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Max Payne 3 (PC)

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Genre: Action & Shooter / DVD-ROM for Windows Vista / Windows XP / Release Date: 2012-06-01 / Published by Take 2 Interactive

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      22.08.2012 22:12
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      There's life in this old dog yet (MAX PAYNE 3 IS A SOLID RETURN FROM OUR FAVORITED NOIRE AVENGER)

      There have been some horrifyingly twisted serial killers over the course of history. Colombia does a good line in them, for example, but even its most prolific murderer has a list of suspected victims that's 'only' in the hundreds. That pales in comparison to Max Payne 3's stratospheric body count. By the end of this game, you'll have snuffed out well over a thousand virtual souls, all of whom practically line up to put their heads in front of your crosshairs.

      In a game based on shooting, that's ostensibly a good thing. You certainly won't be left wanting for people on which to practice your slow motion 'shoot dodges'. By the end of the 12-15 hour running time you'll be terrifyingly efficient - activating bullet time, sweeping into a room, puncturing three skulls and then finishing off with an acrobatic dive to flamboyantly empty your clip into the fourth. We can imagine John Woo nodding his head in silent appreciation.

      The problem is, do anything - no matter how much fun - 1,000 times and it begins to become a mite repetitive. Max Payne 3's only regular concessions to variety are the odd mounted gun sections, which don't really change the formula beyond temporarily removing the use of your legs. There are armoured flavours of enemy, who require a headshot or two before they acquiesce and fall over, but you'll have been prioritising the cranium for efficiency's sake anyway.
      In a way it's old school. Max Payne 3's biggest triumph is that, in a similar fashion to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the new development team has captured the style and feel of the original game perfectly. Max might have put on a few pounds since the early noughties, but the first time you dive into a room, swivelling in mid-air to plug multiple enemies, it'll all come flooding back. Like the original games, it's the narrative and the locations that keep you from switching your brain off and reverting to murderous muscle memory.

      The plot's engaging, complex and beautifully delivered. It's also a unique take on the videogame 'hero' - Max is an alcoholic wreck at the beginning of the game and things don't improve a great deal throughout. Somehow, it makes it easier to root for Payne as he's shambling from one disastrous encounter to another, desperately trying to do the right thing. The now infamous point where Max shaves his head represents a noticeable gear-shift for the plot - it's not quite two different games, what with the ceaseless murdering, but it's definitely a dramatic evolution of the character himself. His motivation is your motivation after all, and it's that renewed sense of purpose that powers you through the second half of the game.

      That and the opportunity for some sightseeing. The Favela in Sao Paulo is the standout location - delicately decorated with the same care and attention you'd expect from a Hollywood set - but it's just one of the locations you'll visit on a global tour. Fans of the series will relish the flashbacks to New Jersey, which both tweak the nostalgia neurons and help tie Rockstar Vancouver's Max with Remedy's original article. While the game is traditionally linear, these environments do encourage some gentle exploration. There are non-essential clues scattered around that flesh out the plot and collectible golden gun parts for completists. Proper single-player replay value comes from a series of leaderboard-enabled 'Arcade' run-throughs that are vaguely reminiscent of Bizarre Creations' forgotten score-chaser The Club.

      More surprising is a multiplayer that manages to include bullet time without turning into a confusing treacly mess. The line of sight system makes clear whether you're seeing the benefit of the effect or not and there are only rare occasions where you'll suffer brief snatches of momentum-sapping slowdown. Maps expand and contract sensibly based on the gametype and the number of players, which mitigates the fact that there's only a handful of environments available. It's best played in Gang Wars mode, which uses a light narrative to stitch together five different team-based rounds in a single location. Genuinely interesting perks and unlocks should keep the disc spinning in your Xbox for longer than you'd expect from a game that sells itself on its single player.

      Like its hero, Max Payne 3 has its flaws. The repetitive action might be reminiscent of the original games, but it's still repetition, and ultimately that causes things to drag. Fortunately just like Max himself it's also difficult to dislike - the plot isn't something you'll be able to leave alone for long, bullet time still has the capacity to thrill and the multiplayer provides the variety and unpredictability required for genuine longevity. This new spin on familiar action is proof, if proof were needed, that there's life in the old dog yet.

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      05.07.2012 18:00
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      A great game, but the cutscenes get old after a few watches.

      MAX PAYNE 3 is an third-person action game from Rockstar Games - it is (obviously) the third game in the franchise, and is rated '18'. This review of Max Payne 3 is for PC, but the game is also available on the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

      ==How's the story?==

      Max Payne 3 is set near to present day, and is almost directly canon to the previous games in the series. The game begins with a washed out, alcoholic Max Payne drinking himself to death in New Jersey following the death of his wife, his baby and his hitgirl lover Mona Sax. Depressing, I know, but it's how Max Payne got how he is.

      Now Max has moved on from the tragic events of his path in hope of finding a new life - a better life - for himself, a life where he can move on and earn some extra money. This job happens to be being a bodyguard for a rich family named the Branco's in Brazil, who need protection from the lower classes and corrupt police officers. Max figures that this job will be easy, a cake run, especially with his friend Passos there to help him, but when one of his protect-ees are captured by a strange group, Max finds himself thrust into the life of gunfire and death that he was trying to leave behind.

      The storyline of Max Payne 3 is good in the sense of being better than your average video game storyline - there are extended cutscenes (not skippable for the most part, they're masking extended loading screens) to explain the story to you, the characters have a lot of depth, and they're semi-likable, although I can imagine some people just won't get along with the cast of this shooter.

      As for the story-telling style, it's a little disappointing - while it is still very much a Max Payne game in the story type (woman gets captured, Max has to get her back and ends up digging himself a massive hole and is required to riddle men with bullets because of it), it lacks some of the tasty noir feel from the first two games, and exchanges the bleak New York/New Jersey 'grainy, gritty film noir' feel for a bright, sunny (but still dark) 'Man on Fire' feel.

      I do, however, consider Max Payne 3 to be great in both the sense of being a Max Payne game, and great in the sense of being its own game in terms of story - oh, and a side note, everything is pretty easy to latch on to, so there isn't too much of a need to play the first two games first (essentially, the only thing you take away from the first two games here is 'everyone Max Payne ever loved is dead', and that's explained in the opening cutscene).

      The story of Max Payne 3 is a real winner - it's cinematic and well told and acted. I give it a 5/5.

      ==Gameplay==

      The gameplay of Max Payne 3 stays very true to the roots of the series. In a lot of senses, it plays a lot like the standard third person shooter, but with a few very important differences. One of these differences is that in Max Payne 3, the shooting is tight - and I mean very tight. It feels a lot like you're playing a first-person shooter, as opposed to the heavy, sluggish aiming style of third person shooters of current like Gears of War. This is a good thing, especially since that's what fans of the series want - and it means that the gameplay feels fluid for new players too.

      The gameplay is rarely frustrating, but there are certain parts of the game that may not be completely obvious at first, and may result in a few deaths. Usually, however, the game's automated checkpoint system will plonk you down less than a minute before the point at which you died, so there's not all that much frustration to be had from the gameplay and it's difficulty. If you die enough times too, the game will give you painkillers, which can be used to heal up Max in the event that he is injured in battle.

      Speaking of the painkillers, these also act as a mechanism to make the game slightly more friendly - instead of straight out killing you when you are shot to death, the game will trigger slow motion, allowing you a final chance to shoot the person that killed you for the chance to continue living, but this costs you one of your painkillers. If you don't have any painkillers, you're dead once you're out of health..

      ==Graphics and Optimization==

      This is a Rockstar game, anyone who knew anything about their previous works (Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption) knows that there is going to be an insane amount of detail and thought put into these games, but the vast majority of PC gamers know to expect poor optimization on their platform of choice.

      Rockstar have proved themselves in the first category, and disproved their old habits in the second category. This game has insane amount of detail (the bullet casings are fully detailed, and clips ejected from your guns actually have the amount of bullets you had left in them), and you can even see Max's muscles tensing and retracting under his shirt. The physics engine is also fantastic, and has Max diving through the air with flamboyance (actually, wrong word) and tact (actually, what I meant to say was 'simulates him headbutting the wall really well'). It is an impressive, weighty and realistic physics engine none the less.

      The most impressive thing for me about the Max Payne 3 graphics for me though was the amazing performance:quality ratio. Previous efforts on the PC by Rockstar have suffered horribly from issues like DRM (Games for Windows Live is a payne - also I hope you see what I did there), and terrible performance issues (GTA IV would drop into unplayable framerates on even the best of systems at times), but once you have Max Payne 3 up and running, you can have it running on the vast majority of new hardware - even if it's not particularly high end - and have the performance be exceptionally good, and by that I mean it's one of the best PC versions of a game that I have seen in many years. Rockstar should be proud and I hope they keep it up for GTA V.

      ==Audio==

      All of the characters are impressively acted, and although one or two of the weapons sound a little bit like pea-shooters with silencers the vast majority of weapons actually sound pretty good. However, what really stood out about the audio in Max Payne 3 was the soundtrack. It's still every bit as good as the first two were. The title theme in particular is somber, dark and sets the scene for the entire game, even if you haven't started playing yet. It's a fantastic rendition of the original theme for the first two games, and I'm really glad that they left it in - it's one of the few remaining 'film noir' elements in the game (excluding a few levels in New Jersey).

      The only issue that I've had with the audio is on some of the cutscenes, it appears that some of the characters skip their lines occasionally (as in no audio plays, but their lips do move), and I can only attribute this to my system, as the audio files are there, and it sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. It should be known that I am not the only person with this issue though.

      ==Multiplayer==

      The game's multiplayer has a variety of modes and an unlock system. The unlock system works by unlocking pieces of equipment and weapons as you progress through the in-game ranks - this is very standard of first person shooter games, especially those in the 'modern warfare' variety because of the addicting nature of the system and the fact that it makes people want to keep playing and paying for more things. The unlock system in Max Payne 3 isn't overbloated, and it's pretty staggered and rather nice to progress through.

      However, the gamemodes are locked to rank - a stupid decision that could end up dividing the community. The 'hardcore' gamemodes are restricted to those who have more than 1000 kills, which could take a while for the less-skilled players. I understand its to keep to bad players at bay, because no-one likes to have a bad team in a gamemode determined by their teams skill, but come on, you're locking the player out of the game that they paid for. This is something that irritates me about the game, and something that I'd rather not happen, but Rockstar obviously have their reasons.

      In terms of gamemodes, we have your standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch varieties, as well as two other modes. There is Payne Killer, where two players are given the more powerful roles of Max Payne and Passos, and the other players have to take them down. The player that takes them down becomes the character they killed. It's a fun gimmick, but in practise me and my friends didn't really have all that much fun with this mode because of massive skill differences and balancing issues.

      There is also Gang Wars - now this one is fun. It sets the scene of a point in the game, and has two rivalling gangs battle it out in a series of objective based modes, which seldom last a few minutes, to gain points for the advantage in the final round of the game - a team deathmatch game. The objectives in the preceding modes are things like 'deliver the bag' (capture the flag), and 'hold the point' (akin to a small scale version of Battlefield's conquest mode), and it all comes together in a great harmony of fun.

      However, there is a major problem in this game's multiplayer. The loading times seem to be surrounded around the lowest denominator. Now, I don't like to brag, but I do keep my hardware up to date, and as such I generally load pretty quickly in the latest games, but that doesn't matter in the online component of Max Payne 3, because everyone loads as quickly as the slowest person - which means that in some cases you can be waiting five minutes to get into a game, when it only takes you twenty seconds to load.

      There are also assorted other issues that I'm sure Rockstar will fix eventually like the map not fully loading (elements and models are not loaded in the game) and an endless respawn (occasionally you will die and find that you can't respawn for several minutes, or in some cases the rest of the game).

      For these reasons, I shall give the inventive but flawed multiplayer a 3/5

      ==Value for Money==

      Max Payne 3 was £29.99 when I bought it. I preordered the game and so got myself a fair bit of DLC with it, but sadly missed out on the free copy of LA Noire that was up for grabs (it's a shame, I would've liked to play that), but I feel that I would've got my moneys worth even if I didn't get the preorder bonuses. The storyline is fairly long, well acted and has incredible production value (and spanned about eleven hours in my experience), and it was one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I've had in a while.

      The multiplayer mode is also pretty good fun, and will likely last me and many others a good while to come, despite the slight dwindling of the game's online population (possibly for reasons detailed in the multiplayer subsection).

      There is, however, DLC. This DLC is stuff that I'd be happy to pay for, and it's presumably going to be affordable and the releases are going to be staggered, but with DLC I feel like I've been cheated out of a bit of game, a game I thought I had paid for. The feeling isn't so strong here, but it is there.

      I feel that the value here is very good, but there is near-release paid DLC, and therefore shall give it a 4/5.

      ==Content Watch==

      Max Payne 3 is rated '18' by the BBFC. Here's a rundown of why.

      ===Violence===

      Max Payne 3 has a fair amount of violence, hundreds of characters are killed per level, and occasionally with bloody detail and in slow motion. The vast majority of the time however, the characters get a bit of blood on them and promptly fall over without too much dwelling on the payne (I hope you're liking these puns).

      There are a few scenes which are particularly bloody though. Arguably the strongest of which is when a character has a grenade detonated near him and his limbs are dismembered in slow motion, with considerably dwelling on the characters pain while Max circles him. The character appears to be struggling and trying to get away, leaving a trail of blood. This is the only scene of such strong nature in the game.

      There are some death scenes where blood is separated out from characters heads. These are not particularly graphic and don't focus on the detail.

      A character is burned on-screen with gasoline, it's extended and we hear screams. There is not too much detail on the injuries though.

      ===Language===

      Many of the characters swear in the game. Words such as 'f*ck' and 'sh*t' are commonplace, with rarer use of milder words like 'b*tch' and 'whore'. There are also a few racial slurs in the game, although usually in a friendly way (a black character says 'wassup my n*gger' to another black character. Racism is not obviously intended).

      ===Sexual Content===

      There are a fair few women wearing skimpy clothes through the game, nothing out of the ordinary for a game of this type though.

      At one point in the game, Max enters a brothel - there are naked women shown in detail for short periods of time, and you can see sexual action taking place (oral sex mostly) but any detail is obscured cleverly in game. This is not the focus of the level.

      Max makes sarcastic remarks of vague sexual nature occasionally - for example "It was like Baghdad with G-strings".

      ===Alcohol/Drugs===

      Max is a heavy drinker, but it's made obvious that he is not happy about this and wants to stop. This is shown in a negative, albeit detailed manner (the player see's Max throw up in the sink, get hangovers, stagger across the room and fall about with drunkenness with added screen effects to add to the feel). This is not glamorised, and it is made clear that Max wants to stop. Max's alcoholism leads him to bad places on multiple occasions.

      ==Content Conclusion==

      This game isn't all that bad with its content, and the detail is pretty low for the vast majority of the game. I reckon a fourteen year old could probably deal with the vast majority of it's content, if you can get past the adult-y themes like alcohol abuse, which aren't portrayed in a positive light anyway.

      ==Game Conclusion==

      Max Payne 3 is a briliant game, and it deserves to be bought and played by practically everyone. It's a benchmark in storytelling, a staple in graphics and a step forward in games in general. Rockstar have done the franchise proud, and I hope that Rockstar finds success with this game eventually (following sub-par sales at release).

      I give Max Payne 3 a 4/5, for being great in almost every way apart from multiplayer.

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