockstar after the dull dud that was L.A. Noire, the lack of a save facility and overlong cutscenes aside, MXP3 comes out guns blazing (pun intended) and delivers thrills, spills, a decent story and plenty of longevity for your £39.99 investment.

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