vostokone's Max Payne 3 (PlayStation 3) review

A cut-and-paste job that loses the soul.

I waited patiently for eight years to experience this game. Remedy formally leaving the franchise for Alan Wake was a blow to me that I thought tragic. If only younger me knew of the greater tragedy: actually playing Max Payne 3. In an almost meta-aware move, Rockstar made the actual Max Payne 3 experience a hard-boiled tragedy for the player, assuming they were a long time fan of the series. Initially, the game starts of great, but the obnoxious Tony Scott style visual effects, self-loathing dialogue without the flair or self-awareness of Remedy's writing, and the movie-of-the-week plot slowly dragged this game down into the gutter. Max Payne 1 and 2 were defined by the personal tragedy of the story, Max is constantly dragged through hell but he keeps fighting on. This story pulls him in like he's a stock character, and eventually, he becomes one. It has nothing to do with him as a person and develops him in no significant ways. What a terrible, terrible waste of a terrific character.

What offends me the most, however, is the game design. Truly abysmal. The bullet time element was always a flashy selling point, but it had its practical use as well. Diving into a room, guns blazing, was often the most strategic way to play Max Payne, using slow motion at tight moments where you weren't sure where enemies would be. In this game, the cover system and horrific checkpoint system make bullet time completely pointless (in fact, the only reason to use it is to get headshots, apparently the only way to kill people). The game gives players more ammo after a few restarts because of such poor ammo and health placement and awkward checkpoints that can leave you defenceless. Awful, just awful. The combat has lost all finesse by implementing the auto-lock function of Red Dead Redemption, so you just hold and shoot and you'll clear a room in an instant. That made sense in Red Dead, to simulate the blink-and-you'll-miss-it showdowns in the mythic old West. It makes zero sense in a pulpy noir. It's just another case of Rockstar copy-and-pasting elements from one franchise to another which is an on going problem with their games in general.

Finally, Max Payne looks terrible, the character and the game. This extremely straight-forward, linear shooter has horrific load times masked by excessively long cutscenes. Glitches cause scenery to cut in-and-out, audio going out of sync or dropping altogether, and other specific and irritating issues. The standard issue Rockstar defence has always been that the scope of their games makes it impossible to fix everything (this is the Open World Game manifesto). That excuse isn't applicable to this game, and yet, the problems are more prevalent than ever. It hints towards a troubled production and constant delays, and yet it's baffling for a studio with such resources and accessibility to talent.

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