Max Payne, the eponymous gravel voiced "anti-hero" has returned after a hiatus of nearly a decade. Developed by Rockstar Studios, the latest game features a change of location, a new story and a number of fresh elements.
When Max first burst onto the 3D shooter scene he delivered new features and a fresh, adult story. The original Max Payne easily stood out as the most innovative 3D shooter of its age and spawned a superb sequel as well as a gaggle of imitators. In particular "Bullet Time" - the ability to slow down enemies and make precise shots - was a huge innovation and has been copied often.
Fast forward to the present day and much has changed. There are now many top notch shooters, most of which have features that help them to stand out in the current hyper competitive climate. In this tough new world does Max still have the skills to pay the bills?
When you fire the game up for the first time the lavish production values and strong narrative will bowl you over.
That said Max Payne 3 delivers a tale of woe that isn’t quite as compelling as the original game. Max has fled New York to pursue a new life as a hired bodyguard in Brazil. As soon as he has landed the fecal matter hits the spinning air conveyance facilitator and one of the people he is hired to protect is kidnapped. From here Max quickly discovers his employers are not popular people and he is constantly chasing hordes of bad guys as he tries to get to the bottom of the vendetta.
The story has many twists and turns and it moves along nicely, but it doesn’t have the emotional impact of the first game which saw Max trying to avenge the murder of his wife and baby. You still find yourself caring about the sad old veteran though, even as he binge drinks his way through most of the artfully animated segues.
Bullet Time has returned and we still like it, but there are other features that clamor for your attention. The game delivers a new obstacle based cover system, as well as a "last man standing" shoot-out mode that sees you survive a near fatal hit if you can fire back successfully. This mode is really cool as the game employs clever blur effects to make it feel like you really are about to expire if you don’t blast the guy who just shot you.
Max Payne 3 also features a number of fun multiplayer modes and these do add something, even if for this particular shooter the single player game is still king.
The game keeps you guessing with helicopter sniper stages, swamp boat chases and flaming buildings to escape as well as some really cool set piece battles with enemies and boss characters. The action is also punctuated by superb visuals. Never has the nebulous maze of refuse and ramshackle housing of Brazil’s favela neighborhood looked so good.