Max Payne 3, Bullet-time & Brazil

I’ve just come to the end of the story mode of Max Payne 3 on my Xbox 360.

I had played the first two games on my original Xbox and enjoyed them greatly; I fell in love with the bullet time gameplay and loved the hard boiled atmosphere of the games & comic style cut scenes. So, as soon as the game arrived it was fired straight into the disk drive with much excitement and anticipation.

Here are my thoughts…

Sure know how to pick a place

Gameplay – Single Player

I’ve now played the single player story mode through twice now; once as my main play through, and once to pick up the collectibles I missed first time around. Both playthroughs have lasted about the same length of time roughly and I’ve now put a total of 15 hours and change into the single player, which to me constitutes some pretty good value compared to today’s marketplace; some recent single player campaign experiences I’ve had came to as little as 5 hours with no replayability. I found it to be a reasonable challenge at Medium difficulty; If I had the patience, skill and inclination I could go for a number of additional playthroughs at higher difficulties and on arcade mode for achievements… more on that later…

The story is pretty cheesy and represents fairly classic action game fare – full of 2D ciphers and stereotypes. That doesn’t bother me so much; it’s pretty high quality in gaming standards and is better than some high budget action flicks I’ve seen in my time; the voice acting is good and the cut scenes are unbelievably well animated. Ultimately, I want it to serve as a delivery mechanism to the action gameplay, which it does brilliantly. It’s pretty cinematically immersive in spite of the cheese; a good gaming buddy of mine noticed me on his friends list playing and asked how I was getting along with the game – I replied that I felt like I was playing an action movie, and it felt pretty cool. I’ll admit I miss the little comic strip exposition sequences as part of the Max Payne flavour, but I soon moved on to enjoy the way the new animated cut scenes and gameplay action tied together to fully immerse me in the game.

These cutscenes also become a bit of an annoyance on the second playthrough – you can’t skip them second time around. As absorbing as they make the game experience the first time around, they slow things down and frustrate when seen again and again while replaying for collectibles, medal challenges, and cheeky achievements.

Technically the game is up to Rockstar’s usual standard – the graphics are excellent and the controls are intuitive & well thought out. It’s comfortable on the eyes and comfortable in the hands.

Sure know how to pick a place

Gameplay – Multiplayer

The multiplayer is quite fun too. It’s reminiscent of the GTA IV multiplayer (surprise, surprise) with a Max Payne twist. It’s got all the traditional gameplay modes: Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Kill the Leader (In a slight variation called “Payne Killer”), Capture the Flag and King of the Hill. (The later two found in the rounds of Gang War.) I’ve been playing on and off since I first got the game, rotating around the game modes, and have generally been entertained by it.

I must point out though; I am starting to tire a little at rank 19 – the ganeplay is starting to get boring and the limited number of maps repetitive (especially when everyone seems to repeatedly vote for the same maps back to back; what’s that about? I can only do so many Deathmatches in Brancos HQ and Gang Wars at the Bus Depot, y’know?) we’ll see how it goes, but I’m not likely to spend money on map packs as I don’t see that much longevity it in really, unless I grind on for MP Gamerscore. The MP’s not without other classic online faults too; I’ve experienced some random disconnects, lag and matchmaking delays. These problems are occasional, and seem to be in the wee hours in the UK. (Perhaps some dark conspiracy between Rockstar and my Wife to get me to more sleep?)

There have been a couple of other niggles I found with MP. Firstly; the grenade throw is waaaaaaay too slow for me; years of FPS’ like Halo has configured me to fast Nade throws and it just bums me out how slow Max Payne 3’s are. Secondly; Deathmatches have an irritating habit of spawning me in the middle of a gunfight when I cannot possibly orientate myself and get annihilated in seconds.

I will say that the community on the MP is pretty cool. Nobody takes it too seriously and plays well with others. By enlarge, I’ve not experienced much in the way of trash talk and Wheaton’s law seems well observed with most people chatty and sports manly.

So much for being subtle

Achievements

I’ve got a minor touch of the score-whore so I’d be remiss not to include a section about achievements in my review. I’m at that crossroads faced by many cheevomaniacs where i need to decide to trade it in or grind way for some more achievements, because this game does not give Gamerscore Points away easy.

After two single player play throughs and up to rank 19 and I’ve clocked 505 GS. The big points come with the higher difficulties playthroughs and getting top level on MP and grinds, which as I implied before is something I’m not sure I’m in for. Hard difficulty is exactly that; HARD, and the New York Minute is challenging. (although completion is all that’s required for the points.) The multiplayer points are fairly straight forward, focussing mainly on playing game modes and ranking up. The issue here is, while some GS is given for efforts at early stages of an online career, there is nothing awarded in the mid-part of your career and therefore nothing driving me to the GS awarded at later ranks, especially in light of the aforementioned repetitive gameplay. It’s a good and fun multiplayer, but not THAT good and fun.

So to rack up the remaining Gamerscore I would need at least three more playthroughs of the single player (at difficulties so frustrating it stops being fun) and continue playing multiplayer to the top rank of 50 (which is also ceasing to be entertaining).

I asked before whether I have got the patience, skill and inclination to get the remaining achievements… I think I’ve answered it.

The shadows rushed me

Would I recommend it?

Yes I would. Despite a few moans overall I have thoroughly enjoyed the game. If I was determined to ‘max’ it out then I’m certain it would get boring and monotonous unless you were really hardcore and clicked with the gameplay enough to go the distance…

…and was patient enough to watch the cutscenes through at least 5 times.

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